By Tadious Manyepo
Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kazembe Kazembe has challenged the Premier Soccer League clubs to create a conducive environment that attracts sounds sponsorship deals and turn the domestic game into a megabucks industry which its potential richly deserves.
As the top-flight teams prepare for the 2018 championship, which starts tomorrow, the clubs’ chiefs gathered in Harare yesterday for a two-day workshop on Club Licensing at which a number of key issues related to corporate governance, intellectual property rights in sport and professionalism are being tabled.
The club administrators are also going through the laws of the game, security issues and media relations.
Kazembe, who was the guest of honour, challenged both ZIFA and the PSL to take the lead in revolutionising Zimbabwean football and also make it attractive to foreign players and crucially more corporate entities.
“It is my belief that we all view football as the leading sport in the country because of the following it commands and in light of that, it attracts substantial attention in terms of corporate governance, its internal structures and external stakeholders.
“Observations in the past show that there are fluctuations and uncertainties in terms of sponsorship and support for the Premiership emanating from governance deficiencies.
“Cognisant of the importance of football to the nation and the need to ensure consistency in its growth, I urge football stakeholders to exercise transparency, accountability and integrity in the discharge of duties.
“As a sector we must deploy our ability to attract new sponsors without disposing the old partnerships. It is worth noting that the power to influence growth of the Premiership is under our realm, hence the need to dispose ourselves in a professional manner,” Kazembe said.
The Premiership game has been hamstrung by lack of adequate corporate backing, with only Delta Beverages bankrolling both the league and the flagship knockout tournament, the Chibuku Super Cup.
A number of clubs have also struggled financially, with many often dogged by player unrest due to delays or non-payment of salaries and bonuses.
“It is my sincere hope that as we approach the 2018 season, we need to set milestones proficient enough to turn the Premiership into a viable league financially and administratively.
“Football is the highest employer in the sport sector in terms of numbers.
“However, it is sad to note that, reports and statistics bordered on the contribution we are making as a sector to the GDP, remain conspicuous.
“It is my view that the PSL, as a leading brand in sport, lead the way in making a case for sport, through football, by way of facts and figures on the contribution and impact being triggering to the economy.
“It is in this spirit that I would like to urge you all to emulate such leagues like the ABSA Premiership where the majority of our players are now plying their trade.
“That league is not managed by billionaires, but is attracting billions owing to their exceptional management approach.
“Indications from other leagues such as the ABSA Premiership in South Africa and the English Premier League show that corporates who want to support these leagues are so many such that they have to bid for the right to partner the league.
“For example in the Spanish La Liga, Nike cannot wait for their turn to sponsor Madrid whose kit is currently sponsored by Adidas, while here in Zimbabwe we beg for the little sponsorship that we can get from whoever is willing,” Kazembe said.
Presenting a paper on intellectual property rights, Nobert Phiri, a leading Harare lawyer on the subject, challenged the administrators to “think outside the box” to derive full value from their brands.
“It’s all about innovation. You have to use what you have and the brands which you have built to derive value and sustain your operations,” Phiri said.
PSL chief executive officer Kenny Ndebele also challenged the clubs to embrace the media as partners in the sport and abandon unorthodox means of administering the game.
ZIFA vice-president Omega Sibanda told the stakeholders that his association was taking serious steps to develop football and would this year introduce an Under-15 league.