Royal AM has been dealt another blow in their quest to remain at the top of the GladAfrica Championship log to gain automatic promotion into the DSTV Premiership.

On Friday evening, Deputy Judge President of the Gauteng High Court, Judge Sutherland, dismissed the KwaZulu-Natal club’s application for leave to appeal with costs, stating that “rules are rules.”

Reading his judgement, Sutherland, said: “One, the application for leave to appeal is dismissed; two, the costs incurred by the Sekhukhune club in participating in the leave to appeal will be borne by Royal AM; three, the costs incurred by SAFA and the NSL shall be borne by themselves. That disposes of that matter.” 

The past few weeks have seen local football reduced to nothing more than a circus and back-and-forth of legal wrangles between Royal AM, Sekhukhune United, the National Soccer League as well as SAFA. At the crux of the matter has been the awarding of three points and three goals to Sekhukhune United by the SAFA Arbitration. This meant that Sekhukhune United, who were fighting for the top position of the log with Royal AM, would have gone into the final round of matches late in May sitting peak of the log.  

However, the Arbitration judgment, which according to the NSL Handbook is final and binding, was not enforced by the league who surprised all and sundry when they, together with Royal AM, instead resorted to seeking a declaratory order from the high court.

Royal AM won their final match finishing at the top of the log, minus Sekhukhune United’s three points that were withheld by the PSL pending the declaratory order.

Last week, Sekhukhune United were confirmed the winners of the first division when Sutherland upheld the ruling by the SAFA Arbitration, sending the PSL promotional saga into a complete whirlwind of confusion. This as the PSL subsequently updated the log, placing Sekhukhune United top of the log and announcing that the PSL Promotional Playoffs would kick off on Tuesday with Royal AM taking part. 

Aggrieved by both Sutherland’s judgment and the league’s decision to go ahead with the playoffs, Royal AM filed an application for leave to appeal the High Court ruling as well as an urgent interdict to thwart the commencement of the playoffs on Tuesday.  

For much of the week, the KwaZulu-Natal side seemed to be in the driving sit of the legal battles as Nyathi granted the interdict on Monday evening and the club also prepared for their application for leave to appeal hearing scheduled for Friday. They also managed to stop the league in its tracks as the NSL made an announcement that they would appeal the interdict and have playoffs begin on Thursday – a move the league was forced to make 360 degrees on, once again postponing the playoffs only hours before the first match was meant to kick off. 

Friday’s proceedings were nothing short of drama when advocate Dali Mpofu sought to convince Sutherland that a different court could arrive at a different conclusion. Mpofu insisted that had made errors in law when he awarded Sekhukhune three points and three goals, likening the award to lotto points.  

According to Mpofu, Judge Hilton Epstein had erred when he did not recognise that a forfeit was not the only conclusion he could arrive to. Mpofu also said that Epstein had not relied on the NSL Handbook and instead rushed to the FIFA rules without merit. 

This was denied by Counsel for the Limpopo side, who argued that reference point in Epstein’s judgment remained the NSL handbook and that the FIFA rules were only additional, arguing that there was no basis for the application for leave to appeal. 

Mpofu argued that it was unfair that Sekhukhune were awarded the three points in the boardroom and not on the field of play.  

“Imagine, my lord, if Brazil wins the World Cup, goes and celebrates and then Epstein comes and says there was a blank space on the team sheet and therefore, you must return that World Cup and, not only return it to FIFA, but actually give it to the team that lost 5-0. That’s just not football,” he charged.

Adovate Norman Arendse, who was representing Sekhukhune, responded: “Let me agree with Mr. Mpofu for a change. The DSTV Premiership football may be played on green pitches but they are played according to the rules and those are rules in the NSL Handbook and all the clubs agree they are bound by those rules.”  

He continued: “You may well end up winning the match 5-0, on his example, but you may well end up losing that match. Not because it’s in the boardroom or court of law but because you transgressed the rules. In other words, your conduct is unfair to the other teams and to other member clubs who play by the rules but you do not play by the rules and you can get penalised for it and that was the case here with Polokwane City.” 

Sparks flew when Mpofu let rip into the NSL accusing them of “chameleonic” conduct, moving from being in support of Royal AM and changing to being in support of Sekhukhune United in a matter of week, calling the behaviour “appalling and quite frankly embarrassing.”

Sutherland would not hear the matter regarding the Nyathi AJ judgment of Monday, saying he had no record whatsoever of the matter. The matter was struck off his roll. 

“If parties want to pursue that application, the urgent court stands open,” concluded Sutherland. 

While it remains to be seen what step Royal AM will take with regard to the interdict on the playoffs, the league is expected to announce the dates for the commencement of the playoffs.