Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA have embarked on an aggressive hunt for a reputable kit supplier to dress the Warriors after setting benchmarks in their efforts to safeguard the national football team’s brand.
Newly-elected president of the association, Felton Kamambo, said kit sponsorship is an immediate agenda and they have given themselves the next three weeks to find a partner.
Kamambo said ZIFA needed to fully exploit the value of the Warriors brand by commercialising the national teams.
And, in the event the prospective sponsors fail to meet the minimum requirements, the association will take it upon themselves to produce a kit for the team and release replicas into the market to widen revenue streams.
The Warriors have had no kit sponsorship since parting ways with Singaporean company Mafro Sports last year.
They also had a short-lived marriage which lasted barely a year with Spanish supplier, Joma, and in all instances, the association did not benefit much in terms of financial spin-offs.
ZIFA need a decent and long-lasting kit sponsor and the new leadership are hoping the Warriors will have a reputable kit partner by the time they host Congo-Brazzaville in the decisive African Cup of Nations qualifier in March next year.
“There are quite a number of institutions and individuals who want to sponsor our kit, but we have set some conditions in the people that we are going to engage.
“Our brand is very good. We don’t want it to go cheap, so we have set benchmarks and anyone who can meet that benchmark we will then award him the tender to supply some jerseys including the replicas.
“Our benchmark is simple, if you want to sponsor us the kits for the year, you must sponsor every game with a new kit. If we don’t get a sponsor during the first two weeks of January, then we are going to do it on our own.
“It means we are going to make our own kit and then we will sell the replicas. We have a target that we are going to set for that,” said Kamambo.
The Warriors kit has been a problem area in the last few years and the association had to make an eleventh-hour deal with Mafro ahead of AFCON finals in Gabon last year.
But they had to use an alternative strip in the opening game of the tournament after the kit delivery was delayed and this almost overshadowed their gallant performances in the 2-2 draw against star-studded Algeria.
The women’s side, the Mighty Warriors, had almost similar issues when they played on a grand stage during the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016 where they rubbed shoulders with the world’s elite in women’s football.
Kamambo said ZIFA are already planning for the 2019 AFCON qualifier against Congo-Brazzaville, which is one of their biggest assignments for the new year.
Zimbabwe, who top Group G, will host the Congolese side in March needing only a draw to make it to the finals after spurning two chances against the DRC and Liberia earlier this year to seal their place at the continental football jamboree.
Kamambo said ZIFA do not want to see a repeat of the debacle that characterised their last home game against the DRC when unruly supporters forced their way into the National Sports Stadium because of poor gate controls, prejudicing the association in terms of revenue.
“As far as the AFCON qualifier (against Congo Brazzaville) is concerned, we have said we want to treat everything about the national team as a commercial entity.
“We want to improve on our preparation so our tickets for the game that we are going to play in March will go on sale beginning of January.
“We will have a ticketing system where we have some identified shops that we are going to engage and make sure they sell those tickets.
“There will be an update on weekly basis on the number of tickets sold and the remaining ones so that our fans can make informed decisions.
“This will also give us an advantage in as far as planning is concerned because we will have our money before the game is played.
“We want to introduce a ticketing facility not just for this game but for all the other games so that our fans are able to buy tickets in advance wherever they are.
“Whether they are in Hwange, Bulawayo so that there won’t be any need for them to come to the venue to get the tickets. So all advance tickets will be sold throughout the country.
“We intend to buy about 50 machines which we can use to sell some tickets. It’s a project that we going to engage in.
“Because we want our planning for the qualifier to be much better than any other match, we have set up a committee for that where we have marketing, finance, police, competitions and public works to make sure that all the loopholes are closed for the match,” said Kamambo.
The decision to introduce pre-ticket sales is in line with the global standards to enhance professionalism and improve event management.
Kamambo said the system will allow 20 people in per minute and urged supporters to come early for the match against Congo Brazzaville.
Zimbabwe was still lagging behind with neighbours South Africa already way ahead with their Computicket system which has made it easy for fans to gain entry into the stadium and for accountability.
In South Africa, no people are allowed anywhere near the stadium without an advance ticket, especially when Bafana Bafana are playing or for the Soweto Derby involving Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, with police and security details deployed in the vicinity as a means of improving efficiency and crowd controls.
The system has proved effective as it plugs all loopholes and guards against leaks in revenue collection at the gates.