Rob Delport attended a press conference at Cape Town City newly-renovated offices, as John Comitis outlined his ambitions to build a new stadium, and the obstacles he’s faced so far.
This week, ahead of Saturday’s DSTV Premiership match between Cape Town City against Orlando Pirates, City invited journalists to their newly renovated offices for a media briefing.
It was the first time in months that I hadn’t had to log into Zoom for a presser, but instead I would be face-to-face, albeit socially-distanced, with the chairman, coach and players from the club.
Because of covid-19, interaction has been limited this season, and apart from the broadcasters, media hasn’t been allowed to go to games yet.
Before going to the press conference, there was a screening process, we were sent forms to fill in, asking medical questions, where we had travelled, etc. It was all part of the covid-19 screening process. Also, before entering the press conference area, all temperatures were checked. It was the new normal.
First of all City’s new offices were very impressive. An open-planned colourful modern football design, Every wall told a story, and I’ll be honest I wasn’t able to take it all in in just one visit. The Chairman’s office was equally impressive, big and bright, with the impressive design of their proposed stadium on the wall behind his desk.
It is one of the reason’s John Comitis had called this press conference.
With this weekend’s match scheduled to be played in Stellenbosch, Comitis used this opportunity to address Cape Town’s stadium problem.
Unfortunately the Cape Town Stadium, where City have played the majority of their home games over the past four years, was unavailable. Athlone Stadium is also off limits currently, and Philippi Stadium has been out of bounds for ages now. So City had to move the game to the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.
The lack of stadiums has been an on-going issue in Cape Town for years, and with six professional teams in the province currently, it will be a problem for some time still.
Stellenbosch has found their own solution in ‘The DC’ finally. Let’s not forget, they are not a Cape Town team, as their name suggests they’re from Cape Town’s neighbours. But they had their own issues in their formative year and had to ‘relocate’ to the Mother City until they finally sorted out a home suitable for DSTV Premiership football.
But back in Cape Town, with rugby having signed a long term deal with the Cape Town Stadium from 2021, there is bound to be further clashes.
Comitis’ solution is to build their own stadium. It has been a dream of his for sometime. While the design on his wall may be a new decoration, the plans aren’t.
But while he’s had support from some sectors in government, Comitis says they keep hitting red tape.
“The stadium issue has become a serious issue for me,” Comitis says.
“At a time when everybody is running away from investing, we are looking to put some serious investment into this city, in order to change the lives of the football fraternity.”
“No club in this country controls and owns it own stadium. Whilst we had eight World Cup stadiums built, in the billions, not one of those stadiums have become the home and the anchor of any of the PSL clubs. The one should have been hand-in-hand with the other.”
“That opportunity was missed to the extent where our football stadium, as we speak now – and how this happened without us being involved in any of the process other than to be informed – in a period of six months to a year, rugby has signed a 100 year lease with our football stadium.”
Western Province and the Stormers are set to play at the stadium from 2021.
“To me it’s an absolute crime that we’ve allowed that to happen to football. Not that we don’t welcome another sporting code, or that we wouldn’t cooperate to try and make the stadium work in any way we can.”
“But when we’ve been pleading with the city to build our own stadium, where we forking out close to half a billion rand in order to construct this stadium, without any request for funding from the city, just a simple tick the boxes that we have to tick, to get the pitch and allow us the rights to do what we need to do, to play at a venue that used to be ultimately Cape Town City’s home stadium.”
Comitis’ wants to build a stadium on the Hartleyvale site, that will incorporate shops, offices, a gym, a conference centre, as well as apartments.
“And it would appear to be such a simple task, and we had the mayor there two years ago, on site by his own desire, with his whole team viewing what this could look like, the future for football.”
“Two years later we are stumbling at lower level city council employees that have got the right to say yes or no, or wait. And we can’t seem to progress past some of those points.”
“It’s a willingness at the end of the day. Why is there so much willingness when it involves the other big sporting codes like rugby and cricket? Why is there always an issue when it comes to football?”
“I’ve requested another meeting with the mayor, they’ve acknowledged my letter, and I’m waiting on the appointment, because we need to fast track this.”
“So whilst we’ve built new offices, and invested again, we know that we want to be moving to our own stadium.”
“With the Cape Town Stadium, we want to do a nice three year deal with them, we hope that they will embrace us in the mix with rugby, it seems to be that they’re willing to do so. They’ve understood that offering their suite owners 15 football games a season adds value to the purchase that they’ve made, which we hope then that we don’t become the poor relative in the relationship, in how that is distributed. Because that’s always what happens to us.”
“So ultimately we want to be at our new stadium in the next three years, but that’s a hell of a challenge if we don’t have the cooperation of the city.”