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Bay chair Blast Umhlathuze Municipality: Please Do The Honourable Thing

  • June 20, 2024
  • 3 min read
Bay chair Blast Umhlathuze Municipality: Please Do The Honourable Thing

Richards Bay chairman Sifiso Biyela has blasted Umthathuze municipality for not taking them seriously, believing the only way to ensure long-term success for the club is to return to their home ground in Richards Bay.

The team secured their PSL status with a dominant 4-0 win over Baroka FC at the King Zwelithini Stadium on Wednesday. However, this stadium is a temporary solution, as their Umhlathuze Sports Ground was banned by the PSL in September 2021 due to safety concerns.

The PSL cited issues like leaking water in the changing rooms, broken ceiling panels, malfunctioning toilets, and unmaintained fire extinguishers. Notably, the most concerning issue was exposed electrical wiring in the main stand.

Despite the ban, Richards Bay went on to win the Motsepe Foundation Championship that same season, earning promotion to the top flight. However, they have been forced to play away from home ever since, and the situation shows no signs of immediate improvement due to a recent change in municipal administration.

“We need to go back to Richards Bay, that is the first thing,” said Biyela. 

“As long as we are not playing in Richards Bay, we will always have challenges. You see, if you come here, how much are we spending here? 

“We hire this ground (for matches), we hire this ground a game before, we hire accommodation, we hire this ground for our final preparation, we don’t have a sponsor. So, what do you expect from us?  

“The only thing that can help us is for us to play in Richards Bay. As long as we are playing away, then we will always have challenges. The issue is, they (municipality) must do an honourable thing.  

Biyela stressed the importance of the club’s identity being tied to the community: “Richards Bay Football Club isn’t Jomo Biyela FC. We named the team after the city with the intention of it belonging to the people of Richards Bay.”

Reports suggest the refurbishment of Umhlathuze Sports Ground is 80% complete, but Biyela remains cautious. “I’m not an engineer, but based on what I see, it doesn’t appear 80% finished. We hope the municipality takes our situation seriously and allows us to play in Richards Bay by August or September.”

The construction project has faced delays. Newly appointed KwaZulu-Natal Premier Thami Ntuli previously committed to a R40 million refurbishment when he chaired the KZN SALGA games.

“Unlike Baroka with their sponsor Global, we rely on municipal support,” Biyela highlighted. “The PSL couldn’t find a suitable alternative ground then, and the situation remains unchanged. We’re waiting for the municipality to finalize the project.”

Richards Bay’s last game at Umhlathuze Sports Ground was a 1-0 defeat to Free State Stars on 28 August 2021. Their return to their home ground will be a significant step towards stability and potential future success.

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Robin-Duke Madlala

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