JOHANNESBURG South Africa's premier soccer league (PSL) have stopped one of their clubs from playing a prestige friendly against Liverpool this month saying it would take publicity away from the country's cup final.
Ajax Cape Town have been refused permission by the league to play a friendly against the English club in Cape Town on May 21 in a move that was immediately criticised.
"We don't allow international friendlies while the season is still on because it competes with our own events and our own sponsors," said the league's general manager Derek Blankensee on Wednesday.
South Africa's cup final, sponsored by the banking group Nedbank, completes the season on May 25, four days after the proposed friendly. The last round of league matches is on May 18.
"This is the biggest game of the season for our sponsor and we want them to get the exposure they deserve," Blankensee added.
Cape Town's municipal authorities, who were bankrolling the game, criticised the decision.
"I think it's short-sighted because we are trying to build brand South Africa, and getting one of the greatest football teams in the world to play in this country is a massive achievement for us," Cape Town city councillor Grant Pascoe told local media.
"Football attracts guests and what sort of message does this send out to our guests?"
An invitation side, made up of players from Ajax and other Cape Town professional sides, is now planned to face Liverpool, although all the players are registered with the PSL.
Last year Ajax hosted Manchester United in a friendly two weeks before the start of the season.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Clare Fallon)