NELSON Mandela Bay’s chances of having a home Premier Soccer League side were dealt a huge blow yesterday with the shock announcement on Bay United’s website that it would immediately cease operations and be put up for sale.

Having a local PSL side is one of the key factors in making the city’s World Cup stadium viable.

Sipho Pityana, owner of the First Division club, said all operations of the club would cease due to a lack in funding. He confirmed the club was also struggling to pay the salaries of the players.

Pityana blamed “the PSL’s imposition of a R1.3-million liability following the club’s retrenchment of players at the end of the 2008/09 season”, as well as a lack of financial support from the government and insufficient commercial sponsors.

One Bay United player, who did not want to be named, said players had expected payment as usual on February 26, but until yesterday had not received salaries.

“We are still waiting for them to sort everything out and we have not received any answers,” he said. “There will be a meeting (today), so hopefully we will be receiving payment soon.”

Another player, Cyril Nzama, also confirmed that none of the players had been paid and said he had heard rumours that the club would be shut down.

“We are all very worried. I expect bad news, because there has never been a delay in payment of salaries before.”

Pityana said he understood the players’ concerns. The delay stemmed from a delay in payment from the PSL, which had imposed a penalty on the club for retrenching 10 players last year in the middle of the season.

“When we were in the PSL, we were receiving R1,1-million a month. But when we were demoted, this figure was reduced to only R150000 a month. Obviously, we had to cut costs and this was why we retrenched some of our players.

“We did this following the process outlined in the Labour Relations Act. However, these players appealed to the PSL, who then told us to pay them R130000 each.

“As you can imagine, this penalty is impossible to meet.”

Pityana said he believed the PSL’s decision to penalise the club was incorrect, since this was a labour relations matter and not administrative. It was also “unfair”.

“But to challenge this will lead to a protracted legal process. The players should have gone to the CCMA and we pointed this out to the PSL. This is a contractual matter.”

He said the club was currently being subsidised by his company, Izingwe Holdings, after demotion in the PSL cost it its sponsorships from VWSA and Puma.

Due to the problems, the view had been taken that it was time to close the club and February had been its last month of operation.

“My company will foot the bill in paying some of the salaries and, when the money comes in from the PSL, we will pay the balance and that will be it. We will not continue.”

Pityana said that continuing to operate the club each month, with growing uncertainty about its income, was becoming harmful to the integrity of his own company.

He hoped someone might be able to take over the club and said it would be available to interested buyers.

“This is a good team with a lot of value in it. This really is the end of an era. We took the baton from VWSA and we ran with it and I have nothing but admiration for what VWSA has done for this team. They have given us brilliant support. We took over and tried our best, but our best just was not good enough.”

Pityana said the players remained the club’s responsibility until they were all paid. He said he also hoped the team would continue and that it would be able to stay in the Eastern Cape.”

Coach David Bright said he had chosen to work with Bay United because it looked like a strong team and because they were professionals.

But he said he was bitterly disappointed about not getting paid and not receiving any information beforehand that the club would cease operating.

“It is only a few months before the World Cup and, since Port Elizabeth is one of the host cities, it is very sad that this has happened,” Bright said.

“My intention was not to coach in the First Division, but then I thought ‘Let me stay and help these guys’ – and now look what has happened.”

He added it was difficult for him, because his landlord was now demanding rent and he could not pay until he received his salary.

“I am not from Port Elizabeth, so I do not have anywhere to go if I am put out. This is a big crisis and it was a very unprofessional way for the club to do this.

“They should have informed us beforehand so that we could have made other arrangements.

“Now we do not have anywhere to go and the future is unclear.”