Wits' economic model was just not sustainable‚ says Roger De Sa

Coach Roger de Sa of Cape Umoya United used to be an important part of Wits.
Coach Roger de Sa of Cape Umoya United used to be an important part of Wits.
Image: Carl Fourie/ Gallo Images

The economic model of Bidvest Wits was just not sustainable‚ says Roger De Sa‚ who as coach of the team in the late 2010s helped set up one of the best academies in the country.

The sale by Bidvest of 99-year-old Wits‚ should it be passed by the Premier Soccer League (PSL)‚ to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) owner Masapa Mulaudzi has attracted its share of controversy. Mulaudzi will rename the team and relocate it to Thohoyandou.

De Sa‚ now the general manager of First Division Cape Umoya‚ and his then assistant-coach Eric Tinkler set up Wits' academy in the years just prior to and after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

De Sa said he and Tinkler ran Wits on a budget of around R6-million a year‚ and could even turn a profit with that and be competitive.

"Of course we all know the history of the club‚" De Sa said.

"Bidvest obviously then came along with the financial muscle and tried to take it to the next level. But obviously in a system that was not really sustainable.

"You can't be putting R75-million‚ R85-million a year into a football club. Eventually it's going to crash. And in the last seven‚ eight years‚ that's what they put in.

"So the reality is that everybody is up in arms about Bidvest selling the club. But I think you've also got to look at the fact that Bidvest came in at a stage that they needed to‚ because Wits could no longer be a semi-pro set-up in a professional environment.

"So they [Bidvest] in many ways saved the situation. I think they went overboard‚ but I think it was because of their ambition‚ so they threw money at it.

"They had their reasons [to invest big]‚ and you've got to respect that. And in the same way you've got to respect the reasons for their sale.

"It's hard times. There are not many companies that can throw millions at a sport right now‚ and get not much in return."

De Sa said Wits had transitioned‚ with the investment from Bidvest‚ from a development emphasis to a buying club.

"When I left there was a fantastic development setup - I think there were 20 internationals at the club at that time from Under-17 to senior‚" he said.

"And it started being a results-focused club and not so much about the productivity. And I think that caused a lot of issues between the varsity [the 40 percent owners] and the club. And then they started drifting apart.

"For me it's just sad that the club can't continue at a smaller scale‚ maybe in a lower league. Start focusing on the academy again‚ and the players at Wits University FC [the amateur feeder club to Bidvest Wits] at Marks Park coming up.

"But maybe they've got their reasons why they just want to get rid of it as quickly as possible."

De Sa‚ who won the 2010 Nedbank Cup at Wits‚ left the club in 2012 when new CE0 Jose Ferreira brought in a new approach‚ bringing in first Clive Barker‚ then Gavin Hunt as coaches.

Under Hunt Wits had an unprecedented period of success‚ finishing third‚ third‚ second‚ first‚ 13th and third in their last six seasons‚ lifting the Absa Premiership‚ MTN8 and Telkom Knockout trophies.