Clubs Cheer Ray of Light Amid the Gloom

SOME of the domestic Premiership football clubs are excited there could be a ray of light, after months of lockdown, as they hope for a return to action.

On Monday, the Government gave the biggest hint football might return this year, with a commitment to go the extra mile, to give ZIFA the institutional, and technical support, needed for the safe return of football. The national game will only return after the local governing body have ticked all the boxes in the proposal from the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.

Highlanders chief executive, Nhlanhla Dube, said since football was their main industry, they would welcome any initiative for the resumption of the game.

However, he said, they remained concerned about their financial capacity to meet all the requirements, due to the incapacitation of some of their partners.

“Football is important and our business is football. Our employees survive on football so, without it, it would be an industry that has shut.

“We really welcome the resumption of football provided that the costs of running the game are met, one way or the other.

“The burden will be evident, I am sure we will play without spectators, then we are expected to hire stadium and police for security, which is going to be very important, especially with spectators not going to be allowed in.

“There is going to be some cost around testing and sanitising to the levels of keeping everyone safe.

“So, it’s the costs we would want to be addressed. If funding is availed, it’s welcome but if it’s not available, then it will leave us in a worse off position.

“Already, we have been paying players during this whole lockdown period.

“I am commenting from an uninformed position, we are yet to get an update on what will happen,” said Dube.

Another club official, who requested anonymity, said sport was a unifying factor which will cheer a lot of people during this difficult period. It was important, he said, for football to be played this year.

“The players, who rely on fitness as professionals, have been idle since the beginning of April, we cannot keep them idle for up to a year,” he said.

“We are ready to play football, which is a powerful tool, in uniting people from different backgrounds.

“Other industries, such as tourism and education, have mapped their way forward on resumption and we are glad it might be us next.

“I think this concept of playing in a secured environment is also very good for the safety of our players but it needs money.

“I am not sure who will fund this whole thing because, as clubs, we definitely cannot afford to finance such a set-up on our own.

“We already have our challenges but we don’t have any problems playing football again this season.”

CAPS United vice-president, Nhamo Tutisani, said they have been planning in anticipation that one day football would return.

“We have been preparing, we knew eventually football will return,” the businessman said.

“We had prepared before football went into lockdown so we will need enough time to train again.

“As CAPS United, we have been making virtual planning.”

Tafadzwa Bhasera, the Harare City chief executive, said it was important that funding for the proposed return be secured.

“A start of football matches, whether normal/mini-league/Cup matches can only be possible if football secures funding for the Covid-19 infection prevention measures (provision of bio-domes) in respect of training and match days.

“At the moment, it’s clear that clubs and the PSL don’t have such funding capacity. The situation requires comprehensive review because matches will be staged in empty stadiums, in the absence of live TV coverage.

“Such a scenario can’t bring excitement to football fans. We’re enjoying the EPL and other European leagues because of TV coverage.

“On the part of the clubs, if the fans are not allowed into stadiums and there are no revenue in-flows to clubs from TV coverage then, there’s no excitement.”

Football has resumed in some parts of the continent. Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa have led the way by concluding the remaining games from the previous campaign and are now tackling the new 2020/2021 season.

Tanzania started their new season last week and South Africa will follow suit in the coming month.

All the three countries’ top-flight leagues have good TV coverage deals.

Fans are allowed to watch matches in Tanzania.

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