ZIFA need to rebrand
Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA is in need of aggressive marketing and rebranding to spearhead the football reform process that is touted to turn around the fortunes of the game in Zimbabwe.
The rebranding is part of the recommendations set out by the ZIFA Restructuring Committee as part of the comprehensive national football reforms.
The Committee, which was set up by the Sports and Recreation Commission as part of the strategic roadmap towards the recovery of football in Zimbabwe, mentioned in their findings that the ZIFA brand had become soiled.
The committee also concluded in their report that ZIFA was a flawed organisation which “appears to have failed in its ethical and legal obligation to present itself in a favourable light.”
ZIFA has become tainted because of the nature of its corrupt leadership. A forensic audit conducted by BDO Zimbabwe recently unearthed massive financial irregularities while some members of the executive also stand accused of bribing their way into office.
The bad reputation and the general lack of professionalism have made it difficult to lure sponsorship and partnerships with the corporate world.
“ZIFA’s reputation has been severely damaged, and its credibility is low,” said the report.
“Major sponsors are reluctant to be linked to ZIFA and the Soccer Fans Association’s attempts to grow are being hampered by ZIFA’s unfavourable reputation.
“National investors have not partnered with ZIFA, likely due to its governing structure. When it comes to raising funds, ZIFA is not very proactive and has managed to botch the packaging of its product.
“The ZIFA Restructuring Committee further submits that the aggressive marketing and rebranding of football in Zimbabwe is necessary, and it has been mentioned that the PSL was experimenting with SuperSport. The leadership of ZIFA has been unable to establish a brand.
“A Board Committee on Branding and Strategic Planning has been formed under the suspended ZIFA Board.
“Despite this, little effort has been put into implementing previous plans, and now stakeholders are confused about the ZIFA’s future.
“There is an unmistakable need for the ZIFA to rebrand following extensive stakeholder consultation to ensure stakeholder buy-in and support.”
Zimbabwean football is currently in doldrums. The football mother body has for years failed to secure meaningful sponsorship for national teams.
Women’s football and grassroots development have also suffered due to lack of funding.
Apparently, ZIFA has had no clear plan to take the game to another level. The Restructuring Committee has proposed that ZIDFA should come up with a five-year plan with defined timelines and clear objectives.
“The ZIFA Restructuring Committee was unable to verify a Strategic Plan for the ZIFA’s use in directing its operations and the allocation of its resources.”
It was also discovered through the widespread consultations conducted by the Restructuring Committee that stakeholders have low confidence in the ZIFA.
Stakeholders, including some members of the ZIFA Congress, view the ZIFA Congress and the ZIFA as separate entities. The leadership at ZIFA have also cultivated a toxic environment over the years which strained relations with their various stakeholders.
“Relations between the ZIFA and the SRC, the government, workers, former players, technical officials, and creditors are strained.
“Former players do not have a registered association and do not participate in the processes or the activities of ZIFA.
“Former players are disillusioned with the league as ZIFA does not make provision for them.
“ZIFA has failed to cultivate relationships with its creditors, suppliers, service providers, with some amounts owed dating back to 2010. This aspect is critical for future business success.
“There is no policy in place to ensure that the disabled are included in ZIFA structures,” said the Restructuring Committee chairperson Blessing Rugara, when addressing the findings by his team.
The ZIFA RC has noted the following:
All stakeholders agreed that the ZIFA is responsible for organising all youth football competitions.
There is no deliberate youth football development plan.
When Youth Football was removed from the ZIFA Congress, the ZIFA failed to prioritise youth football development.
A serious omission was the lack of representation of the youth football structure on the ZIFA Congress, which would naturally be the coordinating link between the school and tertiary sport systems (NAPH, NASH, National Association of Tertiary Institutions Leagues, and ZTISU) and ZIFA.
ZIFA lacks a coordinated and sustainable junior development programme that would feed into national teams.
Coordination is required between ZIFA, NAPH, NASH, National Association of Tertiary Institutions Leagues, and communities. School team coaches must be trained under the auspices of the ZIFA.
In the absence of junior development programmes, informal football academies sprouted.
There is no statistical database that informs youth football development policy and this lack of facilitates age fraud.
The ZIFA receives funds from the FIFA and other bodies for youth football development, but these funds are not channelled towards their intended beneficiaries.
Youth football teams do not compete in regional or continental tournaments.
Not every PSL club has a youth football team.
Football is only played in schools for one term, and that is during the winter season.
Out-of-school talent is not catered for anywhere because clubs do not have reserve sides.
Within the ZIFA, there is no safeguarding and protection structure that goes around football academies and youth football teams to monitor and prevent the sexual, physical, psychological abuse of minors
It appears that some legal persons, such as the Futsal committee, have permanent seats in the ZIFA Assembly. As a result, several Councillors have served for at least twenty years, even though they come from areas where football activity is rare or non-existent.
It was decided to remove Junior Football and the Soccer Coaches Association from Council representation (Assembly).
Although Beach Soccer and Futsal are no longer actively played, their representatives still sit in the Assembly and have voting rights because they were never formally dissolved.
Beach soccer and futsal are currently not being played anywhere in Zimbabwe. Both institutions are used to syphon money from the FIFA and the ZIFA, as well as to have delegates at the ZIFA Congress to amass votes when it comes time for elections
There is no mechanism in place to allow retired football players to participate in the Assembly or ZIFA’s other structures.
“For the last year we have been seized with the reformation of ZIFA,” said Rugara.
“In our view and in light of the mandate we were given we delved into the issues to the best of our ability. There were resource constraints that led us to modify our approach at different times during the year.
“However, at the end of the day, we were able to accomplish our task. Our greatest desire is that ZIFA MUST be reformed.
“ZIFA cannot be a cash that serves the few and undermines the national interest. We deserve to have an organisation that best reflects our abilities and our aspirations. This current ZIFA does not.
“We commend the government for embracing the reform agenda. Now that we are on the road to reformation, we strongly encourage the government to finish the task.”