The Sunday Mail
Petros Kausiyo Sports Editor
PREMIER Soccer League clubs have painted a gloomy picture of the future of the domestic game, amid a resurgence in the bickering between ZIFA and the top-flight body over the disbursement of FIFA Covid-19 relief funds.
Last week, ZIFA, in a move that left PSL sides shocked, announced a slash in the funding they will now avail to the league in a revised schedule of the funds they are disbursing as part of the US$1.5 million relief package availed by world soccer governing body FIFA.
The association slashed by half the initial US$20 000 they had allocated to the PSL for administration in the facilitation of football’s safe return in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ironically, ZIFA have now parcelled money even to affiliates such as Beach Soccer and Futsal that have been inactive.
Questions have been raised by clubs on the decision by ZIFA to avail funds to non-existent structures like the referees’ desk which was last manned by Obert Mamvura in 2016.
They are also paying Division 4 match officials when most provinces do not have such leagues operating.
ZIFA communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela told our sister paper The Herald last week that the soccer mother body had exercised their discretion when adjusting the disbursement schedule.
“It was after consultations with other affiliates and that is what was recommended.
“It’s certainly not a counter reaction to whatsoever, these are recommendations of affiliates through stakeholder consultations, for equitable distribution of Covid-19 relief funds.
“PSL are not the only affiliate saddled with administration expenses. ZIFA and its affiliates reserve the right to apportion the funds in the way they see fit instead of being micromanaged into explaining every detail.
“The figures we have released are final,” said Gwesela.
But the clubs, in a comprehensive six-page document they have come up with, implored their chairman Farai Jere to revisit the matter and make a strong representation of their plight to the ZIFA board.
CAPS United president Jere sits on the ZIFA board by virtue of his position as PSL chairman and the clubs believe he should do more to convince his colleagues — Felton Kamambo, Philemon Machana, Brighton Malandule, Sugar Chagonda and Barbra Chikosi — to consider the plight of the top-flight clubs.
It is also the clubs’ contention that ZIFA could be punishing them for demanding their share of the FIFA funds in hard currency.The clubs steadfastly maintained their position when they met the ZIFA board in Harare on July 18.
Other affiliates such as the regions claimed they did not have any qualms with being paid their share in Zimbabwe dollars.
“The Premier Soccer League and its clubs currently employ over 750 workers. The Premier Soccer League Clubs like all other organisations were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The League programmes were suspended on 20 March 2020 just after the Castle Challenge Cup Season opener between FC Platinum and Highlanders FC when the Government introduced a raft of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“The suspension of football programmes coincided with the closure of the first player registration period on 31 March 2020,’’ reads part of the dossier the clubs want Jere to take back to ZIFA.
The elite league also revealed that their sponsorship deal with Delta Beverages had been temporarily halted by Covid-19.
“The Premier Soccer League has had a partnership with Delta Beverages, which expired on 31 December 2019. Negotiations for renewal of the sponsorship had been concluded before the Covid-19 pandemic-forced break.
“The contract was yet to be signed and Delta Beverages postponed the signing of the contract in light of the corona virus pandemic.
“Given the magnitude of financial strain that all organisations, including Delta Beverages have experienced, it is our hope that the contract will be signed when dates for resumption of football activities are announced. The quantum of the sponsorship is yet to be agreed upon.
“Clubs are expected to be paying salaries and other expenses for the upkeep of their players. There have been media reports of some clubs failing to pay their players’ salaries.
“The global Covid-19 pandemic has led to FIFA and CAF supporting their member associations financially. According to FIFA documents, the financial support is meant to cover the following:
The restart of competitions across all categories
The implementation of return to play protocols, including testing
The payment of staff costs and rehiring of essential staff where necessary
The maintenance of footballing infrastructure
The payment of general administration and operating costs
The PSL also acknowledged that ZIFA reserved the right to distribute the funds as they saw fit. “It is appreciated that the funding will be disbursed at the sole discretion of the Football Association. There is a need for an equitable distribution of the said funds. The Premier Soccer League and its clubs ought to be considered as a top League employing over 750 professional employees.
“ZIFA circulated a schedule of proposed disbursement of funds on July 20, wherein the Premier Soccer League was allocated funds as follows — first tranche to be paid in July 2020 — $20 000 (Twenty Thousand United States Dollars) for the League administration — $100 000 (One Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) for the Premier Soccer League Clubs.
“Second tranche to be paid in January 2021 – $66 000 (Sixty-Six thousand United States Dollars) for the PSL Clubs. Initially these funds were supposed to be paid to the PSL and Clubs in RTGS. A consultative meeting between the PSL Clubs and the ZIFA Executive Committee members was supposed to clear a number of issues affecting the game. During this meeting held on 18 July 2020, Clubs raised a number of issues in relation to funds disbursement, amongst them that the Premier Soccer League objected to receiving the money in RTGS (Zimbabwe Dollars) due to the high inflation and also the clubs sought clarification on the payment of the FIFA Forward 2.0 funds US$50 000 allocation which the PSL Clubs deemed was to be paid to the PSL annually.
“On 18 August 2020, ZIFA circulated a revised payment schedule now reflected as follows; Premier Soccer League Administration US$ 10 000 Premier Soccer League Clubs US$100 000 Total US$110 000’’.
The league also warned of a grim possibility of collapse.
“The revised figures show that the Premier Soccer League will receive less funding. The funds will not be enough to restart football competitions. The Premier Soccer League will not have funds to run the office and to organise football activities. Clubs and the Premier Soccer League may collapse.
“The Premier Soccer League has been contributing to football development including guaranteeing the national association to accommodate their visiting delegates. The Premier Soccer League has in the last six years not benefitted from any FIFA or CAF funding, including FIFA Forward Programmes 2.0 funding.
“It is appreciated that the association is the sole custodian of all FIFA funds and may distribute the said funds at their sole discretion and/or pleasure. It is however, not fair to disadvantage the Premier Soccer League, especially that such calculations are not done by the ZIFA Finance Committee.
“Personal or Political considerations may affect proper corporate governance. If the Covid-19 funds are meant to restart football, why is the association funding affiliates that have not been organising competitions for many years?
“The following affiliates have been allocated funds yet they have not been running any known Competitions. Beach Soccer US$10 000, Futsal US$10 000, NAPH US$5 000, NASH US$5 000, Area Zones US$10 000.
“It is also not clear why the coaches’ administration and referees associations’ administration are allocated funds when they have no permanent staff nor clear overheads. The funds seem earmarked for administrative purposes rather than the coaches themselves.
“Coaches US$10 000, Referees US$10 000, further, a sum of US$100 000 has been allocated to referees when there is nothing allocated to professional players. Players are the main participants in the game of football,’’ the clubs said.
They also questioned the rationale of increasing the allocation to provinces amid claims that the ZIFA Assembly had been mooting an extraordinary meeting at which they wanted raise strong reservations about the direction the national game was taking.
“The 10 provinces have been allocated US$16 000 per province. We are fully aware that some provinces do not have offices nor employees but their allocation is more than that of the Premier Soccer League yet the PSL clubs share (18 Clubs) has been maintained at US$100,000 and the ZIFA Regions share has been increased from US$100,000 to US$124,000 and ZIFA provinces’ share increased from US$100,000 to US$160,000.
“This is despite the fact and common knowledge that it costs way much more to maintain a top-flight league than the lower leagues.
“The PSL second tranche of US$66,000 has been totally wiped off and allocated to the ZIFA Referees, Division 1- Division 4,’’ the PSL said.
The top clubs, who also provide the bulk of the players for national assignments for the Warriors and Young Warriors, also highlighted the anomaly caused by their reduced allocation.
“The PSL Office administration share has been reduced from $20,000 to $10,000 which is a pale allocation to the $100,000 allocated to ZIFA administration. This is despite the fact that the PSL faces the biggest all year administrative expenses in comparison to all other affiliates.
“The PSL in comparison to other affiliates is by far the biggest and consistent provider of funds to both ZIFA and SRC by providing them each with 6% of Gross Gate Takings. This contribution should be reflected and result in the PSL receiving a large portion of the Covid-19 relief funds.
“The Premier Soccer League, clubs and players play a key role in Zimbabwean Football and deserve to be seriously considered in the restart of football activities. As it stands the Premier Soccer League faces a bleak future,’’ warned the clubs.