ZC to expand stadia for 2027 World Cup
Senior Sports Reporter
Zimbabwe Cricket have rolled into motion the plans for the refurbishment of the iconic Harare Sports Club and Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo to boost the seating capacity of the two venues ahead of the 2027 ICC Cricket World Cup.
Tavengwa Mukuhlani, who was elected unopposed for a third term at the ZC elective AGM in Bulawayo on Saturday, said they have since begun preparing the infrastructure for the cricket jamboree which they will co-host with neighbours South Africa and Namibia in four years’ time.
The two venues earmarked for expansion were the main centres of attraction when Zimbabwe recently hosted the ICC World Cup Qualifier tournament.
Currently, Harare Sports Club has an estimated carrying capacity of 10 000 while Queens Sports Club can accommodate up to 9 000.
The demand for the seating plans have increased for important international matches.
Both arenas proved small during the recent World Cup Qualifier when sold-out crowds led to an overflow of people turned away at the gates to watch the games through makeshift fan parks.
Bigger crowds are expected for the World Cup and this has prompted ZC to invest in increasing the carrying capacities.
“We are going to be refurbishing Harare Sports Club and Queens Sports Club ahead of the World Cup,” said Mukuhlani.
For Harare Sports Club, this will be the second time that the ground will host a World Cup tournament after it was used in 2003 when Zimbabwe co-hosted the tournament with South Africa and Kenya
Although it does not possess the major stands associated with big sports grounds, it has the potential for expansion.
History has it that it accommodated a record crowd of 26 000 people when Rhodesia played the MCC in 1956.
“I think it has served its purpose and, what we have seen with the last Qualifiers, the capacity is no longer there and also probably we need to look at the structure,” said Mukuhlani.
“This is a stadium that was built long back and we are decades down; is it sufficiently fit to carry the fans?
“So, that (plans for refurbishment) is happening. The board has already started looking at that. Management has been mandated to start the works to make sure that the two stadiums are ready for the World Cup,” said Mukuhlani. Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia will share the ICC World Cup games in October and November 2027.
The tournament will expand to 14 teams.
Before that, Zimbabwe will also host the ICC Under-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2026 along with Namibia.
The previous ICC events held in the country have been an overwhelming success.
With the recent experiences in the men’s international games, the Zimbabwe Cricket Supporters Union have also pleaded with the authorities to consider increasing the capacity of the cricket venues across the country.
But Mukuhlani said they have encountered challenges with stadium owners who are not willing to indulge into long leases with the cricket authorities. Most of the sports clubs are owned by the local authorities but are being operated by members, businesses and organisations on long leases from these municipalities.
ZC are keen on Kwekwe Sports Club and Mutare Sports Club, to decentralise the game.
Plans are also afoot to build a stadium in Victoria Falls where a piece of land has since been secured. “We want every province in this country ideally to be able to have a flavour of international cricket. “In Mutare, we have sent West indies before, to go and practice at Mutare Sports Club. We have done the same with Kwekwe.
“But here is our challenge, we want to develop these facilities to proper international standards but we don’t own them.
“They are run by the committees of the sports clubs. In Kwekwe our challenge is that they want to give us a three-year lease and we can’t invest on a three-year lease.
“We had the same problem in Mutare but our desire would have been to upgrade Mutare Sports Club into an international stadium; upgrade Kwekwe Sports Club into an international stadium.
“But there are constraints that are beyond us, that we can’t circumvent because of the ownership of the clubs.
“But the desire is there. That’s why I have said we are going to Victoria Falls (to build a stadium) because we have somehow found favour with the Victoria Falls Town Council.
“They have given us a piece of land which we think is ideal to develop a stadium,” said Mukuhlani.
“The focus of ZC is to decentralise cricket and make it available and accessible to the fans. Someone from Midlands doesn’t need to travel to Harare to watch a player from Midlands.
“We would want them to watch their players in their backyard. It stimulates interest and it just helps grow the game. So decentralisation is key to us and it’s part of our agenda.”