Ajax was forced last week to accept their relegation from the Absa Premiership and a first-ever season in the National First Division when they ran out of legal options ahead of the start of the new campaign.
The Premier Soccer League faces a hard look at its judicial structures‚ and a possible overhaul‚ in the aftermath of ‘Ndorogate’‚ the protracted legal affair over Ajax Cape Town’s use of the Zimbabwean international striker that ultimately cost them their top-flight status.
The protracted five-month court battle saw a multitude of hearings plus four separate trips to the high court.
“We’ve been stalled by the legal process‚ by time and really you are running up against a brick wall if you persist‚” said Ajax lawyer Norman Arendse.
Along the way‚ the various court battles set new legal precedents which means the PSL now face having to review their structures or go through long-running sagas in the future which will again impact negatively on their image.
The PSL has in place a disciplinary committee and a dispute resolution chamber to handle issues and an appeal system‚ which is controlled by the South African Football Association (Safa).
If parties are still dissatisfied‚ then there is the independent arbitration system‚ which used to be final and binding.
But during the Ajax process‚ the South Gauteng High Court found that arbitrations are not binding but instead open to review by the courts.
Therefore‚ any future legal action – which football would want to see end at the arbitration stage – can no longer be contained within the sport’s structures but has the right to continue to the country’s courts if a party seeks to do so.
“There are a lot of consequences that have come out of this whole Ajax saga‚” added Arendse‚ a veteran of PSL legal issues and a former Safa executive committee member.
“Judge Unterhalter found that arbitration awards are now no longer final and binding. “People can now run to court. “Arbitrators‚ when they sit‚ take administrative action which his judicable in a court of law.
“Even though Ajax had to run through this whole gauntlet of matters‚ there were some achievements in the process.”
Given the need for a speedy resolution to judicial matters in football‚ as witnessed by the protracted saga around Ndoro who should not have played for Ajax this season as a player cannot play for three different clubs in a single campaign‚ football matters are best left out of the courts.
Once it gets to that stage‚ it can lead to lengthy delays and in the case of Ajax an unfavourable outcome‚ even though they have yet to be found guilty.
As it stands‚ and for what it is worth‚ Ajax are ahead in the judicial battle‚ if it was to be judged like a boxing battle although effectively have been knocked out.
Their last bid to have the arbitration of Advocate William Mokhari‚ who fined them points and caused their relegation‚ was successful as they claimed he had no jurisdiction.
But when Judge Denise Fisher allowed the PSL to appeal her ruling in favour of the Cape Town club‚ she effectively condemned the saga to another two-three months hiatus and gave Ajax only one more immediate option‚ to try and interdict the start of the season‚ which they said they knew would not be successful.
“Everybody took quite a risk‚ including the league‚” said Ajax owner Ari Efstathiou in the wake of his emotive decision to accept having to play in the NFD next season.
“If the situation was reversed‚ and we had won the leave to appeal‚ I think it would have been quite interesting as to what would have happened. “It is going to be interesting to see when the next case comes up‚ how the PSL deal with it because there is now precedent‚” he added.