The Sunday Mail
WHILE the debate on ZIFA’s Covid-19 bailout package continues to play out in Premier Soccer League corridors, lower divisions, which are feeder leagues to the top flight, are eagerly awaiting their turn to be rescued by the football mother body.
ZIFA, who are sitting on US$1,8 million Covid-19 relief funds from CAF and FIFA, last Thursday announced that the 18 PSL clubs would share just under US$100 000 — translating to about US$5 500 each — from the bailout package.
Another US$300 000 will go towards Covid-19 testing and medical equipment to ensure football returns safely.
Both ZIFA and the PSL are convinced that Government will give the green light for the top-flight league to kick off in September, with the possibility of a shift in the local football calendar now highly likely.
The packages announced by ZIFA have triggered mixed reactions from PSL clubs, who have been grappling with coronavirus-induced financial distress since March when the Government announced the initial national lockdown.
Division One clubs are expecting something from ZIFA’s kitty.
Harare City FC chairperson, Alois Masepe, welcomed ZIFA’s gesture but is curious to know how much will cascade to lower leagues.
“ZIFA was in financial dire straits before the FIFA and CAF bailout. We need not compare ZIFA with other associations in Africa that are financially viable,” Masepe told The Sunday Mail Sport yesterday.
“ZIFA must employ these bailout funds in such a way that the association lays the foundation for future self-sustainability and growth. There is need to invest the funds wisely instead of squandering them on unproductive and administrative pursuits.
“I am also curious to know how much, in terms of coronavirus management expenses, is going to go towards the resumption of lower division leagues in September as provisionally forecast.
“The PSL is inseparably inter-linked and intertwined with lower leagues in terms of promotions and demotion.
“This means the leagues must start and end together as a seamless single process. Accordingly, the same Covid-19 protection budget being set aside for the PSL must also cascade to lower leagues.
“That budgeting process and figures should guide and determine whether it makes business sense and or medical sense to kick-start the league this year or to give 2020 a bye and prepare effectively for 2021,” added Masepe.
He also added his voice on the proposals to change season’s calendar.
“There is need to separate the coronavirus-determined soccer lockdown from the agenda to shift our soccer season.
“The two agendas are different and require separate approaches. I am aware that there are some in our midst who are trying to smuggle in the agenda of harmonise our soccer season with Europe and some regions into all this.
“But my view is that the agendas are separate. Harmonisation is required but we need to meticulously plan for it and have a clear way forward with specific timeframes and milestones,” said Masepe.
Chicken Inn secretary, Tavengwa Hara, feels ZIFA did not consider the clubs’ requests when they came up with the bailout package.
“This is a good gesture from FIFA through ZIFA and we appreciate the taking over of other expenses, but if you are running a club, US$5 000 is nothing,” moaned Hara.
“That amount covers one home game. We thought the board members who sat had perused the budgets which they requested from the clubs, but it seems they didn’t consider them.
“Maybe those budgets should have gone through the PSL office, not direct from clubs, because in that board it seems no one knows the direct expenses of the clubs to kick a ball,” said Hara.
Black Rhinos secretary, Edward Mutukwa, thinks the budget allocation is “skewed”.
“It is not possible to run football administration on a centralised budget. Clubs should be allowed to administer referees, Covid-19 testing and other health protocols,” said Mutukwa.
Apart from shouldering the Covid-19-related expenses, ZIFA also announced that they will pay referees on behalf of clubs.
“The desire to hold onto financial resources should be matched by the capacity to deliver. Centralisation is not the best way,” added Mutukwa.
“Therefore, there is need to ensure equity by matching clubs’ demands. They (ZIFA) had requests that we submitted to them, so what was the need then to thumb-suck the disbursements. With this centralised budget, we are definitely going to face challenges as we try to resume football activities.”
ZIFA Central Region chairperson, Stanley Chapeta, said the Central Region Division One clubs were yet to be briefed on the bailouts.
“We are still waiting to be briefed, but I am sure we will get something. They (ZIFA) started from the top going downwards,” said Chapeta.
Northern Region acting chairperson, Martin Kweza, is hopeful ZIFA will rescue the region’s Division One league.
“I am told there is a portion for provinces and regions, but we haven’t been briefed as yet.
“Everyone is affected by this Covid crisis and I am sure ZIFA will soon do something.
“ZIFA know there are other affiliates which are not the PSL that also need help,” said Kweza.