It is saddening that at a time there was supposed to have been excitement on the opening day of the 2017 soccer season, only 22 000 paying supporters attended the nine matches which were on the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) programme.
insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
This should be a cause for concern for those running the top flight football league because in the past this attendance would have been for the opening day of a Dynamos game irrespective of who the opposition was.
Although the situation was worse this season, it has been gradual in its coming and the PSL should try to quickly find out what the real cause of the problem is before there is no one left in the stadiums to watch our football.
The figures, however, are only for the paying fans and does not include the “too many VVIPs” that now form part of Zimbabwean football.
It is unfortunate that those with money are the ones being accorded free entry when the poor are being made to pay.
It has been observed that there are some without the PSL privilege cards being accorded free entry to the VVIP and VIP stands on the strength of their faces, because they are so and so, were once so and so, or are related to so and so; depriving clubs of a lot of revenue.
And they are too many.
The question, however, is: What are PSL and the clubs doing to attract new paying fans to the stadiums?
Is it that Zimbabwean football standards have gone down to the extent that people are no longer interested in watching the game? Or is it that most of the fans now prefer to watch European football on television instead of their own game?
If so, why has this affected only the Zimbabwean game when some of the African football matches we watch on television, for example from South Africa, are well-attended even if the teams playing are lowly-ranked?
Or, is it because in these harsh economic times, the $3 plus transport money, is proving to be too much for the ordinary football fan?
An example is a football fan from Chitungwiza. He has to fork out $2 for transport to and from the city and an extra $1 to take him to and from Rufaro Stadium or the National Sports Stadium.
In total, the fan requires $6 to watch football after receiving $30 from his bank. What would be better for that fan, going to a football match or staying at home?
Interestingly, a Division One derby at Pfupajena Stadium in Chegutu between Golden Valley and Chegutu Pirates is said to have attracted a huge crowd of 3 000 people who paid out $1 each to watch the game.
There was also the Mbada Diamonds Cup whose matches attracted full houses throughout the country at a modest charge of $1 for the cheapest seat.
Is reducing gate charges to $1 the solution to the attendance crisis? Football sponsor Douglas Run’anga suggests that the PSL should experiment for a month with $1 gate fee and see how far it goes.
Run’anga added that it should be tried on high profile matches between Caps United and Dynamos or Dynamos against Highlanders whose charges at times are hiked to $5.
“There is no harm in trying. The PSL should experiment by reducing the charges for a month, and see if the number of paying people at matches increases. If they do and the clubs make more than what they are making now, then they should adopt the $1 fee,” said Run’anga, who sponsors social football side, Patsime Boozers.
What is important is for the PSL and their 18 clubs to know that football is played for the fans to enjoy and without them, there is no need to enter the field of play.
What they need is a solution that brings back all the people who used to flock to stadiums to cheer their teams in action.
There is also the issue of sponsors. The fact that they are in football is because they want to promote their Castle Lager brand and when the stadiums are empty, then their brand promotion goes nowhere.
So the ball is in the PSL’s court to have 4 000 people in the stadium paying $1 or to have 198 fans paying $3 each.
There is no harm in trying it.
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