Football fans in many ways are the backbone of any football club across the now industrialised world of the sport.
They buy season tickets, millions of replicas and usually provide an atmosphere not conducive for the opposition. Clubs have been forced to extend their stadiums to cater for the ever-expanding number of fans.
The fans are seen as precious and should be treated as such.
But when clubs in a struggling environment like Zimbabwe decide that $5 is the minimum they can pay to watch some shoddy football against little opposition, then it’s about time football clubs realised they are doing themselves a disservice.
The fans will stay at home or simply watch the match from SuperSport 9, or listen to the radio or their mobile phones, which-ever is cheaper than going to the stadiums.
There is no justification for fans to pay $5 to watch Dynamos play Black Rhinos at Rufaro or Highlanders play Black Mambas at Barbourfields. This is just like paying that much to watch Buffaloes and Triangle or How Mine and Tripple B.
To some extent, only six matches in Zimbabwe deserve to be allowed to increase gate charges — Dynamos-Highlanders, Dynamos-Caps United, Dynamos-FC Platinum, Caps United-FC Platinum, Caps United-Highlanders and Highlanders-FC Platinum.
For teams like Harare City, who own the stadiums in Harare, even a dollar gate charge to attract fans will do while Hwange, who have their own stadium, cannot charge $5. This basically means a football fan will spend $6 per game in terms of transport and gate charges, and even $3 more on drinks during the match and airtime. This football fan, if he is driving, cannot take his family of four to a match or even invite friends at his expense.
The worst thing that clubs in Zimbabwe have not done is to properly market their clubs with giants like Dynamos, Caps United and Highlanders surviving on goodwill.
There are new strategies designed to entice the fans and you will not get them here for free.
Football administrators need to be educated about this sport and they need to revise the 2011 Harare Declaration on the issue of club licencing, the need to have offices, a full secretariat, phones and 24-hour Internet facilities.
It is a fact that perhaps only FC Platinum and Highlanders have such facilities. It is a fact that combined, Platinum sell more replica jerseys than the Warriors simply because they have opened various avenues to get closer to the fans.
We propose that clubs go back to the $3 charge after this World Cup break to bring back the fans or we will only see an increase when the BancABC Sup8r and the Mbada Diamonds Cup competitions start.
For Dynamos and Highlanders, the need to get the fan back to the stadiums is more urgent than ever now they have signed a replica deal which will further take $50 from the supporters for each jersey. Gate charges simply need to be reduced or the giants, especially, will suffer.