Tadious Manyepo,Sports Reporter
THE 2020 Castle Lager Premiership football season is set to start a bit earlier this season but that will do little to ease the Premier Soccer League’s worries ahead of a hectic year.
While the top-flight has taken blows for poor packaging, failure by authorities to construct state-of the-art stadiums mean the Premiership won’t be able to shift their calendar for yet another year. The PSL have in the past few years been eager to move their season and conform with the CAF season which runs between August and May but poor facilities, which render play virtually impossible during the rainy season, have been impeding the development.
As such, the local top-flight will have to juggle around with CAF competitions whose fixtures are released when the Zimbabwean league is already in full throttle.
League champions FC Platinum and Highlanders, who won the Chibuku Super Cup, will represent the country in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively.
But before the league’s programme is interrupted by the CAF competitions, the biannual CHAN tournament stands ready to disturb the flow of the marathon in its early stretch.
The continental contest, designed exclusively for players plying their trade in their respective local leagues, runs between April 4-25 in Cameroon.
Zimbabwe’s Warriors will be part of the 16-team cast at the three-week tournament.
The local league will be two or three weeks old and there is a likelihood some games involving teams with three or more players in the senior national team will be postponed.
But PSL chief executive Kenny Ndebele yesterday said the league will not break during the course of the second-tier continental tournament.
“The league will not break for the CHAN tournament. Those teams which will have more than two players selected for the tournament will have to make their own decision whether to release all of them,” said Ndebele.
“As the Premier Soccer League, we are saying, there cannot be a break when we are just two weeks or even a week into the championship race.
“We will find a way, but we are saying those clubs with more than two players in the team for CHAN have to decide whether to release them as no games will be postponed during that period. We have a lot of deadlines that we have to meet, so we cannot afford to delay fixtures when we have just started the championship race.”
Ndebele said the reason why the PSL almost always had problems in sticking to its fixture schedule was that the CAF calendar was only released when the local league was already underway.
As a result their hands were tied and thus could not even publicise a fixture which was just three weeks away. “We do publicise our league fixtures but the problem is always that we are forced to adjust them a bit whenever CAF release their calendar. The CAF calendar is not published maybe until June or July thereabouts.
“We have clubs in the league who will be expected to play in the continental competitions and that means our league programme will be disturbed. Maybe that’s where that issue of packaging is coming in, but honestly, we would have done our best but the CAF schedule is something we cannot control.
“As a league, we will try every means possible to remain professional and meet schedules but of course, there are bound to be disturbances of that sort given that our calendar is not in conformity with that of CAF.
“In terms of packaging programmes which bring crowds to the match venues, I think we are doing well as a league. There is always room for improvement. But we are happy we have always been able give the country all the 306 matches per season.”
But stakeholders have always complained about the PSL’s failure to engage viable broadcasting partners to beam local Premiership matches on television.
“The only solution in Southern Africa is SuperSport who we had a contract with, which expired some two years ago. We have tried to re-engage them but with little joy.
“We had to go to bed with our national broadcaster, ZBC, and I would like to hail them for what they have done. Sometimes, you have to bear with them, they have a lot of issues and they have always tried to strike a balance. That’s very much acknowledgeable.
“We will only think of re-engaging SuperSport after our contract with ZBC lapses.”
With only Delta Beverages to look up to for sponsorship, the PSL cannot do much to lobby authorities to build all-weather stadiunms. Efforts to shift the season to correspond with the rest of the world have continuously been frustrated due to stadim facilities that have gone past their sell-by date.
Last season, the second leg tie between Black Rhinos and Ngezi Platinum Stars was cancelled after the Rufaro turf was turned into a pool following heavy rains hours before kick-off. The game was eventually played the following morning.