The Herald (Harare)

11 September 2012

Zimbabwe: PSL/Supersport Broadcast Deal Requires Paradigm Shift

The arrival of SuperSport International, as the broadcast rights partner of the Premier Soccer League, and the Warriors' sensational 3-1 victory over Angola in the first leg of their 2013 Nations Cup qualifier, should both mark the beginning of a new era in Zimbabwean football. We are excited that the domestic Premiership has now joined fellow top-flight leagues in South Africa, Zambia, Angola, Uganda and Kenya who have tied partnership deals with SuperSport International.

Now that the domestic Premiership's league and cup games will be broadcast to vast parts of sub-Saharan Africa, it gives the local players the grand platform to showcase their talent, to a wider audience at regular intervals, and better chances of being spotted by agents and European clubs.

We have always argued that the only way our national team, the Warriors, can transform themselves into a team that can compete favourably with the best in the world is through the exposure of most of our top players to the world-class training facilities and coaching manuals found at top European clubs.

But, as long as our top-flight league was not broadcast to a foreign audience through television, it was always going to be difficult to get a number of our players attracting the interests of European clubs and the gateway, for most of them, would have remained a contract in South Africa.

The arrival of SuperSport International also brings a direct dividend, through an annual grant, which would be paid into the coffers of each and every club in the Premiership and, given the way the majority of our clubs have been struggling just to stay afloat, any extra dollar in the bank is welcome.

But there is more to this deal.

As already seen in South Africa and Zambia, there are immense benefits that can be reaped by a top-flight league from a partnership with SuperSport whose television, mobile and internet platforms act as magnets for other major sponsors to come on board.

We now expect to see more corporate sponsors not only coming into partnership with the PSL, now that a television, mobile and internet medium has been created for them to market their products, but also to go into bed with individual clubs.

That we have a lot of natural football talent in this country is beyond question but what we have been lacking are the funds to identify, nurture and develop that talent for these footballers to compete, either for Warriors or their clubs in the Caf inter-club tournaments, favourably with their opponents.

Now that a window of hope, in terms of building a solid platform for long-term funding of the domestic game, has been opened through this SuperSport International deal, we can only look forward to the future with hope.

There are challenges, though, for us.

One of them is that we improve the way we run our top-flight league and add a little touch of professionalism because the days of games being delayed, because of a clash of colours, a team arriving late for a match or visiting coaches being assaulted in the tunnel of the dressing rooms, should be consigned to the past.

It also means that we stick to our fixture schedule and play games, as and when they are supposed to be played, rather than postpone them, on the basis of concerns raised by this and that club, because in a professional set-up, everything is done by the book.

We also need to curb the violence, which remains a concern at our stadiums, because SuperSport International are not here to give us a television medium where they can repeatedly beam the ugly side of Zimbabwean football but the beauty of what comes from our football pitches.

Two years ago, the domestic Premiership didn't even have a flagship sponsor for its league championship and Motor Action, who won the title, did not receive even a cent as prize money for their triumph.

But now the PSL don't only have a solid flagship sponsor, Delta Beverages, but they have also found a good partner for their knockout tournament, Mbada Diamonds, and their games will soon be on SuperSport International.

There is a breadth of fresh air blowing in our national game and the Warriors ended a dreadful run, on the continental stage, by posting a stunning victory over Angola in a 2013 Nations Cup qualifier at Rufaro on Sunday.

Having just picked one out of a possible six points in their 2014 World Cup qualifiers and needed the away goals to eliminate Burundi from the 2013 Nations Cup qualifiers, the Warriors stunned many when they shifted into top gear on Sunday with a classy first half show that ripped the Palancas Negras apart.

Despite all the challenges that marred their training camp, with key players missing through injury or the failure by the team's management to secure their release from their foreign clubs in time, the Warriors rose to the occasion and put one foot into the 2013 Nations Cup finals in South Africa.

We salute Rahman Gumbo and his men for the way they conquered the Angolans but it is important for them to guard against complacency because this tie is still very much alive and the away goal, which we gifted the visitors, could come back to haunt us again.

But we have given ourselves a very good chance of qualifying for South Africa, no doubt about that, and it's something that no one would have said with certainty just four days ago.

These are good times for our football and we just hope that we seize the moment and make full use of the sun while it is still shining on our side because there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't do what the Zambians did by winning the Nations Cup.

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