THE prevailing harsh economic conditions have impacted negatively on the smooth running of Premier Soccer League clubs with newcomers Dongo Sawmill and Harare giants Caps United facing serious viability challenges as attendance figures plunge to an all- time low.
Already Dongo Sawmill — promoted into the elite league last season — have placed a “For Sale” sign with club owner Francis Dongo citing serious cashflow problems as well as high levies charged by local authorities.
The viability challenges are mainly due to dwindling support base for clubs that rely mostly on gate-takings. For instance, the first Harare derby between Caps United and Dynamos in July last year attracted 21 067 spectators, while this year, the number of fans who watched the first big match was a paltry 12 000 fans — a graphic illustration of how revenues from gate-takings have plummeted.
In the last couple of years, the Harare derby was averaging about 20 000 and over the years it had been recording the biggest attendance figures.
Caps shifted their last home match against Hwange from the National Sports Stadium to Gwanzura in a bid to boost the numbers, but the results were not pleasing.
It appears individual-owned clubs are the most affected while Dynamos and Highlanders, who usually rely on gate-takings, have the back-up of BancABC, who are their principal sponsors.
Delta sponsors the league through their brand Castle Lager, but while they have been increasing their financial support, they have urged clubs to find other sources of funding for their day-to-day running.
Dongo painted a grim picture of the state of football in Zimbabwe yesterday. He said he was prepared to take any offer from those interested in the franchise.
He revealed that he has been pumping money into the club, but was not getting returns as most of the revenue from gate-takings was going to the council and security.
Dongo said after careful consideration, he had decided not to continue running the team.
“I have come to a point where I am saying I cannot continue because I have not received any support,” said Dongo. “I brought entertainment to the business community in Rusape, but I have not been supported. I am not saying they should put money into the club, but if you can have the council taking 20% of gate-takings and you are also forced to pay about 70 or 80 police officers for providing security, you can’t go anywhere. It is from this background that I have decided to sell the club. If you look at problems faced by the national team, what about us? This club does not owe anyone anything and I will just accept any offer from anyone interested,” said Dongo.
Another Premiership side, WhaWha, also promoted last season, are reportedly facing viability challenges with players going unpaid. But clubs like Harare City, owned by Harare City Council, How Mine and FC Platinum, who are owned by cash-rich mining companies, have not faced such problems and continue to function smoothly.
Caps United are also facing serious cashflow problems and are struggling to pay players, technical team and staff their salaries and allowances.
Their coach Mark Harrison has been given an eviction notice from his Borrowdale apartment due to non-payment of rentals.
He was due to be evicted yesterday, but his landlord gave him until Saturday to look for the money.
On Sunday, several senior players — Hardlife Zvirekwi, George Nyirenda, Dominic Mukandi, Gerald Phiri and Steven Makatuka —initially refused to travel to Mutare for Caps’ league clash against Buffaloes, but later arrived late for the match which ended in a 0-0 stalemate at Sakubva. It was their second successive goalless draw having also shared the spoils with Hwange last Thursday and despite a good midweek crowd, it is understood the players were only paid $30 each.
Harrison was yesterday still making frantic efforts to meet with the Caps United management. “I have been trying to meet with the Caps management, but they are not responding to my calls. I don’t know what they are trying to do. It’s now 2.30pm and I am in a very difficult situation,” said Harrison.
Meanwhile, Caps United striker Rodreck Mutuma did not take part in training at RBZ Sports Club yesterday with reports suggesting he has decided to switch base barely six months after signing a contract from Dynamos. Mutuma is fed up of the financial troubles he is facing at Caps and is ready to stay on the sidelines until the transfer window reopens.
The rest of the Caps United players trained yesterday despite the non-payment of their dues.