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» » » Topflight football resumption: The unanswered questions

File picture: Highlanders vs CAPS-United

Clayton Shereni

Football clubs in the country have gone for more than a year without kicking the ball, save for reigning Premier Soccer League (PSL) champions FC Platinum who are taking part in continental competitions.

As the curve of the second wave of Covid-19 flattens, PSL has since written to topflight clubs proposing a four to five week bio bubble tourney starting in March.

While other countries which have been severely affected by Covid-19 have their top division teams playing, Zimbabwean football leaders have been playing a blame game with government for putting tough lockdown regulations although these regulations are almost similar to those in some African countries where football activities are underway. 

Reports allege that football bosses had been cornered to resume as Fifa sanctions were reportedly hoovering over local football if at least the topflight league fails to resume by April this year.

Fans and other stakeholders have in recent weeks reignited their calls for a return of football saying there is nothing special in Zimbabwe’s case since it is one of the least affected nations.

However, PSL and Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) seems to have bowed down to pressure and has proposed a bio bubble concept for premier league teams will take form of group stages, semifinals and  a final match.

The proposed concept will see the 18 teams being pitted in four random groups, go in ‘safe places’, play a mini league for a period of four to five weeks and teams will be located in Harare, Zvishavane, Mutare/Mhondoro Ngezi and Bulawayo.

However, there are unanswered over this proposed round robin bio bubble concept and these are some of the pertinent questions which should be answered to avoid a disaster and blame game among authorities.

Is Zifa willing to part with US$ 100 000 administrative funds?

The FA has been at the centre of countless controversies when it comes to the financial side of football, failing transparency tests especially on the Fifa Covid-19 grant which was advanced to them to cushion clubs against the economic effects of Covid-19.

Zifa has claimed bankruptcy in some instances and has been involved in nasty fights with clubs over the disbursement of the US$1 million Fifa grant which they converted to local currency although they received the grant in hard currency.

However, Zifa has not been clear on the exact amount which they disbursed and what was left in their coffers.

In the first draft of the proposed bio bubble concept, PSL plans to approach the local football governing body to fork out US$100 000 towards ‘administrative costs’ of football in the country.  

These costs include match officials salaries, television rights and stadia inspections to mention but a few.

It however, remains an unanswered question whether the FA will just pump in the required money without trying to dodge the task at hand.

Do clubs have funding to sustain accommodation and player allowances?

According to the proposal, clubs are expected to pay a total of US$2500 towards registration, find own accommodation and pay player salaries.

Even if all clubs manage to pay the registration or affiliation fee, accommodation fees remain an uphill task for many clubs even the ones which are bankrolled by companies.

Ngezi Platinum, FC Platinum, Manica Diamonds, Triangle and Chicken Inn FC may be able to stand toe to toe since they have a firm financial backing but surely this will be bitter pill to swallow for other clubs.

Fans won’t be allowed in the stadia and this surely is a major setback for all clubs especially those without a firm financial backing. Clubs will struggle to cater for their expenses without gate takings.

For winners of the league, a sponsorship package will be availed by Delta Beverages but the exact amount is yet to be known and is likely to be low than the projected expenses of any club hence clubs operating at a loss.

Players will also surely demand more and what they will demand and get still remains a mystery since inflation has soared and the economy being on a life support system is also another issue which might cause a standoff between players and management.

Since players haven’t been receiving little or close to nothing from clubs since the inception of the lockdown, they might want to bargain and come with big demands so that they cover for the losses of last year.

Drama unfolded in the CAPS United camp last year when players were involved in a brawl with club vice president Nhamo Tutisani over salaries and whether this won’t be repeated at other clubs still remains unanswered. 

Will all clubs adhere to the proposed bio bubble concept?

Due to accommodation costs, it is a cause for concern whether all clubs will surely be in Covid-19 free places or they will find alternatives for the duration of the bio bubble.

In a normal season some financially constrained clubs always travel on Matchdays to minimize accommodation costs.

Clubs owned by government institutions especially security forces sides usually sleep at barracks/camp avoiding hefty charges of lodges and hotels.

Will this not be the same order in this planned mini league which seems not binding for all the 18 clubs to be unconditionally involved?

With the pandemic being the one causing all sorts of problems, having clubs stay at these usually packed camps should be avoided as to elude a spread of the virus.

The adherence of clubs to the bio bubble concept is also another unanswered question whether PSL will have the guts to read a riot act to clubs who might propose such accommodation options?

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