The South African Football Players Union came out on Thursday "in support of those calling for the scrapping of the rule that says all teams in the National First Division" should have five U23 players in the starting line-up, according to Sello Rabothata of SOWETAN LIVE. SAFPU General Secretary Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe said that the union "has been and still continues to call for serious changes within the South African Premier Soccer League, including but not limited to the scrapping of the under 23 rule." Gaoshubelwe: "In most instances this rule is used to fire senior players under the pretext they are old and therefore don't meet the requirements to play in the National First Division. We would like to reiterate our position that we are not against young players getting promoted to the professional ranks, however we cannot allow a situation where this rule is used to justify the exploitation of players by paying them salaries which are not compatible with the work they do, because they are young and not in a position to enter into sound negotiations with their bosses" (SOWETAN LIVE, 7/5). In Johannesburg, Rabothata reported Premier Soccer League Football GM Derek Blackensee answered several questions about the league.
Q: What were the reasons/motivation for introducing the U23 rule?
Derek Blackensee: The rule came out of a recommendation from a sub-committee, broadly: to assist South African football in general by having a professional breeding ground of young players; to avoid having many players "retiring" from the Premier Soccer League clubs to the National First Division; to attract sponsors based on this developmental policy being an attractive asset.
Q: Has it yielded any positive results?
Blackensee: Other than the sponsorship aim the other three have been a success in that the average age of the league is now considerably younger.
Q: As far as the initial reason/motivation is concerned -- is it a success or failure in the eyes of the league?
Blackensee: It probably requires more time to fully achieve the proposed benefits.The league hasn't carried out a formal review of the system so I wouldn't want to express what would be purely personal opinions (SOWETAN LIVE, 7/4).