South Africa's basketball community

PBL the whole story

By on August 16, 2008 in News

I was browsing the internet recently when I came across a very interesting document that I thought I had to share with the rest of South Africa… It goes a long way in explaining the events that led to the demise of the PBL and hopefully our administrators learn from this sequence of events. Please note that this is not a recent article, I think that it was written sometime in 1999 but I am not sure. I am also not sure about the source of the article.

For five years, from 1994 to 1998, the professional PREMIER BASKETBALL LEAGUE (PBL) produced high quality games around the country, which were featured on National peak-hour sports programs, raising public awareness of the Sport of Basketball to levels previously unknown. Praised by most, vilified by some, the time has come to take an honest look at the facts, and to establish whether any of the allegations made against the PBL were justified or not.

Not surprisingly, individuals resentful of the this fact, voiced most of the allegations that their wishes to participate, could not all be accommodated at this early stage of the establishment of the Professional League, as can be evidenced by the nature of their allegations:

1. The PBL existed for the benefit of a few individuals and clubs.

2. It was “elitist”.

3. It was controlled by a “cabal” / two clubs / a few individuals.

4. It contributed nothing to “development”.

5. It was mismanaged.


By mutual agreement in 1994 between five clubs and Basketball South Africa (BSA), the prime purpose for the establishment of the PBL on a franchise purchasing basis was ”to provide the highest possible level of competition between basketball teams in the large towns and cities of South Africa”, launched by the financial contributions of the five original clubs.

Every detail of how this was to be achieved was set out in two main documents:

The PBL Participants Agreement (BSA being a Participant with the five original clubs), and

The PBL Rules and Regulations.

Both these documents were screened by BSA, were modified to suit BSA, and signed by all six Participants. Subsequently, new Franchisees (Capetown Eagles, Soweto Panthers, Capetown Kings and Pretoria Suns) all signed a special Assumption Deed document binding them to the original Agreement. All these documents set out in great detail the rights as well as the responsibilities and obligations of all the Participants.

Modeling the PBL on the very successful Australian NBL and drawing from their 12 years of valuable experience saved South African basketball at least five years of trial and error. As in Australia, the PBL was tasked to manage and operate the professional league in accordance with the agreed guidelines, on a commercial basis, with BSA and the Clubs as Shareholders. (ala the Participants Agreement).

The purpose of adopting this format in Australia was to allow Basketball Australia (ala BSA) to concentrate on growing the sport at Developmental levels, promoting Amateur and Semi-Professional Club Competitions on a National level, and raising the quality of its National teams in both genders and in all ages.

For a country without a long culture of basketball, unlike South Africa, Basketball Australia has achieved enormous success on all these levels. We have to ask, why has BSA not followed suit?


Primarily the sport of Basketball, like never before, and certainly not since the PBL was forced to delay its league competition in 1999 (thanks to the efforts of BSA to get the PBL sponsors to withdraw their support for the professional league), has there been so much high profile basketball shown on National TV, or covered in all Regional media. For a year and a half now, this valuable exposure has been lost at a huge cost to the sport and this for one reason only, because certain individuals on the BSA Executive (who have since departed!) were unhappy with the fact that BSA was not in total control of the PBL and its sponsorship funding. The BSA CEO and other BSA Executive members, sadly openly admitted this fact at PBL Board meetings.

The PBL, for its part, made certain that it conducted all its affairs absolutely correctly, and in line with the Participants Agreement and PBL Rules and Regulations & these Documents made it impossible for any club or individual, to take advantage of them for their own benefit. Any allegation to the contrary can be proven to be false beyond any possible doubt!


The dictionary defines the word “elite” as “being the best, the most prominent”.

Every sports academy is elitist. Every national team is elitist. The soccer PSL is elitist. Identifying new talent among the youth and affording them specialized training is elitist, yet every sport looking to its future is doing it. Since when has “elite” been a dirty word?


The success of the American NBA and the Australian NBL is due in great part to their use of the “franchise” system, which requires club owners and shareholders to invest in a commercial venture (with no guarantees), and to promote their investment with a view to possibly seeing benefits many years down the line. In the early years of its establishment, and at the insistence of BSA, the PBL was urged to consolidate rather than expand, although special efforts were made to include a team from Soweto as soon as possible in recognition of the need for representation of previously disadvantaged areas.

Contrary to some of the allegations, the Franchise system is open to all, subject to certain requirements stipulated by BSA of satisfying the need for geographical spread, financial and administrative capability, community support, the ability to present a team of commensurate quality, and a technically suitable venue.

Few people are aware of the level of funds required for a club to contract two quality foreign players, (to accommodate and transport them) as well as the ten local players, plus, cover numerous other costs required to prepare the team and run it professionally.

The actual figure varies between R 40 000 & R 50 000 per month for the duration of the league, plus the pre-league preparation period (without including the R 50 000 fee paid by each club to BSA), and most clubs found it very hard to attract the kind of club sponsorship which would allow them to acquire higher quality foreign players – a crucial element in raising the standard of play throughout the PBL. Few outsiders recognize that it was those club owners who dug deep to contribute from their own funds, who achieved the most success in the league.

In 1998 the PBL received fifteen requests from interested parties wishing to participate in the league. (Some from individuals who had previously expressed the view that the PBL would never get off the ground) But the two biggest obstacles to rapid growth for the PBL, have always been that, sixty percent of the applicants were from Gauteng, and that every two additional teams would require an additional R 2 million of sponsorship funding to cover the increased costs of additional games, travel and accommodation, officials, etc.

Like all responsible commercial enterprises, growth had to be gradual and sustainable, which made a mockery of BSA’s amazing announcement that it was going to launch immediately a 14-team “professional” league this year.


The contribution by the PBL and its clubs to development on an annual basis was more than substantial, both by means of financial payments to BSA annually, and also by way of numerous regular community services and clinics in which PBL players and coaches (both local and foreign) participated regionally and nationally.

Few people are aware that the PBL contributed over R 1,8 million to BSA out of PBL funds:

• 1994 – R 165 000

• 1995 – R 237 500

• 1996 – R 309 180

• 1997 – R 504 000

• 1998 – R 660 000.

Few people are aware, also, that as a result of sabotaging the PBL, BSA has sacrificed another R 1,3 million of PBL contributions in 1999 that could have been allocated to development.

Few people are aware that the PBL has never received any accounting of how these PBL funds have been applied by BSA to development, as was originally intended!


In its third year, the PBL Legal Consultant conducted a professional detailed analysis of the internal workings of the PBL office and its staff (its General Manager, Administrative Assistant and Receptionist). The analysis showed that the GM’s office was seriously over-extended and required additional support staff, which was unaffordable at the time.

The GM persuaded the Board of the need to draw on outside professional help in the areas of Strategic Planning and Public Relations. With the input of the PBL Legal Consultant and the Auditors, it became apparent that a Board, composed solely of club directors and BSA representatives, was a potential for conflict of Club and PBL interests, and that a majority of Directors on the Board, should be independent of Club interests.

(It was very gratifying to note that at about the same time, the Australian NBL had independently arrived at the same conclusion, after 15 years of operation, and was modifying the composition of its own Board.)

It was less gratifying to note, however, that most of the internal complaints regarding the GM came from a minority of individuals, because of the strict application of the PBL Rules and Regulations and the Participants Agreement instituted by the GM at all times.

The strict Disciplinary Code as set out in the PBL Rules and Regulations, was based on top International Standards, and was applied completely impartially and equitably by the independent Legal Consultant of the PBL at all times. Any inspection of the PBL records will confirm this, just as much as any review of the minutes of the PBL Board meetings will confirm that only the best principles of business governance, were applied at all times by the PBL.


Mr. Ho Tong was a Director of the PBL and was given the responsibility for collecting the second sponsorship cheque from the PBL sponsor, Allied Bank, in 1996. He misrepresented to the PBL the amount of the cheque, which he had collected, and after a thorough investigation by Allied & the PBL, the explanation for his actions was totally unacceptable to the PBL Board (of which BSA was a member) or to Allied Bank.

In view of the evidence, the PBL Board and BSA both resolved with Allied Bank’s support, that this Director should be dismissed and that the matter be handed over to the Criminal Investigation Fraud Squad, in whose hand the matter is still receiving attention.


The Allied Bank contacted, during its investigation, a Forensic Audit of the PBL, which confirmed that the PBL Financial controls were effective & correct, & complimented the PBL on having identified immediately the problem caused by Mr. Ho Tong.

The Annual Return on Investments given by PBL to its first sponsor Allied Bank, was in excess of 3 to 1 return, and the sponsors at all times expressed their satisfactions with their involvement with PBL. Unfortunately, Executive Members of BSA were, during the 3rd year of this sponsorship, making every effort to convince Allied Bank that the sponsorship money for the league should go to BSA rather than PBL, and this undermined the Sponsors confidence in the sport.

As a matter of fact, in December 1996, Allied confirmed to PBL in writing that their Board had given the green light for the renewal of the PBL sponsorship for a further 3 years, but in February 1997, in a sudden about turn of their overall sports sponsorship policy, Allied Bank withdrew from sponsoring basketball holistically, and the PBL Marketing Agent then signed up Telkom for the sport.

It is sad to note that similar BSA undermining actions succeeded in the suspension by Telkom of its sponsorship for both BSA & PBL.


In 1998, the Vat Office of the Receiver of Revenue inspected the PBL accounts for the first 5 years of its existence, and ruled that although the PBL Contracts with Allied Bank was split into “sponsorship “ and ”underwriting” portions and made no mention of VAT, they wanted Vat to be paid on the full amounts from the start of the Contract.

When the Contract was signed in 1994, the amount of the sponsorship was understood by all parties to have been the NETT amounts budgeted by the PBL for delivery of its league, NETT OF VAT.

Unfortunately this was not written into the contract, and since the original Allied Bank negotiator and signatory is no longer with Allied, and has refused to get involved, the PBL has been unable to get from Allied the portion of unpaid VAT in year one which was originally supposed to be paid.

During years 2 & 3, Vat was paid both by Allied to PBL & by PBL to the receiver.

The portion of VAT payments not made by the PBL to its Clubs and vice versa in the first year, claimed by the Receiver now, represents an exchange of VAT invoices between PBL & its Clubs, and this has already been dealt with by the PBL & its Clubs to the satisfaction of the Receiver. The Receiver in writing has allowed PBL the extensive repayment terms for the unpaid Allied Bank amounts and any other small balance due by PBL to the receiver.


Contrary to rumors, The PBL is alive and well and presently waiting for a final resolution of its conflict with BSA in court, within six weeks. The PBL firmly believes that its legal rights on the bases of its existing Legal Contract with BSA to run a Professional League will be fully upheld in the courts.


How sad that the sport of basketball allows for individuals to choose to set the sport back five years on the misguided view that this is a small price to pay, in order to acquire control of a product that can only succeed if operated, managed and owned on sound business principles.

Totally immersed in its preoccupation with its role as Custodian of the Sport, and its need for total control & regulation of everything to do with basketball, the BSA Executive have lost sight of their most important duty, “to serve the sport and the people who have elected them to their positions” and this has rendered them ineffective & has made them the biggest obstacle to growing the sport today.

Ask the question, what service does BSA have to offer its players, coaches, referees, its affiliates, the public, the media or its sponsors! Could this be the reason why 7 sponsors have terminated their agreement with BSA over the last 6-year’s?

However, there are creative answers to these problems, but BSA needs creative people capable of applying sound business approach to all of its actions, based on fundamental marketing and business principles with direction. The new committee under the leadership of Mr. Vusi Mgobhozi, is the man that can lead BSA out of the controversial issues that have surrounded the sport for so long. We hope that past history can be swept aside so that the sport can prosper.


Article found online, source unknown


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There Are 38 Brilliant Comments

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  1. victor says:

    This tops any document I have read on the PBL so far…


  2. Setlogelo says:

    History Matters.

    It is critical to grasp and understand what happened for us to know where we stand and map a way forward to the future.

  3. Katlego says:

    Very interesting to note that the then new committee (under Vusi) which was supposed to lead BSA out the mess has also been accussed of mismanagement and subsequently disbanded. Seems like we’re chasing our own tail, Let us hope the now new committee doesn’t fall into the same trap.

  4. Baller says:

    i just read this article and my question to those that know whats happening now my question would be:

    what happened to the court case?

    what is the interim committee stand on the issue?

    what is the way forward regarding PBL?

    please Vic, can you try get someone from the interim committe to give us feedback that also includes their progress so far cos their term is nearing an end..

  5. Phinda dlamini says:

    man, cant we just all be friends and play basketball for the love of the game, and aswell to improve on the sport for greater opportunities for the future and to lay a stronger and sustainable foundation for the up and coming stars of the game

  6. Cabby says:

    I thought I knew it all, thanks Vic, this will really help on how we handle basketball admin issues going forward. Hope everyone involved in basketball will get to read this. Very enlighting! Well done

  7. Wesi says:

    it never occured to me that this is what ended most of our dreams to play pro ball. Back-stabbing and greediness!? That sounds like an overly praised baller thats looking for more attention.

    I just wonder as ballers what can we do to show that not only do we want the league back but also show that we can be a country that produces euro-class ballers.

    Thanks V for the heads up most of us, like myself, never knew what went on but now I got some idea, no matter how vague it may be.

  8. Joe says:

    What a load of b***

    My question is, what about the court case which agreed with the fact that the agreement between BSA and five others was not kosher?

    What about the fact that the NBA and Australian NBL franchises are geographically equitable, which PBL never was? Hence the argument about develop.

    Fact is, PBL was started by a few individuals who wanted sole control and gain, thus the court ruling.

  9. Peaches says:

    Joe seems to have a different opinion from the article.

    There are too many mistruths going around that are punctured with bias, one can never know really whats happening.
    Its beginning to feel like the situation is an excuse for basketball not to continue growing.Im not discounting the situation though, its serious, but if this holds out for longer the average baller is going to lose hope, and the longer it will take for things to reach a respectable status.

    Yes by all means hold people accountable for criminal acts, but at the same time it cannot cause a stand still in basketball in the country.

  10. Baller says:


    since you close to all the action, what do you think should be a step forward..i believe some 2 or 3 years back BSA wanted to have a national league that didn’t take off..that sounded a great idea since all the provinces would have been represented..

    what is the way forward regarding the professional league..

  11. Joe says:

    Unfortunately, currently only PBL have the rights to organise a professional league according to the contract with BSA. Therefore both the PBL clubs and BSA need to first acknowledge that they are both responsible for the death of the previous league. Both need to understand that the league should be run not for their own benefits but for the benefit of bball. Thus both need to relieve themselves of the need to control.

    I feel very strongly that the PBL should be run by an independent company which is not controlled by the clubs or BSA, but is accountable to both as clients. In this way roles are not fuzzy and all will know where they stand.

    PS The national league planned by BSA would have been an amateur since only PBL have the rights to orgnanise a professional league.

  12. Baller says:

    atleast that is clearer..meaning currently we have to wait and see if the two parties will resolve their issues before we see professional bball again..

    well,we can only hope and pray that they do that quickly for the benefit of bball and players alike..

  13. Joe says:

    From my understanding the two parties have reached an agreement that PBL should resume, hence the trial last year.

    All that is left is for PBL to resume the league, word out is that they are still negotiating with petential sponsors.

  14. Baller says:

    that is good news for the upcoming players.

  15. Danger#10 says:

    thnx again to the team 4 clearing the air 4 us bout wat happened….so all that is in the past but will 4ever be in the future…..but we need to stay positve that there sponsour out there who consider inversting us again so that we can have a proffesional league going……..for all my basketball life i wanted to play in a league whether first or second devision……..but “lemigulukuthu” messed things for us……but hoping our younger basketball players will get a chance to play at high level.

    my suggestion is that we for a union to represent all S.A’s team,player’s or league
    for we can have a say to wat happens and stop things from getting worse in the sport……toitoi is the language spoken that all this leaders with corruption can understand…….we have to do it a soon as possible……have representative from all provinces to keep us updated with all happening in their provinces…….and yes we must issue a memo to the BSA on wat we expect from them……and that will give us a chance to speak and fixx things before they get far…….. we need leaders not capitalist who are only after the money.

    that is my suggestion guys….anyway thnx again for all its highly appreciated…the new website is real good u guys have worked really hard and this website is i good sign of hard work u guys have put to we needed it.

    dnt just play it live it.

  16. Setlogelo says:

    It is critical for the structures of BasketballSA and PBL to fix themselves. I believe that the PBL still has an interim committee. But this should not matter since members of the committee are all owners of PBL statuses except their chairman. He was roped in because of his previous influential role in government. Still, he is capable of doing wonders for the sport that we all love. Despite his rugby background he is the man. His charisma speak volumes. He only need to develop patience for the current status of the game and passion for basketball. Graham Abrahams is a man of stature whose peers must be proactive in finding practical solutions.

  17. Masibulele says:

    Hello Victor.

    I believe that your source on PBL mislead you. Look at South Africa from 1994 till today, more than 95% is black and yet PBL 7 of 8 PBL Teams are white owned and managed.

    Look at PBL since 1994, only three or four teams invested while others enjoyed the monthly assistance from the League with out investing on players.

    Look at PBL when it relaunched, only four teams(Marlins, Panthers, Magic and one of the CT teams) invested on players and it was embarasing to see some players coming to play a proffesional game and arriving during the game.

    Please advise mybasketball readers, how do you expect to have an elite League that does not have relegation and promotion. Thats why teams like Olympians did not care whether they won or lost. They will still get the same amount of oney as Egoli Magic, Soweto Panthers and those who invested on players.

    Its a good thing thing they are closed and Basketball South Africa Must come up with a strategy to have the nation playing Basketball at Pro level.


  18. Joe says:

    Setlogelo, you are quite right in your analysis about Mr Abraham, he is nothing but a charismatic token black appointed to appease certain quarters but has no basketball passion or in-depth knowledge.

    The question is why did the PBL chose him instead of capable blacks who actually are passionate and know a lot about bball? My assumption is: for the very same reasons that PBL died, PBL died because it refused to transform and be representative. And when some in BSA insisted on this it dug its heels and refused to budge.

    As far as I am concerned PBL can remain dead as long as it wants to maintain its Portuguese/Greek white consciousness. It must remain dead as long as seeks to ignore development areas such as Limpopo who have produced and continue to produce some of the best bball players in SA.

  19. baller says:

    we all agree that PBL served the interests of few individuals who obviously wanted to make a quick buck out of us proud black africans. for some reason i hope that if they ever re-lauch the league, it should be via provincial representation where each active province get to have a franchise and in provinces like Gauteng you can atleast have more than one teams based on the number of active players.

    if we re-model the league around the rugby format where a team represent a province or town then i think we will bring back the spirit and kids will have reasons to stay in the game given the opportunities around them.

  20. Sam says:

    with all said and not a lot done, the question still remains whether the S.A basketball team will make the 2012 olimpics?? will this be too soon an achievement taking into consideration the level of development and a lack of a professional league in SA basketball?? who selects the senior national team and on what merit?? if you are not playing professional then you are an ameture and do we expect ametures to do well against professionals?? i took a look at a website calle africabasket and saw a lot of south african players abroad and they can make two to three teams, so a lot are not used to represent their country.. perhaps a lot of them are young and playing college and amature teams but they sure are getting the best development by far compared to those that are in SA and dominating the national team… i will give a big up to all those that have and are representing the nation in basketball and have carried us so far but if we cant beat Angola in as many amtches played against them then forget the olympics!!

  21. Graham says:

    Debate is always interesting and stimulating and must be encouraged. Pleased to know that Joe regards me as a “token black”. Whether you like it or not Joe, I am black and nothing you say or write will change that!

    I do not need to spell out my credentials. That can take care of itself. However, I invite Joe to contact me and to have discussions with me on the governance and administration of basketball or any other sport for that matter. You see Joe, it is not rocket science that is needed to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in running a sound organisation. You imply that you are a great basketballer and by extension, have passion for the sport but does that make you a competent administrator? Answer that to yourself.
    It is time to stop finding fault with everything, moaning and even finger-pointing. Rather roll up your sleeves, come forward and offer how you can make a difference. That is a hallmark of leadership!
    Be my guest and let’s together, take up the challenge of working towards making basketball a great sport.

    real game……….recognise game

  22. Joe says:

    Sam, fact is South Africans think are better than they actually are, the olympics and soccer have demonstrated that soundily. Qualifying for the Olympics in 2014 is a pipedream, unlesss Angola, Nigeria, Senegal and all the other top ten African countries decide to boycott the qualifiers.

    The above is not pessimism but realism, this fact was demonstrated by the DHS Boys tournament recently. Gauteng boys had failed to beat KZN for a number of embarrasing years. Yet this year one boy from Mozabique beat DHS singlehandedly. Now this DHS we are talking about, the most successful and number one boys bball academy in the country. Also, currently in the Ashraf tournament there was a high school girl playing for one of the teams and her standard was of play was so high it made me sick.

    Thus, we need to be realistic with where we are and where we should be. In my books if we cannot compete at with our neighbours at school and junior level, how can we expect to miraculously compete at international level. A professional league will not help as most of us seem to think, this is been demostrated by soccer in the UK and SA where they are the ‘best’ in thier continents yet the national teams fail disimally.

  23. Joe says:


    Firstly, my statement recognises that you are ‘black’ therefore it is not necessary to imply that I question your blackness. However, what my argument puts forward is that I why you and not another blackman/woman.

    Perharps I am misinformed about your bball background ie. where did you play bball, where and at what level were you involved in the administration of bball? This should then be compared with other blacks who could have been elected and who have actually played and administered bball.

    Therefore my argument is not questioning your business or sport credentials but your bball credentials. I am convinced that your appointment/election was informed by the white mentality that looks for non-threatening black who are not clued about on the technical aspects of the business. This is a modes operandi that seeks to entrench the status quo, as the black ‘head’ may not be able to engage with practicalities of the business and will be used as a rubber stamp and a public face.

    I therefore do not question your motive or your capability, but question the motives of the people who elected you, as they may be blacks who have been involved in basketball but were not considered as they may question things.

    Please note that I cannot even dream of being in PBL as I am a socialist at heart and do not associate myself with capitalist agendas.

  24. baller says:


    i agree with you in part on us qualifying for the olympics in 2012. that i don’t see it happening. people fail to realise that South Africa is not a sporting country. i mean we don’t invest in sport. to us sport is leisure and that is a fact. am suprised people are getting worked up by the fact that we won got one medal at the olympics. to me that is actually more than we deserve.

    unless the powers that be decide to invest in sport, then basketball qualifying for the olympics will forever remain a pipe-dream.

    i then will differ with you that cos there are no structures for development we can’t beat angola, senegal, nigeria etc. i believe that we are capable of competing at the highest level as has been demonstrated by our team last year at the africa games and men’s championship. the only problem we need is proper administration to set us going. you look at Brazil, they hardly win junior soccer tournaments but come to the senior level they are the best. we can also do that i believe only that we need strong and sound administration with a vision.

    our teams normally go on camp 4 days before going to international tournaments??angola go on camps like a year before that and they play international friendlies. that way, they implrove their standards. not going far, take a look at the wheelchair basketball team and what they have accomplished. playing friendlies and international tournaments frequently will surely put us there in the next 08 years.

    nigeria has got all the talent in africa but cos of poor administration, they always loose at african championships. at the end to me is about the vision of our administrators. talking about kids, there was a 17 year old playing for spain. some kids are more talented than others because they go the extra mile. how gauteng can’t beat KZN, obviously the players need to work extra harder.

  25. Vuyi says:

    The only way to get even close to qualifying for olympics is DEVELOPEMENT. Most of the greatest players in any sport are those who started very young. How many junior basketball leagues are taking place in South Africa? N how many primary schools hv basketball as a sport? But i guess to get that running one needs administrative skills too. I say we’ve all discussed the politics in basketball but from now we should focus on the future n not dwell on da past. We should now redirect the energy we use on pointing fingers to something more constructive; bcoz essentially all we are doin is running around in circles and at the end that benefits nobody.