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Royal AM on buying Celtic: ‘The deal has gone through, we’re finalising the documents’

Royal AM have confirmed they are in the process of purchasing the Premier Division status of Bloemfontein Celtic. File photo.
Royal AM have confirmed they are in the process of purchasing the Premier Division status of Bloemfontein Celtic. File photo.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Royal AM have confirmed they are in the process of purchasing the Premier Division franchise of Bloemfontein Celtic.

Royal communications manager Sthembiso Hlongwane said on Saturday morning there were still logistics to conclude on the deal, and said he could not say yet whether the Premier Soccer League (PSL) have approved or will approve it.

But he confirmed the deal is at an advanced stage by Royal owner Shauwn Mkhize to purchase Celtic from the Free State club’s owner, Max Tshabalala.

Hlongwane also confirmed that Royal are selling their GladAfrica Championship (National First Division, or NFD) status to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC (TTM).

“Yes the deal has gone through. We’re just finalising all the relevant documents,” Hlongwane said.

“But it’s just unfortunate it reached the media before it reached all the relevant stakeholders, including the players particularly. The wellbeing of the players is very important.”

TTM, meanwhile, were preparing to announce that they have purchased Royal’s NFD, a deal the PSL has apparently approved.

TimesLIVE also has seen a screenshot of a letter purported to be from the PSL to its board of governors (BoG) informing the 32 GladAfrica and DStv Premiership clubs that the league’s executive committee has approved the sale.

TimesLIVE also has a copy of a document that is apparently an official TTM statement, dated August 15, that the club was apparently preparing to release on Sunday, confirming their purchase of Royal.

This deal will clear the way for the sale of the Premiership status of Celtic, reported on via a source by TimesLIVE on Friday, to Royal.

TTM owner Lawrence Mulaudzi’s purchase would allow him to re-establish his club in the NFD. Mkhize would then take over the Premiership franchise of Celtic.

The sale of a PSL franchise is permitted after a season has started, and that club then can relocate. It is understood though, that a sale within a season prohibits the renaming of such a club until that campaign is over.

In 2005 Maritzburg United purchased the Premier Division franchise of Tembisa Classic three matches into the 2005-06 season, and relocated the team to Pietermaritzburg. They had to be known as Classic for the remainder of that campaign, renaming the club the following season.

So Royal’s sale to TTM apparently taking place on Friday, when the SA domestic 2021-22 season officially kicks off with the MTN8 quarterfinals being played on Saturday, would allow for a name change and relocation.

TTM’s purported statement, dated August 15, reads: “We are delighted to announce that Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila Football Club has of [Friday] 13 August 2021 acquired the status of Royal AM Football Club in the GladAfrica Championship league.

“This, Royal AM FC will change its name to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC and will relocate to Thohoyandou Stadium.”

The purported letter from the PSL to its BoG states: “The application to approve the transfer of the football club known until now as Royal AM Football Club from the seller to the acquirer, [and related approvals in respect of a name change (to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC) and relocation (to Thohoyandou Stadium)] served before the executive committee today.

“The executive committee considered the application and supporting documentation against the requirements of Article 14 of the NSL Handbook. The transfer has been approved on the basis sought ...”

The Handbook’s Article 14 deals with the “Acquisition and Ownership of a Club”.

It remains to be seen whether a sale of Celtic to Royal can be concluded and approved on Saturday, before the 3pm kickoff of the MTN8 matchup between Golden Arrows and SuperSport United at Princess Magogo Stadium.

The PSL may also adjudge its season to begin officially with the kickoff of the DStv Premiership next weekend, when Mamelodi Sundowns meet AmaZulu at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

However, the definition of a season kickoff may also be problematic, in terms of NSL Handbook rules.

The Handbook’s Article 1.61 states: “‘Season’ means the professional football season of the league commencing 1 August in 1 (one) year and terminating on 30 June of the following year or such later date as may be determined by the executive committee.”

PSL acting CEO Mato Madlala could not be reached for clarification on this point or confirmation of Royal's sale to TTM on Saturday morning. TTM owner Mulaudzi could also not be reached.

Royal AM had been involved in a protracted and at times messy legal battle to be reinstated champions of the GladAfrica, where they had suffered several court defeats. This had followed an arbitration award of three points to Sekhukhune United, who then won the NFD and automatic promotion to the Premiership.