By Vusumuzi Dube
The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has reduced charges for Highlanders’ use of Barbourfields Stadium from the 20 percent per game to 15 percent.
The decision was reached yesterday at a full council meeting that saw a majority of councillors condemning the decision by BCC’s Finance and Development committee to reject Bosso’s request.
Highlanders supporters followed proceedings in the council chambers but the club’s executive, secretariat or board members were not present.
Highlanders have in the past complained that the 20 percent surcharge eats into their revenue and last week wrote to the local authority requesting a reduction.
The council’s Finance and Development committee rejected the request claiming that the team was no longer as popular in the city as evidenced by the drop in the number of fans that watch its home games.
In overturning the committee’s decision, councillors noted that the team was already struggling financially and as one of the city’s ambassadors there was need for the local authority to understand its plight and grant the request.
“As the isiNdebele adage goes ‘umntwana ongakhaliyo ufela embelekweni’ Highlanders have cried and we will be fools not to hear their cry because this is a team made up of mainly Bulawayo residents and supported by Bulawayo residents.
“We usually boast claiming that we are leaders in local government, but here is a scenario where our Harare colleagues cut rentals for use of the National Sports Stadium and therefore if we are truly leaders in local governance as we claim, we should also lead by example and cut the costs we charge the city, if not the country’s biggest team,” said Ward 22 councillor, Rodney Jele.
Other councillors concurred with Clr Jele noting that Highlanders play a pivotal role in the city in terms of uniting residents hence the need for the local authority to be sensitive to its plight.
“Whether we like it or not, when Highlanders is beaten it is as if there is a funeral in the city, which goes to show the importance of the team to our key stakeholders who are the residents.
“It is no secret that our club is ailing, therefore as City fathers when Bosso cry let’s heed their plea and give them what they have requested because we risk our residents not paying required rates and rentals because of us overlooking this small request,” said Ward 9 councillor, Donaldson Mabuto.
The councillors also extended the reduction to other football clubs in the city.
BCC, the sole proprietors of Barbourfields Stadium, said the cost of maintaining the ground amounts to $29 665 a month, with Highlanders only managing to pay an average of $6 000 a month.
“When they were on song and pulling crowds, the average collection hovered around $14 000; this was still a far cry from the $29 665 incurred by the local authority to maintain the stadium.
“This was a cause for concern from a revenue point of view, more so with the stadium having failed the test from the Confederation of African Football in terms of standards and compliance, and council thus desperately required the funds to bring the stadium to required standards,” reads part of a council report. The Chronicle