Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA have tasked the Premier Soccer League to engage all stakeholders to make sure that the proposed transition of the league to align with the international calendar will be smooth when it eventually takes place.
There was confusion over the start of the 2019 season, but the association’s president Felton Kamambo yesterday cleared the air when he confirmed that the season will, as usual, run from March to November.
This is meant to give clubs and other stakeholders time to prepare for the shift as well as for the necessary adjustments to be made.
The Premier Soccer League made a request to the local football mother-body to endorse a resolution made at their Extraordinary General Meeting in September to align the domestic calendar with the CAF programme which runs from August to May of the following year.
The proposal by the PSL seeks to shift the calendar from the traditional March-to–November cycle to the August–May season which is popular with many leagues across the globe.
However, this proposal has not been embraced by the wider football community in Zimbabwe yet.
As much as there was confusion about the dates for next season, there have also been huge concerns over the clubs’ preparedness in terms of infrastructure since the proposed calendar coincide with the rainy season on this part of the continent.
It was also not clear if the league has enough human resources and, administratively, the necessary adjustments to the rules and regulations that are needed to cater for matters of force majeure and other challenges that may arise from playing at the height of the rainy season.
The ZIFA board deliberated on the matter in their first meeting last Friday and they agreed that the PSL maintain the status quo, at least until 2020.
Kamambo yesterday said the matter will be discussed further at their AGM set for early next year.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association Annual General Meeting held on the 16th of December 2018 resolved that the 2019 PSL football season will kick-off in March 2019 as per current league format.
“The ZIFA congress further resolved that the Premier Soccer League will engage stakeholders on the proposal to shift the kick-off dates to August as recommended by the Confederation of African Football.
“In pursuant to the above, at our first Executive Committee meeting on the 21st of December 2018, PSL was therefore directed to come up with a road map on their stakeholder engagement process on the proposed shift with a view to implement the proposal in 2020.
“It is our view that the proposal will be deliberated upon at our 2019 Annual General Meeting set for early next year to afford members ample time to plan well ahead,” said Kamambo.
It will be a break from tradition for the Castle Lager Premiership following the recommendations from CAF that all leagues should be in sync so that it becomes easy for national teams, clubs and players to participate in regional and international events.
CAF made the decision to align the football calendar at their Executive Committee meeting in July 2017 and have urged all the leagues to implement the resolution.
They have since changed the calendar for the inter-club competitions by putting in place a transitional programme which saw the Champions League and Confederation Cup kicking off at the end of last month. The marathon programme should be complete by the end of May next year.
The ultimate goal is to switch the CAF inter-club competitions from a February-to-November schedule to an August–to-May schedule, so that their programmes also don’t clash with the FIFA calendar.
The next season of the inter-club competitions will then start after the African Cup of Nations tournament which has also been switched from the January-February to June-July schedule.
Zimbabwe’s neighbours Zambia have since put in place a transitional programme that will see their league kick-off in January. The Zambia Super League has been divided in two groups of 10 with the top two teams from each side qualifying to play Champions League while the second-placed teams will be booked for the Confederation Cup.
But for Zimbabwe, the main worry has been the poor state of the drainage system at the stadia and facilities that are not compatible with the rainy season.