BIG CHALLENGE FOR NON-CORPORATE BACKED CLUBS
COMMUNITY and individually-owned Premier Soccer League teams need to rethink their models and come up with strategies that will safeguard their existence to effectively compete with corporate-backed clubs.
The 2018 season ended at the weekend, with corporate-backed clubs occupying the top four, an indication of a balance shift.
Zvishavane-based FC Platinum successfully defended their title, with Ngezi Platinum Stars, who are powered by Zimplats, coming second, while Chicken Inn of Simbisa Brands were third. Tongaat Hullets sponsored Triangle United ended the season in fourth.
Bulawayo side, Highlanders, who are the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League’s best crowd puller, were fifth, a place above their 2017 finish.
It is the dominance of corporate sponsored teams that should worry community clubs like Highlanders and Dynamos, who depend on the benevolence of some corporates and individuals.
Another giant, Caps United who are owned by PSL chairman Farai Jere, have also been a beneficiary of corporate kindness.
Highlanders, Caps United, who finished eighth, and Dynamos, who were 11th, were cushioned by mobile phone network operator NetOne and are negotiating for contract extensions with the telecoms giant.
NetOne’s sponsorship of the three giants eased players’ salary burdens, but going into the 2019 season, the clubs will need financial support to sign or retain key players, whose contracts run out at the end of the year.
Financially strong sides like FC Platinum, Ngezi Platinum Stars, Chicken Inn and the newly promoted sides Manica Diamonds of Mutare and TelOne, are likely to attract the best players in the land because of financial stability.
Mining teams, FC Platinum, Ngezi Platinum Stars and Manica Diamonds will no doubt bully the transfer market, draw the best players, especially those with contracts running out at the end of next month.
Dangling a carrot in the form of lucrative contracts is what the financially stable sides are known for to get players as free agents.
In 2018, the league had four individually owned teams, Caps United, Bulawayo Chiefs, whose director is city businessman Lovemore Sibanda, Yadah, owned by Walter Magaya, and Nichrut, bankrolled by Shurugwi businessman Nicholas Gara.
There were times when Caps United and Chiefs players went on strike protesting over unpaid allowances. Even Dynamos players also downed tools over outstanding allowances.
Shabanie Mine, a community team, got relegated from the Premiership and their financial incapability was an open secret.
Shabanie Mine went down with local authority bankrolled sides, Bulawayo City and Mutare City Rovers as well as Nichrut.
Some of the teams with financial stability that survived the chop and are expected to come back strongly next season include group of colleges sponsored Herentals, who capped a fine debut season by finishing sixth ahead of seasoned campaigners like Dynamos and Caps United.
Electricity generators powered ZPC Kariba, who had three points deducted for missing the season opener against FC Platinum, ended the season in 10th and are expected to emerge stronger next season. — @ZililoR