SRC distances self from suspension  of PSL games Eltah Nengomasha

Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter

THE Sports and Recreation Commission have distanced themselves from the decision by the Premier Soccer League to temporarily suspend games to pave way for maintenance works at the national Sports Stadium.

The PSL shocked football stakeholders by announcing an immediate suspension of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League on Wednesday citing maintenance works at the National Sports Stadium.

The giant venue is currently home to eight top-flight teams including Dynamos, CAPS United, Herentals, Yadah, Black Rhinos, Cranborne Bullets, Simba Bhora and ZPC Kariba.

At least four matches have been played at the facility every week for the past three months and the turf has been badly damaged.

Other key infrastructure at the stadium like ablution facilities and water reticulation system are also broken down.

Stadium authorities are currently working on those faults and had even given PSL an option to continue using the facility while repair works are ongoing.

But the PSL decided to call off three match weeks instead.

Sports Commission director-general Eltah Nengomasha yesterday said the ground had hosted 44 games in 77 days, which was unsustainable and had asked the PSL to cut the number of games.

“Since the beginning of the season, most of the games were played at the Stadium and this means to date we have hosted 44 matches in 77 days-thereabouts, meaning every one-and-half days we were hosting a match.

“That is not the best practice. Even if we look at what happens in other countries, we need to give the turf time to regenerate, we need to give maintenance guys to get into the stadium and do regular maintenance works,” said Nengomasha.

“The only reason we allowed that scenario (fixture congestion) to continue was that we were mindful of the fact that there was a shortage of the stadia that would allow PSL matches to be conducted and we were in a quagmire whether to stick to the industry best practice, not availing PSL stadia to play their matches or to be cognisant of our other role that we promote and support sport-related activities.

“So it was from the other mandate that we made a decision that, although it was against industry best practice and might not be in the best interest of the stadium, let us allow PSL to host five matches in a week so that the league can continue.

“However, this had become unattainable and unsustainable in view of the fact that, remember in 2021 during the Covid-19 we took that time to address our turf issues and a lot of investment went into that went, which meant that post that investment what needed to be done was regular maintenance of the turf but we could not continue with the maintenance because the ground was not breathing.

“And we communicated to PSL CEO Kenny Ndebele that whereas we were allowing you guys to host five matches, we are no longer able to do that because we now need to allow the turf to regenerate and allow the maintenance work to be conducted in the stadium.

“We advised that instead of five matches per week, we can host two matches per week with immediate effect. PSL had to decide which two games will be played at the stadium.

“Then, there were recent complaints about issues to do with water and toilets. As you all know, the stadium has been undergoing refurbishment since 2020 and some of the works included the major renovations of the underground piping system.

“It was becoming difficult that almost every other day there was a game and spectators in the stadium and the contractors want to engage in underground reticulation works, that involves going into public spaces.

“So, that process was not working and the speed at which the maintenance works were moving was not up to the speed that we wanted. So it is not true and it is a misrepresentation for the suspension of the PSL games to be attributed to the SRC. AS SRC we did not tell PSL that they could not use our stadium,” said Nengomasha.

The Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association (ZNSSA) have questioned the reasoning behind the decision to abruptly stop the league games for the next three weeks.

ZNSSA Chama Mushamaenza said the decision by the PSL was unfortunate as it came at a time the supporters grouping was busy advocating for fans to return to the stadiums.

“As the ZNSSA, we do not support the abrupt suspension of PSL games. This is a clear sign that our football has gone to the dogs,” said Mushamaenza.

“We feel like all football administration bodies do not respect fans. All they do is do as they please without consultation.

“We are currently suspended from international football and we are supposed to be correcting ourselves right now. We are very surprised with the decision that the PSL has taken.

“We are very concerned as stakeholders of the game. Like really what criteria is used to determine the usability of a stadium for PSL matches.

“Would someone tell us Morris Depot Stadium is not fit to host Yadah versus GreenFuel. Would someone tell us Trojan Stadium is not fit to host Simba Bhora versus Triangle.

“Would someone tell us is Chinhoyi Stadium not fit to host Black Rhinos versus Bulawayo Chiefs? Why are we so strict with other things while we neglect the other equally important things?

“Look at some of the stadiums that host Zambian Premier Soccer League matches, even in South Africa all matches are not played at those World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations stadiums.

“Why should you be very strict when you don’t have Plan B for the sake of Plan A’s failure.”

Mushamaenza said if lower division games, most of whom attract bumper crowds can be played at the likes of Kuwadzana in Banket, why should PSL be that rigid to force all games to be played at stadiums like the National Sports Stadium.

“If Motor Action Sports Club can successfully host a high-stakes game between Northern Region Division One Soccer League teams Herentals U20 and Golden Eagles with 3 000 spectators available, why is it not fit to host Cranborne Bullets and Manica Diamonds where probably less than 3 000 people will attend.

“We need to be serious as stakeholders of the game. The fans were beginning to trickle back to the stadiums. Worse, the decision has been done without consultation. This is actually a drawback again which we might fail to recover from. We wish to see administrative issues sorted whilst football is being played”.

Top-flight football will only return on July 1 according to the PSL.

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