Zimbabwe: Economic Crisis Bites PSL Clubs

Newcomers Mushowani club president Lovemore Nyakasoka has had to sell five beasts from his cattle pen to keep the club afloat as football clubs are wilting under the weight of a difficult economic environment.

Mushowani are one of a number of clubs that have had to travel for home and away matches this season, a factor which has worsened the circumstances of the Madziwa-based side.

The prevailing economic environment has eroded the value of beginning of season budgets, sponsorship packages, players' salaries and allowances, among other financial obligations.

Not spared is the domestic Premiership sponsorship package by Delta Beverages initially amounting to US$700 000 per season and may have to be reviewed since the return of the Zimbabwe dollar and ban of the multi-currency system.

Clubs may fall by the wayside before the end of the season if nothing is done to cushion them.

Mushowani are already wishing they were competing in Divison 1 where the financial demands are much less.

"It's very painful now, especially having to travel for our home fixtures and then pay the referees, the ground, PSL and the (sports) ministry. Right now, we owe a lot of money so we are feeling the heat. Everything is charged according to the US dollar exchange rate," Mushowani president Nyakasoka told The Sports Hub.

"A trip to Bulawayo costs us about $6 000, and $9 000 to Hwange in food, transport and accommodation and I wonder how much we will get from the sponsors at the end of the season. I have had to sell five beasts so that we keep surviving as a club and, of course, for the love of the game. But I wish we were playing in Division 1 where the financial demands are far less," he added.

Mushowani will play at their preferred home ground Trojan for the first time today having played their home matches for most of the first half of the season in Harare and Nyakasoka hopes that gate takings will cushion the club in the harsh economic environment.

The problem is not peculiar to Mushowani, but every football club in the country has been affected one way or the other.

Even giants like CAPS United, with big corporate sponsors such as NetOne are also feeling the heat.

"The long and short of it is that every business is affected in this environment because there is no business which is an island," CAPS United vice-president Nhamo Tutisani said.

"We buy from the same shops as everyone else, and as the staff and players sometimes we need to buy forex like everybody. Just like everyone we have our employees finding it difficult to come to work and we are facing the power outages.

"But are we despondent? No! We are hopeful that things will turn around for the better. When we engage sponsors, we have to be cognisant of these challenges," he added.

Tutisani paid tribute to NetOne, their sponsors, while he bemoaned the erosion of the value of the players' salaries and bonuses as a result of the socio-economic challenges.

"NetOne has been central to our stability so far this season and if wasn't for them, it would have been a different story for us as a club. Their support has been immense, but sadly the value of the sponsorship packages has been eroded and you cannot ask for more from them. Maybe clubs need to run football clubs as a business now to complement the efforts of sponsors," Nhamo added.

Credit to the sponsors, player strikes and sit-ins are a thing of the past at the Green Machine.

Newcomers Manica Diamonds were dubbed the "Moneybags" when they came into the premiership, dominating the off-season transfer window.

The Moneybags are also feeling the pinch.

"We are facing challenges as well and the fluctuating costs of things is the biggest of them all. It makes the contracts we signed with the players and sponsors unworkable considering that we had already agreed on salaries and bonuses," club chairman Masimba Chihowa said

"Our budgets, which were supposed to take us the whole season, have been exhausted and we now have to work on supplementary budgets. My recommendation is that council reduce the amount we pay for stadiums and the PSL must also cut by at least a percentage of what they take from clubs," added Chihowa.

Like Mushowani, Manica Diamonds also had to travel from Mutare to Triangle for their home matches for the first 12 matches of the season.

Harare giants Dynamos, with a $1 million sponsorship package from Gold Leaf Tobacco through their Rudland and George (RG) cigarette brand, are singing the same tune.

"The rate at which prices are going up especially in accommodation and transport is shocking. It has rendered camping unaffordable. We thank our sponsors RG, we are lucky to have them despite feeling the pinch. Nyaradzo (funeral services) provides us with transport and diesel for travelling. But when I think about other clubs without sponsorship I wonder if they are going to manage until the end of the season," Dynamos chairman Isaiah Mupfurutsa said.

"Under such circumstances, we have to take care of the players and cushion them with hardship allowances. Service providers have trebled their charges and sometimes there is temptation to pass the cost to the fans.

"The money we get from the league sponsors at the end of the season does not justify the investment clubs make running football clubs," he said.

Mupfurutsa also gave his recommendations.

"I think the Ministry of Sport should invest in sport if we are to become a giant in the world by 2030. Imagine if they could spare US $1,8 million per year for the league clubs, they would survive and grow," Mupfurutsa said.

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