The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: 'Don't Destroy Caps'

FORMER CAPS United chairman, Andy Hodges, says the club is bigger than its directors - Twine Phiri and Farai Jere - and wants a quick resolution of the ugly shareholding dispute before it inflicts considerable damage on the Green Machine.

Hodges, who led the club to league championship honours in 2004 in a landmark season where they lost just one game and finished with a record-breaking 79 points, described Jere as a man of integrity who appeared honest in the way he discharged his responsibilities.

Jere is walking away from CAPS United, after eight years in the corridors of the club's leadership, an unhappy man after a string of boardroom fissures, including the disappearance of a share certificate, from the offices of the club's lawyers, which entitled him to 25 percent shareholding in the ownership of the football club.

The 38-year-old Harare businessman, who has been bankrolling the team for the past seven years, feels betrayed by boardroom delays in the conclusion of a promised boost of his shareholding value to 40 percent, and the disappearance of the share certificate that entitled him to ownership of a quarter of the club.

Jere's decision to leave the CAPS United boardroom, and remain just an ordinary fan of a club he has supported since his childhood days, brings to an end one of the longest running partnerships, in the ownership of a Premiership club, in which he teamed up with Phiri to keep the Green Machine oiled.

Hodges, who was chairman of the club when they ended eight years of waiting for the league championship by powering to a remarkable success story in 2004 under coach Charles Mhlauri, now works in Malaysia, but keeps a close eye on his beloved CAPS United.

Yesterday, Hodges spoke about Jere, Phiri and the Green Machine and appealed for a quick resolution of the latest boardroom dispute to hit CAPS United.

He said he remembers Jere, who plunged into the club's leadership trenches late in 2004 as the team manager, as a man of honesty and integrity.

"Farai seemed a genuine person who appeared honest in his dealings and had integrity," said Hodges.

"I, of course, was not there when he alleges he put in the funds, or got shareholding, but I would believe he says what is true.

"This case should not be about emotions, but about business. Fans must support football and things that happen in the boardroom should not affect the team.

"The main issue is that this is not perceived by fans as a move against their club but a business dispute between stakeholders, not borne out of jealously or revenge, but pure business.

"It should not mean that football stops, plans for the club must continue, even if this dispute rages on, and both parties should agree on that.

"CAPS United, as a football club, is bigger than both Farai and Twine and whatever happens a solution must be found that does not destabilise the team. If both men are sincere this path can be found."

Hodges said football, by its nature, was a high-stakes game and sometimes promises were not kept and it was always important to nail every transaction to paperwork that could be used as reference in times of disputes.

"Without knowing all the facts in this issue, I can only comment like this:

If Farai was promised, or given shareholding in CAPS United, he should have a legal document saying so. The (share) certificate may be useful, in such a case, but a shareholder agreement, legally binding, would carry more weight.

If he did pump funds into the team then with the evidence he has of such (funding), i.e. receipts, vouchers, hotel bills, players wages, etc, he has more than enough proof to claim the funds from CAPS United, firstly via arbitration, and if that fails via the courts.

I would suggest a neutral arbitrator be put in place to resolve this issue before the courts are approached.

Any venture, whether in football or business, must be carried out as a business transaction, saying that someone's word is good enough and or a handshake is okay, does not matter, what does matter is proof.

If Farai can prove CAPS owes him the funds or shareholding then, in essence, he will eventually own the club as CAPS will not have the funds to repay him or will have to hand over the shares or will be forced into receivership, a course of action that nobody would want.

If he can prove shareholding then the same applies. An interesting footnote is that if he does own the shares he would have to continue putting funds in as a shareholder anyway.

Of course, I say the above with no knowledge of the truth about his claims at all but as a businessman's observations."

In August, Hodges told The Herald that the Green Machine that he crafted to rule the roost in 2004 was a product of some careful planning, an ambitious coach, players, including some groomed from the club's junior ranks who were desperate to succeed and fans who backed the team all the way.

"The CAPS United team of 2004 was not a fluke, it was the result of meticulous planning, inclusive communication, passionate supporters and, may I also say it, some of the finest players that have graced a football field," said Hodges.

"The CAPS United project that culminated in 2004 was started by Twine Phiri and myself, many years previously. The plan was built on a simple platform -- focus on junior structures to bring talent from the young. In fact, by 2004, out of 16 first team players we had 12 in the national squad or playing for their respective national teams.

"We also had to then find coaches whom we felt would see through our style of play and that's how Charles Mhlauri and Norman Mapeza came about.

"And, the most important people were our supporters. It cannot be emphasised enough how important our supporters were and are."

Yesterday, Jere said he wasn't moving on because the team had failed to win the league championship, in the past seven years, but the complications that had poisoned their boardroom.

"Yes, as a club, we haven't been doing well in the past few years but, if you use the league championship as the ultimate symbol of success in our league, you will see that in the last eight years, we have won two league titles and our main rivals, Dynamos, have won three," said Jere.

"They have an advantage, helped of course by the fact that they have won the last two league titles, but in the period that we are talking about, we are not far off, really.

"There is no money that can be made in our football right now and it's about sacrifice and passion but, even then, I feel it is important that some agreements have to be respected because that is the only way we can go forward.

"I have already said a lot on this issue and I don't want to keep talking about it because I can't keep repeating the same point."

Jere said he will miss the battles, with his club's rivals like Dynamos and FC Platinum, for the best available players, which usually erupted during the off-season.

"It had become part of my life for the last eight or so years and it was a bit of fun, at times, chasing after these boys and then winning their signature and it's something that you feel and miss, but life has to go on."

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