Andy Hodges Special Correspondent
JUST like every Zimbabwean, I am looking forward to the elections this weekend for the man to head our Premier Soccer League. Frankly, I think the choice of a candidate is a daunting one for the PSL Council.
Both Kenny Mubaiwa and Peter Dube are excellent candidates who come from two of our best-run and most supported clubs in the country.
They both have a proven track record in football administration, so the PSL is blessed to have such candidates vying for the position.
Again, however, the PSL Council must be led by football issues and what each candidate will bring to the table and what they WILL accomplish if they become the PSL Boss.
Building on the excellent work done by Twine Phiri, the PSL Council and the fantastic administrative support of the PSL Secretariat led by Kennedy Ndebele is what the PSL needs.
It is clear that there are pressing issues that need to be maintained and created such as;-
1. Sponsorship — The all weather sponsorship and relationships given by such entities as Delta, NetOne, Econet, BancABC etc must be both maintained and enhanced and new sponsors must be brought in, how and what value proposition is shown to such sponsors is vital to getting their support
2. Junior Football — It must be compulsory for ALL PSL clubs to be involved in Junior Development Football. This would include the setting up and participation in all age group leagues from Under-10s up to Under-18s football, what I would call development leagues. This is where the future of our football comes from.
3. School Football — Clubs should all partner with schools in their respective geographical areas, partnership in areas such as coaching, talent spotting, finance, equipment etc as once again the talent at school football level that we lose due to lack of this support is exceptional.
I also mean here rural schools because talent has no geographical or physical location.
4. Ticketing — The loss of revenue from ticket collection at matches has been a perennial problem in PSL football and this needs to be addressed. If this is through season tickets, pre-sales and mechanical ticket machines at stadiums well so be it. The revenue clubs lose to frankly scams at match venues has to be contained and wiped out.
5. ZIFA — As much as ZIFA should have a countrywide programme, so the PSL must ensure it is involved in this high level plan and its role in it is clearly spelt out. Integration between ZIFA, PSL and in fact all leagues is vital to the success of any ZIFA level plan put in place and I regard this as important to football in the country, stakeholders working together for one purpose and goal.
6. Country before Club — Let us not kid ourselves although club football is important, National Football is what unites us all and the issue of conflict between clubs and ZIFA over this issue must be resolved and it is frankly a simple thing to do.
7. TV Rights — SuperSport to their credit started the ball rolling with their agreement to televise our PSL games and I understand this has been highly successful. Let us not forget, however, that the amount of money paid for such rights is directly linked to the popularity of the league itself.
The Barclays Premier League in England is being paid over five billion pounds because globally it is the most watched league and so a dream platform for sponsors. What can we do to make our league attractive outside our borders particularly in the SADC region?
8. Wages — Addressing the coach’s, supporting staff and players wages and bonuses is also an area any new Chairman must look at and seek to improve.
9. Stadium — The revenue paid out by clubs for rental of stadium is staggering and although councils and other various stakeholders have tried their best to maintain the stadiums to international levels, Rufaro, Barbourfields and National Sports Stadium spring to mind, is it not time we banded together to revamp or own our own stadium if not individually, but as possibly banding together in some areas. The fantastic example of Tsholotsho and Kariba and possibly Victoria Falls must be applauded and supported, but we need to OWN our stadium.
We need to maximise revenue in the league because do not be mistaken football maybe the beautiful game which we all love to watch and support, but it is also about money and we need to maximise this revenue.
All revenue made feeds back into the PSL and indirectly into ZIFA as the standard of skills exponentially grows with money available for players, training grounds, equipment etc.
10. Continental Competitions — We have for too long regarded the issue of our clubs participating in continental competitions such as the Champions League as an individual club problem.
IT IS NOT.
What must be understood is the success of our clubs at such tournaments has an incredible ripple effect on football as a whole in Zimbabwe and globally. Just look at how many players have moved to huge clubs in Europe and South Africa after shining on such stages.
Look at how Dynamos reaching the final had an impact not only on the players, but our entire country, for a day and as you all know I am a CAPS United die-hard and proud of it, with my traditional and intense feelings of rivalry with our main protagonists Dynamos, on that day I was blue, what does that tell you all?
For a country like ours with such a passionate football support base to use, and genuinely use, lack of funds as an excuse for clubs not to participate is just wrong and must be addressed. This again needs to be addressed.
11. Self Evaluation — Regular meetings to assess progress on set and laid down plans must be carried out. Whoever is elected must together with the board come up with deliverable plans and responsibilities that can be monitored.
It is a mistake to believe that a Chairman is the all and all of football administration and just like at a club the rest of the Members of the Board and Secretariat have the responsibility to monitor, support and get their hands dirty in ensuring plans meet with success.
Football is not a one-man band it is about a collective and the stronger the collective the more success will follow.
12. Hooliganism — This must be wiped out once and for good. I have done and always will advocate the life banning of such supporters whoever they may be. The PSL needs to address this issue firmly and with speed.
Video tapping of crowds at games would be the best option and also lobbying authorities to ensure there is legal recourse to punish such offenders is vital.
Football is a family sport and that is what it must become, a safe place for the entire family to go to without fear. Bearing in mind the growth of women’s football in Zimbabwe and worldwide football is not a male dominated sport only and in fact women are some of the most loyal and vocal supporters of our PSL clubs.
Once again I am sure there are other serious issues any leader and his board must address, but these at least give any potential leader I hope food for thought.
So let the elections come and may the best of two excellent candidates win, but remember this please you win and succeed for us the football fan and we are watching.
Good luck to you both.
Andy Hodges is an Zimbabwean international banker based in Malaysia and was the chairman who led CAPS United to the league championship in 2004.