Those opposed to the move this week vented their anger on social media, with some describing the municipality’s decision as “racist”.
“Is it because there are fewer blacks in cricket than in soccer? This decision is clearly motivated by race than anything else,” Karin Smit wrote on Facebook.
However, eThekwini speaker Logie Naidoo shot back.
“If they accuse others of being racists then they should explain why their club is still predominately white 20 years after democracy,” he said.
Naidoo said Berea Rovers would have to vacate the premises by December to allow construction work to begin.
“We will be meeting them soon to discuss alternative premises,” he said.
Naidoo denied the academy would focus only on soccer.
“We are developing sports talent in the province – ranging from cricket, cycling, soccer and many other codes. So it is incorrect to say we are only developing a soccer academy,” he said.
Last month the eThekwini municipality’s executive committee announced it had given city manager Sibusiso Sithole the green light to enter into long-term lease agreement with Hoy Park Management, a partner of the Liverpool soccer club, to develop the 14.334 hectare stand next to Kings Park Stadium.
But Berea Rovers chairperson Dave Stevens accused the city of keeping the club in the dark about the proposed developments.
“This has prompted us to contact our advocate and attorneys – both have an interest in Rovers – and we have been informed Rovers have a strong case against the council for not following correct, lawful procedures,” he said.
Naidoo rejected Stevens’ claim the club had not received any response from the municipality.
“No, they did not talk to us – they went straight to the DA – a political party. Despite this, we are still prepared to meet them and kick-start negotiations,” he said.
Last month, Liverpool announced the club would be launching its coaching programme in South Africa – one in Durban and another in Johannesburg, to teach children between five and 14 to play the club’s brand of soccer.
Premier Senzo Mchunu last week said the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government wanted the soccer academy to be named after late Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa.
The KwaZulu-Natal government has pledged to contribute R10 million to the academy annually for the next three years.