Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
PREMIER Soccer League chairman Farai Jere says the explosion of the business of football to become a multi-billion-dollar global industry has been one of the greatest success stories since World War II.
And, the domestic top-flight league, he says, are on a grand mission to ensure they are not left behind by the roaring train.
This has led them to come up with a host of interventions, like their inaugural International Football Symposium, in Victoria Falls.
The Harare businessman, who took over as the league’s boss in September last year, told delegates his league was being driven by a burning desire to join the big tent, where their counterparts in South Africa and Zambia, were feasting from commercial partnerships.
The old model, where survival was sorely pitched on gate receipts, said Jere, had become outdated. He said while the local top-flight league continued to punch above its weight, when it comes to CAF inter-club competitions, as witnessed by success stories written by FC Platinum and Triangle in recent months, the potential to do even better was there.
The decision to hold the symposium, in a resort town synonymous with the best in tourism in this country, Jere said, was a masterstroke in an age where football, and business, had become Siamese twins.
‘‘We meet, ladies and gentlemen, against a background of the success which our two representatives clubs – FC Platinum and Triangle United – have written in the CAF inter-club competitions,’’ Jere said.
‘‘I am a disciple of the link between sound boardroom management, and success on the field of play, and when I look at such incredible stories, like Triangle inflicting the first home defeat on Tanzanian side Azam FC in the CAF inter-club competitions, it provides me with the assurance that we are doing something right.
‘‘But, we can never rest, simply because there is a ray of sunshine, because, we all know that our game is battling a number of challenges, which are holding it hostage and preventing it from fulfilling its full potential, and that’s why it’s important that we meet at such forums to exchange frank views that can make a difference.
‘‘Our message is loud and clear, we want to be part of the big tent where others are feasting from the potential of this game, and that’s why we have taken this initiative to ensure that, even if it might appear a small step forward, it’s a welcome step all the same.
‘‘So much has been said, and written, about the commercial potential of our football and it’s my firm belief that, the more we interact with those who have seen the other side, like our foreign delegates, we will be left richer, in terms of our capacity, to try and add that priceless value to our game.
‘‘That is why as PSL we took the initiative to join the World Leagues Forum at a convention attended by our chief executive, Kenny Ndebele, in Mexico last year.’’
The symposium will look at different interventions, including but not limited to, the following:
To grow and market the PSL football brand
To create a networking forum for football stakeholders
To share and exchange ideas for the benefit of football and its stakeholders
To promote sports tourism
To look at issues of governance, club licensing, sponsorship, safety and security, dispute resolution procedures as well as the use of digital media for fan engagement.
‘‘By effectively tackling these issues, we are confident that we can confront our challenges and transform the face of our sport,’’ Jere said.
‘‘We are confident that the topics that will be discussed will guide us towards organising world class competitions, developing and improving the game and, at the end, they will be beneficial not only to football but all our sporting codes.
‘‘By the way, just a few days ago in Russia, one of our karatekas, Samson Muripo, won the World Championship while Marvelous Nakamba, a product of our local game, continues to receive rave reviews in the English Premiership at Aston Villa.
‘‘To all our foreign visitors, it is my hope that you will also experience the beauty of Zimbabwean tourism, at its very best, and when you return home, you will have numerous positive tales about this unique country.’’
Jere then paid tribute to their partners, Delta Beverages, who also sponsored the symposium, Fidelity Life Assurance of Zimbabwe, for the insurance cover they provide to the league’s players and coaches and the World Leagues Forum. ZIFA president, Felton Kamambo, described the symposium as a ‘‘milestone for our top-flight league.’’
‘‘The very fact that this sporting expo is not only confined to football, but to all sports bodies that are run along business lines, goes a long way in defining how we manage and grow sport,’’ he said.
‘‘The international presenters here show that the PSL means business and the topics that are before you are a clear testimony that football, as an industry, needs more shoulders to the wheel, for sustained development.
‘‘The full commercial value of clubs and their sponsors has not been fully exploited, ladies and gentlemen. The fans are the most integral part of the game, or rather any sporting code, so they need to be managed, carefully, don’t they?
‘‘And mostly importantly, ladies and gentlemen, especially those from the PSL clubs, let me say this to you – this is not a talk show, this is where you take football to another level, this is where you see football not as a social activity but an industry. Go back to your clubs, report back and finally implement everything that you have learnt here. This will improve, greatly, the way you administer the game, the way you market the game and the way you bring about growth and competitiveness in the most beautiful game.’’