The Sunday News
Zenzo Moyo, Sunday Life Correspondent
Football in Zimbabwe is at a watershed moment: most if not all Premier Soccer League clubs may not exist in a few years!
And the sad reality is that these clubs’ demise will not be because of administrative deficiencies or the lack of talent within their playing ranks, but rather the negative economic viability of running a football club in Zimbabwe.
A lot of the clubs competing in the Premiership are struggling to survive.
In recent history, most if not all teams that are promoted are relegated within the first or second year of competing in the PSL.
Those that survive the first season, battle to keep their place, as they also battle to stay afloat financially due to ever increasing debts accrued from that first season.
At this point, the few quality players that were available to them are forced to leave for greener pastures, spelling the beginning of the end for their clubs.
There is a real and urgent need for Zimbabwean football authorities to have a relook at the business model in football.
There is a real need to regenerate the way football clubs are being run in the country if football is to remain viable and continue to be of economic value to the many players, coaches, referees and administrators who keep the local game ticking.
In my view, at this juncture we may see a scenario where clubs are no longer able to sustain themselves. These clubs and many like them do not have the high value sponsorship packages available to them.
And yet, it is these “small” clubs that are the heart and soul of local football.
But as things stand, many of these so-called small clubs cannot afford, at current economic values in football, to sign quality players, pay their salaries and fulfil fixtures. What it then means is that only the four clubs in the PSL will have the competitive value to make the PSL a competitive league.
Which of the 14 other PSL sides this season can compete with these four to sign players? Which of the 14 other PSL players have the capacity to sustain themselves for the next five years? And as things stand, for every four teams promoted into the PSL, there is a good chance that they will ALL be relegated at the end of the season.
Why? Because the same players that they used to gain promotion are the same players they will use through the course of the season and we all know that sometimes these players are not good enough to compete in the top tier league.
What we need is maybe take a leaf from the Americans and introduce salary caps to PSL teams. In Major League Soccer rules permit teams to spend in a variety of ways, designated players being the most famous.
The MLS set in stone various aspects of the organisation and running of the league, including the salary cap and two other forms of expenditure available to MLS clubs, known as General Allocation Money (GAM) and Targeted Allocation Money (TAM).
The most important number for any club in MLS is US$4,9 million: that is the salary cap, or salary budget, imposed on all the clubs in the league.
This money is the amount teams can spend on salaries for the 20 players inscribed on their senior rosters over the course of a single season.
However, MLS teams have the option to use only 18 players on their senior roster, leaving slots 19 and 20 open, thereby being able to spend their entire salary budget on 18 players.
As such, the maximum a non-designated MLS player can earn in a single season is US$612 500. Beyond the senior roster is the supplemental roster, roughly the equivalent of a reserve team in European football.
These rosters consist of 10 players who are split into three separate categories: senior minimum salary players, who earn a minimum of US$81 375 per season; reserve minimum salary players, who earn US$63 547; and home-grown players, who earn a base wage equivalent to reserve minimum salary players.
This sort of “financial fair play” ensures the survival of all the franchises in the league and it is this sort of business model that I believe Zimbabwean football should either follow or at least adjust to suit the local economic situation.
At the current rate, clubs will continue to lose their quality players to the “giants” of the game who are the only ones with the capacity to keep players happy.
And this will be the death of local football for all of us as stakeholders do not aspire to regenerate and remodel our local football business model.
Failure to look at options such as the MSL business model could very well lead to decisions by these “smaller” clubs to look into the possibility of forming a separate league where all players’ salaries and signing on fees are generally equal and the financial playing field has some sort of order.