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Feud threatens Ajax’s future

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By Rodney Reiners

The malevolent conflict in the Ajax Cape Town boardroom is now threatening the existence of the club.

Over the last two years, the friction between the two families at the heart of the Cape club – Comitis and Efstathiou – has made for some tasty media headlines while, at the same time, derailing the progress the team has made on the field in the Premier Soccer League (PSL).

As a club, Ajax are jointly-owned by Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam (51 percent) and an entity called Cape Town Stars (49 percent).

The Comitis and Efstathiou families are partners in Cape Town Stars.

John Comitis is the life chairman of Ajax and his brother George is the chief executive. To further illustrate the complex nature of the dispute, the Comitis’ sister is married to Ari Efstathiou, one of the club’s directors.

The latest controversy to spill over in this discordant boardroom came after the club sacked Dutch coach Maarten Stekelenburg at the beginning of last month.

As yet, a new coach has still not been appointed, mainly because there has been no consensus in the boardroom. And, while this nasty antagonism was going on off-the-field, results and performances on the field have worsened.

On Monday, an Ajax board meeting was convened, which included the two feuding families and members of the mother club, Ajax Amsterdam. But it all deteriorated so badly that the Efstathious walked out of the meeting.

Ari Efstathiou has admitted that one of the ways to settle things would be to liquidate the club.

Liquidation would mean the winding up of Ajax as a PSL team, in order to settle the affairs of the two families’ business arrangements. Assets and liabilities would be determined and each family then going its separate way.

The latest events don’t augur well for Ajax’s many staff members, players and junior footballers. For them, the club is their livelihood and a vehicle for football ambition.

In a media statement yesterday, George Comitis said : “Ajax has built a proud history over the past 12 years and represents the dreams of thousands of kids wishing to become professional players.

“Ajax is much stronger than the few individuals who wish to allow a hidden agenda to jeopardise the dreams of these kids, as well as the livelihood of our players, coaches, staff, and not to mention letting down a massive support base across South Africa.”

Cape Town Stars will hold a board meeting tomorrow where the future of the club is on the agenda.

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