Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
IN a potential game-changing mega deal, Zimbabwean football’s traditional giants CAPS United, Dynamos and Highlanders are set to reap the rewards from partnering mobile telecommunications colossus NetOne in a massive agreement that will breathe life into the three clubs.
CAPS United, Dynamos and Highlanders were powerless in the 2017 season as the big bucks of FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum ensured the two mining sides were key actors in the championship race.
FC Platinum eventually made history by becoming the first team from outside Bulawayo and Harare to win the Premiership crown in 51 years.
Makepekepe, DeMbare and Bosso have however, vowed to claim back the crown in 2018.
Interestingly, the three giants have shared similar problems at the end of each season – that of battling to retain key players in a market which has also been a breeding ground for talent for the South African Premiership.
But it has emerged that such worries could just be history with NetOne set to bounce back to the Premiership, albeit, in a much bigger way as they bankroll the Green Machine and the two glamour clubs of Harare and Bulawayo.
Although none of the three topflight giants nor NetOne were willing to discuss much about the deal before its official launch, The Herald can reveal that representatives from the company had initial engagements with the clubs last month where they are believed to have agreed on one-year deals with each of the three clubs.
During those meetings a non-disclosure agreement was signed by the parties and this has meant that all those involved in the talks have virtually kept their cards close to the chest.
It is however, understood that players from the three clubs could start reaping the fruits of the mega deal by the end of this month amid indications that CAPS United, Dynamos and Highlanders have agreed terms with the mobile telecommunications giants.
NetOne are not new to football as they have been involved in previous partnerships with the national team, CAPS United and the Premiers Soccer League through their sponsorship of the One Wallet Cup.
Despite their fierce rivalry, the country’s biggest clubs are set to be brought together under one banner of sponsorship.
DeMbare and Bosso have already been beneficiaries of one sponsor with BancABC having partnered the two giants until December 31 last year.
But it is the history-making deal with NetOne that is to be unveiled once the finer details have been thrashed out, which could change the face of football and bring stability at CAPS United, Dynamos and Highlanders.
The three sides have each season had to also grapple with player strikes over outstanding salaries and allowances while players also haggle with the clubs’ management teams over non-payment of signing on fees.
Sources close to the negotiations indicated that NetOne are said to have agreed to come in with a package of $300 000 for salaries for the whole year and $50 000 to help the teams meet part of their signing on fee obligations.
“The deals are done and dusted and the clubs are happy with the terms. The parties however have been trying hard to keep the deal under wraps until the unveiling ceremony which is expected before the start of the season.
“With the parties having entered into a non-disclosure pact, details about the negotiations have been kept a closely guarded secret,’’ the sources said.
“This could be the game changer. Remember these guys have been crying out for the corporate hand at least to be able to compete with the new corporate-owned teams that have emerged as the new dominant forces in the Premiership of late because of their huge financial muscle.
“Football is more exciting when the big three are competitive. NetOne are even putting in something for the signing on fees to help the teams beef up their stocks,” said the sources.
An official from NetOne confirmed negotiations had taken place but insisted that there was no deal as yet.
The company’s chief operating officer Clever Isaya said it was premature to talk about the deal at the moment.
“Of course discussions have taken place but nothing has been finalised yet.
“It’s still premature,” said Isaya.
However, the coming on board of NetOne should be a huge relief especially to Dynamos and Highlanders following the expiry of their contracts with long time partners BancABC on December 31.
BancABC had been catering for players’ salaries and providing transport and camping costs in a marriage that begun back in 2011 and the financial institution, to their credit, stuck with the two clubs in good and bad times.
But owing to the economic challenges facing the nation, last season they decided to slash their sponsorship by half after having gone a step further by extending their relationship by another season.
The imminent deal is also welcome to the CAPS United family as the Green Machine has been hobbling along without partners which led to them losing the soul of the side that won the championship in 2016.
Makepekepe have lost over half dozen players including Ronald Chitiyo, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Abbas Amidu, top goal scorer Dominic Chungwa, big goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda and could lose more during the current off-season break.
The situation is the same at Dynamos where the likes of Peace Makaha, Obey Mwerahari and Tichaona Chipunza are still pondering their future with the club following the expiry of their contracts last month.
Highlanders have already lost their captain Rahman Kutsanzira to FC Platinum after the midfielder revealed his frustrations to the club management.
But all that could change with the mobile telecommunications company, which has turned its fortunes around in the past few years coming on board.
NetOne have been growing at a very fast pace and have targeted football as a potential partner to grow their brand.