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. Sam says:

    can someone who has organised tournaments b4 assist me with this information…. is a tournament supposed to be given the go ahead by the association and which one if i am in johannesburg??? how does one recruit officials for the tournament and who pays them??? how is a venue secured???
    please if anyone has answers please give i have an idea but cant see it materialise b4 these questions are answered…. any positive info will be highly appreciated…

  2. Joe says:


    It depends on the teams you want to invite in your tournament ie if you are only targeting Joburg teams, then speak to Danmore as the chair of Joburg Basketball Association, if you targeting the whole of Gauteng, then GBA is the people to consult. They would then be able to advise on the the venue and the officials.

  3. neo says:

    Halala, I have been reading and trying to find out what is goin on. Joe, Sam, Baller, Graham and everyone who is in this forum, we all seem to know what will not happen and why there is no PBL or a junior program. How about we change the tone to “what can happen, with my contribution” We are all busy throwing each other with a dead cat and no matter what we will not build our sport.

    As far as the national team is concerned I don no how we did it, but we actually on track. Before you bite my head off read further. End of 2005 season we were ranked no 76 in the world and now we are joint 56th with Moz and Croatia and the likes. Im not saying that we will qualify for the Olimpics. Before you start comparing countries we need to put things into perspective. Before 2005 SA had never qualified for the African Champs, we were always invited because of some team pulling out. All Africa Games, we did badly in in 1999, didnt qualify in 2003 and lost by 12 to Angola in the quarter finals of last year’s All Africa games. We need people who can put thins into perspective and not sell pipe dreams to our young generation. Mr. Mgobhosi and his peanut gallery talked about vision 2008, it sounded good and I also believed that but as time went I could see that the means for vision 2008 to be a reality were not there. Now baller is talking 8 years, 8 years of what, who will make sure that in that 8 years there are programs running.

    All involved in this forum have a vision but you have to be hands on and very passionate about what we do to realise the vision.

    Joe what part have you played in Ekurhuleni basketball in order to develop the game there.

    Baller I would assume you from Pta cos I see you refer a lot to it, maybe if I knew who you were I would say what you have or have not done.

    Graham Has your appointment to the PBL chairmanship borne any fruits, or is what Joe saying true that you just a fly on the wall when big decitions are being made

    Vuyi in your personal capacity are you involved with any basketball outside your team.

    Im just trying to make people aware that “The smallest action is better than the greatest intention”

  4. Joe says:


    I agree with you wholeheartedly, the person who started this discussion with the article should be asked what the intentions were besides anothter blaming episode.

    As much as I want to move forward I am not going to sit and say nothing when people engage in cheap shots just for the 15sec of fame. This trend of blaming, as you correctly argues needs to stop. We all need to roll up our sleeves find out where the problem is, but more importantly, what can we do help!

    As for myself, ask anyone in Ekurhuleni and they will tell you I have been smoking this donkey of development for more that 10yrs. Most of them will even attest how this I have done from my own pockets and at a huge quality-time sacrifice to both my career and my family.

    I stopped regarding myself as a player at a ripe age of 25 because I realised there is a need for administrators. Since then I have been trying to convince as many people as possible that more than anything, bball need administrators.

    Thus in my view, which supports your stance, people need to stop bitching, excuse my languae, and blaming. It is time for those players, fans and supporters to start saying “How can I help you?” It is time for bballers to recognise that it is not the stuctures that are wrong, but the people in the structures.

    I have also argued that the main reason structures are not working and will continue not to work is because firstly the people who run these structures do not have the skills to run the structures, and that the people with skills REFUSE to work in the structures.

    Therefore, I am going to continue to “push the ambiance” [Daddy: YFM], and encourage bballers to find out about the structures and how they can get involved. Cricket, soccer, rugby are proving in this country that the structures work. In basketball internationally it has also been proven that structures work.

    As the famous sayings go; we need to change our attitude for us to reach our altitude and the change that people are waiting for is in themselves.

  5. baller says:


    i think you misunderstood my point. its not about running programs but rather about making sure that the team that we have is given the exposure and proper preparation time for the games. as you are saying, we lost to angola by 12 with minimal what if we had a whole year to prepare. surely the results will be different next time we play angola.

  6. neo says:

    My problem is that people dont want to say anything because then they will have to do the work which is disappointing. We should never have a situation where people can duck and dive and after that they claim to custodians of the sport. No matter what happens this topic will be personal because there are those who believe that people at PBL killed their dream or the people at the national team should make way for youngsters, whatever it might be. I nf you take my comments perrsonally good for you then you know how I feel when people say baskeball is dead yet there are people who contribute to this website. Its an insult to anyone that plays the sport.

    We must sop sounding like broken records and start playing a tune that will be enjoyed by everryone. I have never followed the PBL story cos I never thought it envolved until I realised that this was a program which could have given players a platform to stand on and be scouted. Now our players are playing in Moz for the league there and a lot are saying that given the chance they are gone.

    Action speaks louder than words C’mon lets be the real custodians of this here sport.

  7. baller says:

    i will agree with Neo. i have always been saying that the people that make comments on this site should make themselves available for bball. many of us are here debating issues and we are not even actively involved in bball. it should rather be a question of what am i contributing for the development of the sport where i am.

    we should be getting our hands dirty than expect manna from heaven.

    Neo, when is the Moz league starting and according to you what can we as a country benefit from their administartion structures.

  8. neo says:

    The league starts on the 15th of September. We are trying to have basketball for South Africa, by that I mean try a different formula to what other countries are doing to suit our country. That is not theway to go about it. Moz is doing the same format that is done in Angola i.t.o. their national league.

    You ask what we can learn from Moz? Nothing that we dont know. Get leagues running in all provinces and the best teams go at it at national level thats not rocket science its common sense.

    Trick is people to run those leagues at grass roots level.

  9. baller says:

    how many south african players will be playing in their league. you right there,its common sense and i do believe its something we capable of doing from our provinces then move it to national level..

  10. danger says:


    im with you neo lets stop talking and start working.

  11. Interested says:

    Let me add a bit of spice to this debate,

    I think that Baller is a cameleon; he side stepped the question that Neo asked about what he is doing in his area. So I presume he is sitting behind a desk doing nothing for his so called structures, just criticizing whatever everyone else is doing.

    You never know which side of the fence he is sitting on because one minute he is in agreement with the wider public, then next he is in agreement with the people that messed up the sport. Agree with Neo, disagree with neo on the same day, which is it???

    Since you are a regular contributor to this site and you act like you know what you are talking about why are you still hiding behind the name baller??? Are you part of the problem or are you the solution.


    About Moz, Angola and any other league, SA can learn from them but not copy them. We should adapt their success to our environment not the other way around…

  12. baller says:


    you know its funny that you question about my identity hence you keeping yours answer you on that, i am human and there are issues i will disagree with and those that i will agree with..i will also make comments that someone will come with better suggestion vice versa..

    on the issue of my involvement, i am involved in bball at club level as i said long ago and have also being involved in the provincial administration of bball for quite a number of years till i quit last year..

    i have been through frustrations with BSA and am still are but will never ever leave bball for whatever reason..if BSA is right i will support that and when they are wrong i will always voice my disapproval..the sport made me who i am today and i have also contributed in a many a kids lives through the sport to date which i pride myself with..

    i hope you are happy now and please my identity has got nothing to with discussions. as for me being a chameleon as you say, if thats what it takes to understand others view points then i will remain that..

  13. Joe says:


    Interested, Baller got you! Why do you use a nickname also and what are you doing besides looking at what Baller is doing.