The Mbada Diamonds Cup will bring the curtain down on the 2014 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League programme in what could be the icing on the cake of an exciting soccer season.
Inside Sport with Michael Kariati
The tournament has changed from its usual 16-team contest and this season it will involve four teams. Dynamos and ZPC Kariba are guaranteed of participation with Caps United and FC Platinum likely to take up the remaining two slots.
That the tournament has changed in terms of its format does not mean the gate fees change. The sponsors made a commitment three years ago that this tournament would carry a US$1 gate entry fee for the cheapest seat in the stadium and that should remain so.
From Harare to Bulawayo, Mutare to Zvishavane and of course, Kariba to Kadoma. It was good, if not refreshing, to see the carnival atmosphere that engulfed football stadiums as thousands of football fans attended the Mbada Diamonds Cup, courtesy of the modest gate charge.
It is the same atmosphere that we expect once again since the tournament will draw the top four football teams, according to the final standings of what has been a highly competitive league programme.
The reasons for the reduction in the number of teams, in the financial figures and in the format is not for us to dwell on. But the sponsors have seen it fit that the tournament has to go on despite serious doubts that it was ever going to take place.
The Mbada Diamonds Cup will come as a Christmas bonus to fans who have supported football throughout the year in such a hostile financial environment. On that premise, the US$1 gate charge will come as the perfect festive season present.
It should be noted that fewer football fans are coming to watch local football matches these days and one of the reasons being cited is that the US$3 entry fee is too high.
The results of the OneWallet Cup final in which only a handful of supporters came to watch Triangle upstage Dynamos bear testimony to this. We also saw it in the TM Pick N Pay Challenge in which Dynamos and Highlanders also attracted a small crowd at the National Sports Stadium.
That the crowd attendance problem has even affected the most popular football teams in the country who on their heyday attracted over 20 000 people should be a test case for those leading the top flight football league in the country.
The crowd attendance issue should be on the agenda of the next Premier Soccer League’s assembly meeting.
Football matches are played for the spectators to come in and enjoy. Without spectators there is no need to have the games played at all. That should be the starting point for the PSL. What do we have to do to bring the fans back to the stadiums? That should be the question on their minds.
The honest truth is that in the wake of the developments that are taking centre stage, there is a need to seriously review their gate charges downwards. To US$2 or even US$1.
Everyone is getting affected by the current economic situation and football fans are not an exception. Companies are struggling to an extent that they are not regularly paying their employees and those who are getting paid are not even receiving their full salaries.
Apart from the gate entry fee, soccer fans also have other costs which they have to bear, one of which is for transport. In reality, the total costs of attending a football game has now gone to as much as US$5 for the ordinary man in the street.
We cannot say the standards of our football have gone down. That is far from it. Zimbabwean football fans are still watching and enjoying their local game on television.
It has become cheaper for them to buy a one litre bottle of Chibuku Super beer or a quart of Eagle Lager for US$1 and then watch the game at home rather than be at the stadium.
This is what the PSL should stop. Even after taking their Chibuku Super beer or Eagle Lager, fans should still find time to go and cheer their teams at stadiums as was the case in the past.
It is better to have 10 000 people at a football match paying a US$1 each than have 1 000 people paying US$3 each.
On a lighter note, there have been suggestions that some of the games should be charged US$1 for two football fans, just like in commuter omnibuses.
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