Senior Sports Reporter
THE Premier Soccer League have revealed plans for a two-week bubble that will be fully sponsored by ZIFA when domestic football returns with a mini-league towards the end of the year.
The league’s chairman, Farai Jere, yesterday said the secretariat and the Medical Committee were working round the clock on the budgets and logistics to ensure a safe return to football.
Football, which had been suspended for seven months under the coronavirus lockdown measures, was given the greenlight to resume by Government under strict conditions last week.
The game was given the greelight to return, first, in a mini-league format, using the bio-bubble concept where players, support staff and match officials will stay isolated from the outside world.
But, the big question was about who will fund the whole concept?
Jere yesterday said they have adopted the mini-league format and explained that the bubble will only be for the two weeks when the teams will be involved in the tournament.
ZIFA will bear the costs for testing and accommodation, during the bubble, and will also provide the Covid-19 equipment that include thermometers, masks, and hand sanitisers.
“As the PSL family, we are happy with the return of football because our business is to play football,’’ Jere said.
“It’s something that we have been waiting for and now we are working on the next step, which is to make sure that football is played without failure.”
The PSL are still to unveil their flagship sponsor, since the expiry of their deal with Delta Beverages, at the end of last season.
Jere said the players, and officials, were expected to take the Covid-19 tests this week and training has been scheduled for next Monday.
“The PSL Medical Committee is working on the modalities of the safe resumption of training. We are glad that ZIFA is going to avail the funds for that,’’ said Jere.
“It was going to be an uphill task for the clubs, most of whom are operating on shoe-string budgets.
“So, ZIFA will disburse the funds for Covid-19 testing, thermometers and sanitisers.
“We are going to do everything, in line with the protocols provided by the Government.
“We are hoping training will start next Monday and it will run for six weeks.
“We cannot have shortcuts on that because the players need the time to condition themselves and also to avoid exposing them to injuries.’’
The PSL are expected to conduct Covid-19 health protocol-orientation, by the end of the week.
Jere said the bubble can only start after the first week of December, after clubs had conducted their pre-season training and also tested their players and officials.
During the six weeks of training, the football leaders will be putting together the resources, and logistics, for the bubble.
The PSL are aware of the huge costs involved and had initially set aside a US$1.1 million budget for the return to football.
Their South African neighbours needed an estimated R100 million (US$6 million) to complete the remaining seven games of the season.
The teams were camped in one place in a secure bio-bubble for four weeks.
But, they will dump the concept when the new season starts this week.
“If we put our minds together, as football leaders, it will work perfectly,” said Jere.
“Government said it has to be phased, systematic and in a bubble. The PSL Medical Committee is working on the road map.
“There has been a lot of confusion on what will happen with the bubble but let me try and clarify that.
“For starters, let’s agree we are still in pre-season. When clubs start training, we are not going to have players in the bubble for the six weeks of pre-season.
“The bubble is expected to run for two weeks only when the tournament will be taking place.
“In South Africa, they were camped in one place for four weeks, just to complete their season. They did that because the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak that time.
“Now, they are starting a new season, they are no longer going to have the same concept because it is costly.
“So it’s the same with us, the idea is that players will be training from home but they will be continuously be tested for Covid-19 and have temperature checks regularly.
“Those with suspicious results will be recommended for follow-ups. Then, after the six weeks of training, the bubble will begin.
“That is where the biggest risk is because they will be camped in one place. The matches will begin as soon as the teams get into the bubble.
‘’The cost of accommodation will be only for the two weeks when the tournament will be taking place.
“We are still working on the budgets for the bubble.
“The initial budget was US$1.1 million but we are reviewing it, after slashing down some of the things that are not necessary, and after getting the appreciation of the things that are needed.’’
The matches are likely to be streamlined on Facebook.
The PSL have entered into a contract with online streaming service, mycujoo, that saw several games being streamed on Facebook Live after the league cut ties with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
However, there are possibilities of re-engaging the broadcaster for the flighting of live matches on ZTV.