The time, the money spent to get to practice and the sacrifice being away from your family in the evenings and on weekends.
Players would bypass this massive sacrifice if the minimum wage was just enough to cover petrol money each month. This is what a professional player on a minimum wage in the BNL could do with his guaranteed monthly salary:
You could buy 41 litres of petrol, you could take three of your friends to the movies and splash out on popcorn and a coke, or you could put your hard-earned money in a bank account and after three-and-a-half months – about the same time the league has run –you could afford to buy a new pair of basketball shoes for the new season.
Is this league a modern form of slavery? Do players have a choice when they are given the “take it or get lost” approach? If you think the minimum wage is a joke, how about the contract?
Some contracts stipulate that once you sign, you belong to the club, but in the event of injury in practice or play, you are not covered by any medical insurance or medical aid … and worse, your contract can be terminated with immediate effect. Players are at the mercy of coaches and club owners, while the league tries to find its feet and franchises try to find sponsors.
Is it legal? Can players really be held to ransom to this type of set- up? Can players be disposed of as easily as if the coach doesn’t like your face? I contacted Safpu – the South Africa Football Players Union – to find out what rights players have.
Their reply was that unless a union is formed for the BNL players, franchises can use and abuse players and get away with it. Unions help franchises stay on the right side of the law and make sure player contracts are fair to both parties.
Right now, any BNL franchise can stipulate the wildest of requests in their contract and if you just so happen to sign it out of desperation, you are bound by that contract.
Unions also help to protect players’ rights in media use. Just because there is a media sponsor, it doesn’t mean they have the right to use your image and if they do air your image, who benefits from the deal? My guess is, don’t look too far.
The way things are in the BNL right now, I will go out on a limb and make a big prediction for 2014. The club that has the biggest sponsors and the biggest wallet will win the league, and from what players are being paid right now, that might not necessarily mean a lot. Drop me your thoughts on the topic on Twitter – @SeanVStaden