PSL chair Farai Jere begs for government donations to assist struggling clubs

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Zimbabwean football has been facing existential challenges for a while now, from the suspension from international football to the suspension of top flight matches due to unavailability of suitable stadiums in Harare. So much has been said and a lot of it is said to be in the hands of the minister responsible for sport.

By Bhora Afrika

Given a rare opportunity to present top flight football challenges to the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts, and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry, Caps United co-owner and Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairperson, Farai Jere’s plea for a monetary donation exposed the biggest undocumented challenge facing local football.

Dependency syndrome anchored on a perennial beggar mentality.

Coventry addressed top flight football leaders at a recently held workshop that was facilitated by SuperSport United CEO, Stan Matthews. After the minister’s speech, Jere was the first to speak.

Considering that the workshop took place during an enforced three-week break in the PSL programme due to the unavailability of suitable stadiums in Harare and surrounding areas, one would be forgiven to have expected Jere to address the infrastructure issues.

He didn’t. Jere has been in the trenches of Zimbabwean football administration for a while now, and as a co-opted member of the Zimbabwe Football Association executive committee, he is used to receiving FIFA Forward grants. It’s documented how he and 6 others shared US$100,000 from a 500,000-grant received from FIFA.

Jere begged the minister for a special grant to be shared equally among PSL clubs as government’s token of appreciation to the clubs for ‘keeping the wheels of Zimbabwean football turning’.

“I was appealing, through your ministry, to government to at least maybe unveil a small grant to assist the Premier Soccer League teams, which can be shared equally among the clubs as an appreciation that the government is in it.

“As little as it is, we would appreciate it because these guys, they have kept the wheels of the premier soccer league or football running/turning in this country.

“I think it would be something that would be appreciated by the clubs, if the government could come up with a small package to cushion the teams because they are going through very difficult times.

“If that financial assistance could be given, the teams would appreciate a lot. However small, that gesture would be well received by your teams which are all in this room,” Jere begged Coventry.

It’s understandable for Jere, whose team is reportedly facing financial challenges, to ask for temporary financial reprieve, and not long-term solutions to football problems.

Let’s say the government approves Jere’s request and avails a small grant, which is largely unlikely, what will the teams do when the grant is used up?

The government is already struggling with bread-and-butter issues like maintaining their only football facility, National Sports Stadium, under the stewardship of Coventry’s ministry. For Jere to expect the same government to donate to PSL clubs is not only naive but folly.

What is also most worrisome is that before Jere’s passionate plea to Coventry, workshop facilitator, Matthews had spent a lot of time emphasising on strategies to make Zimbabwean football commercially viable. Strategies to make Zimbabwean football sustainable and independent from the beggar mentality that Jere went on to show.

Matthews must have been a disappointed man. But he should have been happier hearing Ngezi Platinum Stars officials’ policy related proposals [land acquisition and import duty exemptions for sports equipment] that can contribute to the empowerment of clubs that the veteran broadcaster had spoken about earlier.

Jere’s Caps United faced severe financial struggles in 2022, and the issues are reportedly resurfacing. The same happened at Bulawayo Chiefs, who, despite starting the season well, have reportedly not paid players’ salaries since the start of the 2023 season.

Donations will only provide temporary solutions, but making clubs commercially viable is what will eradicate the challenges forever.

What’s the solution?
Among other things, Matthews advise advised clubs to train and develop young players so that they can benefit from training and development compensation payments when the players sign professional contracts in big leagues.

In case Jere didn’t know.
Clubs are not doing government a favour; they are business entities that should be financially sustainable.

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