South African club Kaizer Chiefs face the prospect of forfeiting six points, and possibly more, if they fail to honour their forthcoming Premier Soccer League (PSL) fixtures.
Thirty-one members of the club's staff tested positive for Covid-19 last week, with the number rising to 36 on Tuesday, and they wrote to the PSL requesting a postponement of all five of their fixtures that were scheduled for December.
The PSL are yet to respond to Kaizer Chiefs' request and, under the league's current regulations, Covid-19 cannot be used as a reason to delay matches.
Chiefs have already missed games against Cape Town City (4 December) and Golden Arrows (8 December), with their upcoming fixtures against Sekhukhune United (12 December), Royal AM (19 December) and Maritzburg United (22 December) all hanging in the balance.
A team being depleted as a consequence of a global pandemic would normally constitute "extraordinary circumstances".
However, after being granted the green light to resume activities in a bio-bubble and with a tight schedule to finish the 2020-21 season, the PSL's executive committee resolved that Covid-19-related postponements would not be considered."The executive committee resolved on 3 August 2020 and directed that Covid-19 reasons do not and will not constitute exceptional reasons justifying a postponement," reads the circular that teams received.
With no official word from the PSL by last Saturday, Cape Town City took the two-hour flight to Johannesburg and duly arrived at the FNB Stadium to honour their fixture against the four-time PSL champions.
The match officials were also present outside the ground but found the gates locked. They duly completed all the formalities that included signing the team sheets and checking the Cape Town City players' registration cards.
Despite a meeting being scheduled for Wednesday evening to discuss the issue, there was still no public comment from the PSL.
Already back in fifth place in the league any points forfeited by Chiefs will severely affect any hopes they have of catching leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, who are 12 points ahead already.
A precedent set
While there is sympathy for Amakhosi's predicament, particularly at a time when the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus is spreading fastest in the Gauteng area where the club is based, the PSL is in a tight corner having already set a precedent by awarding wins for First Division games that were affected by coronavirus.
Most notably, Sekhukhune United were crowned second tier champions at the end of last season after being awarded three points and a 3-0 scoreline upon appeal after their opponents Polokwane City were unable to field five under-23 players, as prescribed by the league, because of Covid-related reasons.
AmaZulu coach Benni McCarthy has expressed empathy for Chiefs saying he hoped they would not be punished for failing to honour their fixtures because of the outbreak.
"I hope the right thing gets done and Kaizer Chiefs don't get punished for something that is happening in the world," McCarthy told the media after his team's 1-1 draw against Orlando Pirates in Durban on Wednesday.
"We have to show compassion, because at the end of the day the people's safety and the players are far more important than a football match."
Whether the PSL accepts the delays or simply decide that Kaizer Chiefs must forfeit any games they miss it is likely that there will be an extended debate and disagreement about clubs requesting postponements relating to the Covid-19 virus, which has already claimed 90,000 lives in South Africa.