Tadious Manyepo, Harare Bureau
THE 2020 Castle Lager Premiership football season is set to start a bit earlier this season but that will do little to ease the Premier Soccer League’s worries ahead of a hectic year.
While the top-flight has taken blows for poor packaging, failure by authorities to construct proper stadiums mean the Premiership won’t be able to shift their calendar for yet another year.
The PSL have in the past few years been eager to move their season and conform with the Caf season which runs between August and May but poor facilities, which render play virtually impossible during the rainy season, have been impeding the development. As such, the local top-flight will have to juggle around with Caf competitions whose fixtures are released when the Zimbabwean league would already be in full throttle.
League champions FC Platinum and Highlanders, who won the Chibuku Super Cup, will represent the country in the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively.
But before the league’s programme is interrupted by the Caf competitions, the biannual CHAN tournament stands ready to disturb the flow of the marathon in its early stretch.
The continental contest, designed exclusively for players plying their trade in their respective local leagues, runs between April 4-25 in Cameroon.
Zimbabwe’s Warriors will be part of the 16-team cast at the three-week tournament.
The local league will be two or three weeks old and there are possibilities some games involving teams with three or more players in the senior national team would be postponed. But PSL chief executive, Kenny Ndebele, yesterday said the league will not break during the course of that tournament.
“The league will not break for the CHAN tournament. Those teams which will have more than two players selected for the tournament will have to make their own decision whether to release all of them,” said Ndebele.
“As the Premier Soccer League, we are saying, there cannot be a break when we would be just two weeks or even a week into the championship race.
“We will find a way but we are saying those clubs with more than two players in the team for CHAN have to decide whether to release them as no games will be postponed during that period. We have a lot of deadlines that we have to meet so we cannot afford to delay fixtures when we would have just started the championship race.” Ndebele said the reason why the league almost always encounter problems in terms of religiously following set schedules is that the CAF calendar will only be released when the local league is already underway.
This has kept their hands tied and they cannot even advertise a fixture which is three weeks away.
“We do advertise our league fixtures but the problem is always that we would be forced to adjust it a bit whenever Caf release their calendar. The Caf calendar is not published maybe until June or July thereabout.
“We have clubs in the league who will be expected to play in the continental competitions and that means our league programme will be disturbed. Maybe that’s where that issue of packaging is coming in, but honestly, we would have done our best but the Caf schedule is something we cannot control. As a league, we will try every means possible to remain professional and meet schedules but of course, there is bound to be disturbances of that sort given that our calendar is not in conformity with that of Caf.
“In terms of packaging programmes which bring crowds to the match venues, I think we are doing well as a league. There is always room for improvement. But we are happy we have always been able give the country all the 306 matches per season.”
But stakeholders have always complained about the PSL’s inability to court viable broadcasting partners for regular beaming of local Premiership matches on television.
“The only solution in Southern Africa is SuperSport who we had a contract with, which expired some two years ago. We have tried to re-engage them with not so much joy.
“We had to go to bed with our national broadcaster, ZBC, and I would like to hail them for what they have done. Sometimes, you have to bear with them, they have a lot of issues and they have always tried to strike a balance. That’s very much acknowledgeable. We will only think of re-engaging SuperSport after our contract with ZBC lapses.”
With only Delta Beverages to look up to for sponsorship, the PSL cannot do much to lobby authorities to build stadia which is usable during Summer.
Efforts to shift the season to correspond with the rest of the world have continuously been frustrated as lack of proper infrastructure has put paid to those endeavours. Last season, the second leg match between Black Rhinos and Ngezi Platinum Stars had to be cancelled after the Rufaro turf was turned into a huge pool following some incessant rains that had pounded the popular Mbare venue hours before kick-off. The game was eventually played the following morning.