PSL clubs at Zifa’s mercy  . . .  as government watches from a distance 

Godknows Matarutse

TOP flight clubs are eagerly awaiting the outcome of today’s Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) meeting after the government said it has no power to force the association to bail them out from the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19).
Zifa had promised to bail out Premier Soccer League (PSL) teams and had set a deadline of June 20 to come up with a stimulus package for the clubs and women’s football.
The deadline has since passed, with the association professing ignorance on their own promise, leaving most clubs desperate as they continue reeling from the meltdown caused by the pandemic.
The decision by Zifa has drawn widespread criticism, with some calling on the government to intervene since the association is sitting on almost US$1,5 million in relief funds from both Fifa and the Confederation of African Football (Caf).
Last week, Fifa approved a further US$1,5 million while Caf also promised US$300 000 to assist each member association to prevent the game from collapsing due to the negative financial impact of the coronavirus.
Other football associations in the region and across the world have already started disbursing the relief package to clubs and affiliates.
Lesser federations like the eSwatini Football Association announced a relief fund of US$132 000 to be distributed to its members while their Ethiopian counterparts set aside US$83 000 for the same cause.
With Zifa facing heavy criticism for the lackadaisical stance they have taken in dealing with the coronavirus issue, there are now growing calls for the government to step in and read the riot act to the association.
“In as much as we are probably maybe in the knowhow of how Covid-19 has impacted negatively on local clubs, the real position is that we don’t get ourselves involved because that’s when the issue of (government) interference comes in,” Sports and Recreational Commission (SRC) director general Prince Mupazviriho told the Daily News yesterday.
“As it is now, it’s at a level where Zifa has to make their own independent decision; in fact, we have never received any complaint, no one has approached us in respect of that.”
With the government clearly unable to intervene, clubs are now hoping the association comes good on its promise of providing a bailout package.
The 2020 football season should have commenced in March but the government declared a state of emergency and imposed a nationwide lockdown, which is still in effect.
Most teams rely on gate takings to fund their operations and the lockdown has led to an unprecedented cash flow crisis.
Last month, CAPS United players staged a demonstration at club vice president Nhamo Tutisani’s business premises demanding their outstanding three months’ salaries before they were dispersed by police.
Manica Diamonds players have also gone for three months without salaries as Covid-19 takes its toll on local football.
Highlanders and CAPS players were recently bailed out by well-wishers who provided them with basic groceries and other items to help them cope with the lockdown.
Last month, Caf’s Medical Committee also came up with health guidelines which leagues and clubs should implement before they resume competitions.
Among the requirements is for teams to regularly test their players, staff and officials before and after matches.
Coronavirus test kits are being sold in foreign currency, which means clubs would need to spend at least US$10 000 per week.
This is why the clubs have been requesting Zifa to follow the lead of their regional counterparts in providing relief packages to teams.

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