Hlongwane challenges sports associations

Bukhosi Mangena Sports Correspondent
SPORT and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane has urged national sports associations to develop sound and relevant revenue collection strategies for them to survive as the government is not in a position to fund their projects.

Hlongwane said this in reaction to the indefinite shelving of the National Rugby League (NRL) by the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) due to financial constraints.

ZRU released part of its national calendar earlier this week without the NRL. The calendar was, however, rich in international tours.

The NRL was discontinued at the halfway mark in 2014 after Delta Beverages withdrew sponsorship.

The suspension saw an exodus of young talent to neighbouring South Africa and abroad as clubs struggled to retain or attract youngsters due to inactivity.

Hlongwane said while he sympathised with the idea that government must partially fund national teams, it was the role of national sports associations to fund their respective leagues by developing innovative resource mobilisation mechanisms.

“We want to see a thriving NRL, but I’m afraid government can’t carry that burden. National associations need to deploy their own revenue collection strategies to fund their programmes,” said Hlongwane.

“The government can, to a certain extent, fund national teams, but we can’t fund the rugby league,” he said.

ZRU’s director of rugby Bright Chivandire said they were committed to reviving the defunct league, but their efforts had been hampered by failure to secure sponsorship.

“We’ve unveiled part of the calendar, but we won’t be seeing any return of the NRL as we have no funds to back it. We’ve approached many sponsors, but it seems we’re fighting a losing battle. We will, however, continue staging provincial leagues as they cost less to maintain,” said Chivandire.

Although Chivandire believes that provincial leagues are cheaper to bankroll, the only functional league is in Harare. The Matabeleland Football Rugby Board (MFRB) failed to run a league in 2015 due to lack of sponsorship and indicated that their woes were further compounded by the flight of young talent to Harare and South Africa to play provincial rugby.

The MFRB last year alleged that ZRU were only interested in the Harare league and had not shown any concern for the state of the game in the southern region of the country.

Zimbabwe hosts the 2016 Under-20 Rugby World Cup from April 19 to May 1 at the Harare Sports Club and players from the southern region that will form the Junior Sables’ squad are all likely to be from Falcon College.

Falcon College is the only school in the southern region of the country where rugby is played competitively. Its yesteryear regional rival Plumtree High School is now a pale shadow of itself, and now even enrols girls to meet its enrolment quota.

The former prestigious school is virtually dilapidated and its rugby fields resemble abandoned grazing land.

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