BY HENRY MHARA
A HOST of stadiums, including Rufaro, have failed to meet the Premier Soccer League (PSL) standards to host top-flight matches, a development that puts a number of teams in a dilemma.
A preliminary inspection by the PSL in preparation for the new season set to kick-off on March 30 indicate that at least seven stadiums need renovations and improvements to meet basic standards required to stage league matches, which would put a strain on the few available facilities.
Topping the list of the stadiums that have been condemned is Rufaro, which is owned by the City of Harare, and is home to the country’s biggest club Dynamos. Harare City and Yadah also use the stadium which is in Mbare.
If Rufaro cannot be used for top-flight matches, it would mean about seven teams congesting at the National Sports Stadium this season.
Dynamos, Yadah and Harare City would have to relocate to the National Sports Stadium, where Caps United, Black Rhinos and Herentals share the giant facility.
Other stadiums that need improvements, according to the PSL, are Sakubva in Mutare, Vengere in Rusape, Kariba’s Nyamhunga, Trojan in Bindura and Luveve in Bulawayo.
Mushowani Stars and Manica Diamond are also likely to relocate to Harare if Trojan and Vengere stadiums cannot be spruced up on time.
“As the PSL, we did our preliminary inspection on all the stadiums that will be used next season. And we found out that some need some improvements to meet the required standards, so we have since written to the responsible authorities, notifying them of our recommendations and highlighting the areas to work on. But this was just a preliminary inspection, and the actual inspection by the First Instance Board will follow,” PSL spokesperson Kudzai Bare said yesterday.
The First Instance Board (FIB) comprises of members from PSL and Zifa, and is in charge of inspecting football facilities to ensure they meet requisite standards.
In a letter sent to Harare City Council, the PSL highlighted nine areas which require attention at Rufaro Stadium before it could be allowed to host league matches.
They want the playing surface to be levelled, new pitch perimeter support structures and a new razor wire around the perimeter wall to be installed.
They have also expressed disgruntlement over the drainage system, which they want overhauled, as well as the expansion and upgrading of dressing rooms for teams and match
PSL also want the council to provide facilities for the physically challenged and to improve the general cleaning of the stadium and its surroundings.
Other areas of concern include the lack of direction signs to the stadium as well as to attend to spectators’ seating areas.
Rufaro was closed for some months two seasons ago when the council removed synthetic turf, which they replaced with natural grass. But they were concerns by teams over the drainage system and dressing rooms, which have remained in a dilapidating state.
Interestingly, at a time that council is struggling to service the available facilities, with Gwanzura idle for years now, the city fathers this month revealed plans to construct a new multi-million dollar state-of-the-start stadium at Highglen Shopping Centre and have since put aside $1,4 million to be used this year for the initial phase of
Trojan Stadium, which has been earmarked for use by new-boys Mushowani Stars, was also under scrutiny and failed to meet the PSL test.
Twelve areas were highlighted for improvements, and if the PSL and FIB were to be strict in their implementation of the rules, it’s likely that the Bindura stadium may not be ready in time for the start of the season, and the newcomers could be forced to find an alternative, probably in Harare.
Major concerns included the construction and expansion of dressing rooms, ablution facilities and building of medical and anti-doping rooms.
They have also been asked to level the playing surface, overhaul the drainage system and provide benches for the technical teams, provide aluminium goal posts and turnstiles at entry points.
Manica Diamonds, another PSL newcomer based in Mutare, might also be forced to relocate to Harare for their home games after Sakubva, their preferred home ground and Vengere Stadium in Rusape, which they listed as the alternative, both failed to meet the standards.
Sakubva has been idle for years as renovations continued to drag, with no definite time of completion, which has forced teams in Manicaland to use Vengere.
But it appears the PSL want more improvements to the Rusape stadium, particularly the playing surface, dressing rooms and the VIP sitting area.
Most visiting PSL coaches complained about the bumpy surface of the stadium last season, which was used by relegated Mutare City Rovers. Dongo Sawmills have previously used the same stadium.
Nyamhunga Stadium, home to ZPC Kariba, faced the same problems last season when it initially failed to meet the required standards, only to be approved on the eve of the start of the season.
The late approval to the stadium caused confusion to ZPC Kariba’s season opener against FC Platinum, when the former, who had been scheduled to host the champions in Harare, refused to travel to the capital, demanding to play the match at their home ground.
Consequently, the match was forfeited in favour of FC Platinum who was awarded the game on a 3-0 scoreline. Luveve Stadium is also on the list of the venues that failed to meet PSL standards.