HARARE – The Premier Soccer League (PSL) must act tough on hooliganism or else it will risk losing its current sponsors if violence continues at matches.
For the umpteenth time this season, violence grabbed the headlines this weekend when Dynamos fans clashed with their Ngezi Platinum Stars counterparts at Baobab Stadium.
A Ngezi ball boy was also chased away from the pitch by unruly Dynamos fans who invaded the playing field.
Then shortly after that, the match was stopped for over 15 minutes as the DeMbare fans invaded the pitch after their side had conceded two goals in succession.
All this was screened live on SuperSport across Africa which was a negative advertisement for the local game.
Already three matches this season — one in the Chibuku Super Cup and two in the Castle Lager Premiership — were all abandoned due to crowd trouble.
Speaking at PSL’s 25th anniversary banquet in the capital a fortnight ago, Delta Beverages marketing manager Patricia Murambinda voiced the company’s concerns regarding this matter.
“Sporadic violence at matches involving fans of big teams in league matches and now even smaller teams is a concern for us as a sponsor,” Murambinda said.
The PSL must take a leaf from what other leagues and sporting codes are doing around the world to curb fan violence.
Only yesterday, English Premiership side Tottenham Hotspurs issued lifetime bans to two supporters involved in showering urine at West Ham fans during their Carabao Cup tie last Wednesday.
The two fans were captured on video which showed one of them urinating into a pint glass before the other one threw its contents at the West Ham fans.
Spurs conducted their investigations into the incident and subsequently banned them from attending their matches in the future.
A club statement said: “This kind of behaviour is not acceptable and we shall be issuing lifetime bans to both individuals in the video.”
Last month, a 16-year-old England fan Jake Peachey was fined £200 for invading the pitch before hugging striker Marcus Rashford during the World Cup qualifier against Malta.
In Australia, invading the pitch at the Adelaide Oval, one of cricket’s premier match venues in the world, carries a mandatory one-year ban from entering the venue and a fine of up to $5 000.
During Saturday’s violence at Baobab, not a single person was arrested as the fans took the law into their own hands.
PSL chief executive Kenny Ndebele recently admitted in an interview with the Daily News that violence at their matches is now a big problem that needs to be dealt with urgency.
“The issue of violence is a huge concern, it needs more than the clubs, more than the league; it’s a societal problem,” Ndebele said.
“At all matches, the police try to search people at the gates but there is smuggling of alcohol. Even without the smuggling of alcohol, there are many things that are intoxicating people which we now understand is affecting some of our players. It’s a huge societal problem and our match organisation needs to improve and we need to tighten our security.”
However, according to the league’s regulations, the standard fine of when fans cause trouble or throw missiles onto the pitch is $2 000.
Some of the clubs were even pushing for this fine to be reviewed downwards at the start of the season.
“The clubs are feeling the heat, I can tell you; $2 000 is a lot of money because with the dwindling attendances most clubs are making loses.
“The big clubs are no longer attracting those big numbers, there are a lot of factors; the cash situation, other counter attractions like the English Premier League and most people are now spending most of their times in churches at the weekend.
“So, $2 000 is a huge sum because clubs do not net that on a weekly basis but we are very much concerned about issues of violence.”
Although the clubs might be feeling the heat, this fine seems not deterrent enough because it is not stopping the violence from occurring.
The PSL must look into this figure again and consider an upward review in order to force clubs to play an active role in policing and educating their fans to desist from hooliganism.
Forcing teams to play before an empty stadium is another option which the league seems hesitant to employ in these current circumstances.
Unless the league quickly addresses this problem of violence then pretty soon they will lose sponsors.