The Sunday Mail
Petros Kausiyo and Langton Nyakwenda
AFTER months of waiting, the inaugural Premier Soccer League international football symposium explodes into life in the resort town of Victoria Falls on Thursday amid huge expectations that the expo could finally help the domestic game transform into a big industry.
For years, Zimbabwe’s football has been long on business potential but terribly short on delivery, with the elite league now paying a measly $100 000 to the winner of the 18-team championship.
The country’s flagship sport has also been grappling with compliance issues on fundamentals such as club licensing, with some of their efforts being weighed down by a tough economic environment which has left them operating on shoe string budgets.
But commendably for PSL chairman Farai Jere and chief executive officer Kenny Ndebele, the top clubs will converge in Victoria Falls from October 10 to 12 for a symposium where high-profile speakers from Fifa and international top-flight leagues will make presentations that could help local administrators unlock the value in Zimbabwe’s football.
Although it is primarily a football symposium, the topics that have been lined up for discussion by the PSL also resonate with any sporting discipline that is run along business lines.
It will not be a surprise if cricket and rugby, among other sports codes, also enrol for the indaba.
It will also not be a huge surprise if some ambitious Division One clubs who believe they are within reach of a place in the PSL also attend the indaba.
Zifa secretariat officials in charge of marketing and competitions might also do the same.
World League Forum general secretary Jerome Perlemuter will headline the cast of experts who will descend on Victoria Falls for the indaba.
He will present a paper on sports corporate governance and development.
A glance at the French lawyers’ profile and that of the other speakers point to a potentially exciting and mutually beneficial workshop for the clubs.
Perlemuter was appointed as the general secretary of the WLF in April 2017.
The WLF Forum represents professional football leagues worldwide and fosters cooperation between them. The WLF notably focuses on improving the regulatory framework of professional football and its development around the world.
The highly respected WLF is a grouping of 38 members, including global football’s big five -English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga, Serie A of Italy and the French Ligue 1.
The PSL are also a member of the WLF, whose influence in international football has been growing immensely since its formation in 2016.
Top-flight leagues in Algeria, Kenya, Guinea, Nigeria and South Africa are also members of the Forum.
Before joining the WLF, Jerome served as the General Counsel of the French Professional Football League for 12 years, where he was also in charge of public and international affairs. He was also the integrity officer of the League.
Perlemuter also served as a Judge of the French Commercial Courts for three years, with a particular focus on competition law disputes.
He is a member of the Paris bar and started his career as a litigator in the business law firm Dentons.
In 2016, he was nominated by the Legal 500 to the list of the most influential lawyers in France.
Perlemuter is currently a judge of the Fifa Dispute Resolution Chamber and a member of the Ethics Committee of the French Football Federation.
La Liga Global Network delegate in South Africa, Enrique Suay, will speak on how football can realise its full commercial value. He will use the Spanish elite league as a case study.
Other high-profile speakers who have confirmed their attendance include Cape Town-based Cameron Calder, managing director at Hype Sports, who will talk about driving fan engagement through digital technology.
Marc Juillerat, chief legal officer of the Swiss Football league, will enlighten local administrators on club licensing benefits and the future of football. World soccer governing body Fifa have endorsed the symposium by seconding their safety and security manager Lee Davidson, who will present a paper on managing safety and security at match venues.
This should help the domestic game avoid incidents such as the tragic event of March 24, when a woman lost her life owing to a stampede as fans jostled to get into the National Sports Stadium for the Warriors’ final 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo Brazzaville.
The incident resulted in the Confederation of African Football imposing a two-match ban on the venue.
PSL communication and media liaison officer Kudzai Bare said they are ready to stage the historic symposium.
“It’s all systems go, the renowned speakers have confirmed their availability,” she said.
Local administrators revealed their excitement at the prospects of opening new business avenues that could help them sustain their clubs and bring glory back to the domestic top-flight.
Champions FC Platinum, who are flying the country’s flag in the Champions League, expressed their excitement through club spokesperson Chido Chizondo.
“Football is no longer just for delivering entertainment. ln Africa, we are moving into the next level of football, which is an opportunity to deliver economic value.
“This symposium is an opportunity to allow clubs in Zimbabwe to see the value of football outside the actual playing field,” said Chizondo, whose club are one of the best run in the local Premiership.
Dynamos chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze believes the symposium presents an opportunity for football clubs, sponsors, partners and media to find each other.
“It being the first of its kind in Zimbabwe, all serious football stakeholders must be heading to Victoria Falls.
“Our football needs a common business agenda and this could be the beginning of such a dispensation. The world over, seminars of this nature help football administrators appreciate the value of football.
“Similarly, the corporate world also gets to appreciate the power of football, how football can impact on their business models and why it is important to partner football on a journey where everyone can be a winner.
“As Dynamos, we will seize the opportunity with two hands. As a big brand in the country, we cannot miss the opportunity to be at such a networking forum.
“The league deserves plaudits for hosting such a high profile symposium,” said Mashingaidze.
The former Zifa CEO has been working hard to strike commercial partnership deals between the Harare giants and fellow Glamour club Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa as well as a Belgian side.