LOCAL football is facing a huge conundrum whether to allow or bar fans from attending matches once the game’s 2020 season finally kicks off due to the dangers posed by coronavirus (Covid-19).
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) Medical Committee chaired by Edward Chagonda is currently working on health protocols which the domestic game must follow in order to be allowed to return by the government.
Just like elsewhere where football has returned in the world amidst this novel virus, one of the recommendations the committee is set to include is barring spectators from attending matches.
Ever since the government declared the pandemic a national disaster in March, gatherings of more than 50 people are not permitted. Playing before empty stadia will be a huge financial disaster for most local teams that rely heavily on gate takings for survival.
Although the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) last week approved a $26 million bailout package for the PSL, this money will not be enough to cushion the teams from the financial effects caused by virus.
With no official broadcasting partner on board to show all the action on television, fans will also not be able to follow games live.
In other countries that have resumed their football seasons, all the games are being shown live on television so that spectators do not miss out or risk trying to sneak into stadia.
Former CAPS United winger Alois Bunjira believes it will be a huge disaster if fans are barred from attending matches.
“When we talk of gate takings we are only talking about Dynamos, Highlanders…and, to a lesser extent, CAPS United; the rest of the teams have been surviving without gate takings anyway, save for those six matches a season against these bigger teams,” Bunjira told the Daily News yesterday.
“Because these big three teams have been living in ancient times and surviving on gate takings alone, this pandemic has been a wake-up call. They won’t survive. They won’t manage. Is Zimbabwe football able to move and live on without these big three? I don’t think so.”
Bunjira, who has announced that he will run for the Zifa presidency in 2022, feels local football should learn from this current predicament and emerge stronger.
“We have been exposed. I guess this is a wake-up call for Zimbabwean football to realign itself with other professional leagues and start doing proper football business that brings in revenue and corporate partners and television.
“Football is business yes, but not just gate-takings. I hope it is a lesson learnt. We need to have a (proper) television broadcasting partner who pays good money towards grants to the clubs and a corporate partner sponsoring the league and chipping in financially. Otherwise I don’t think it is feasible.”
Former Warriors defender David Sengu feels fans should stay away for the time being but this will have to be reviewed going forward.
“For a start, I think football can return without fans as a way of curbing the virus. However, in the long run, we will have to bring them back because there are no such things like television deals where matches will be broadcast,” Sengu told the Daily News.
Football analyst Odecious Marowa feels the government should provide a meaningful stimulus package to football during this pandemic.
“I think it’s also time for stadia owners to play their role by offering discounted rates to football clubs; the city councils have to come in since they own stadia. The corporate sponsors need to be on board with TV ads and billboards.”