By Ricky Zililo
The Sports Leaders Institute of Zimbabwe (Sliz) has challenged sporting institutions, particularly football clubs, to use the Covid-19 forced break to ponder on other ways of generating revenue away from the field of play.
The start of the domestic Premier Soccer League was indefinitely postponed last month after President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the coronavirus pandemic a State of Disaster and banned all sporting activities.
Government prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people as part of measures to control spread of the virus.
The domestic season was initially scheduled to start at the end of last month and is now set to kick off in June if the the situation improves.
The 2020 football season might even further delay, as health experts have warned that coronavirus spreads rapidly in winter.
Sliz president Russell Mhiribidi, whose organisation has formed partnerships with the University of West Virginia in the United States and Swedish sports group, Liike, warned of the possibility of a financial crisis hitting clubs because of inactivity.
He said some sponsors will soon question the wisdom of paying salaries when there is no activity.
European clubs are already feeling the pinch and some are in the midst of negotiating for salary cuts.
“This is the time to seriously rethink on viable plans that can sustain sporting institutions beyond turnstiles. If you look at it, this is the time that clubs must think about add-ons in deals that they sign. Very few or none of these Premiership clubs can afford to play in an empty stadium, say if a decision is made to have games played behind closed doors,” said Mhiribidi.
“I don’t want to sound like a prophet of doom, but most clubs will struggle or even fold after this period, whose end we don’t know. You can’t have clubs simply surviving on gate takings alone. Why not look for extra income by selling original replicas, club memorabilia, go on massive membership drives that will sustain their operations.
“Clubs must explore the best ways of tapping into their followers’ pockets, since most of them pride themselves in having a huge following, but are not getting any financial rewards.
“Actually those huge followers only come for matchdays, cause trouble and leave the club in a financial mess. Innovative ways can be done to tap into those fans,” said Mhiribidi.
He urged clubs to embrace new technologies and leave footprints on digital platforms.
“Sports institutions can drive traffic to their websites by giving everyday updates about their players training at home, interact with fans and make their brands visible. They can also use technology to send training programmes to their players and even monitor the sessions through live video updates. Capturing and posting those training sessions also helps give tips to whoever watches to cultivate wellness and train at home.
“We need each other and Covid-19 has shown that we need healthy and well athletes, administrators, corporate partners and fans for the sports industry to survive. Let’s spread those wellness messages through digital platforms, share training techniques, work from home and readjust plans for the year. Through new information technology, administrators can still hold their virtual meetings and share notes,” Mhiribidi said.
Sliz cancelled its Autumn camp that was scheduled for Triangle in the Lowveld from March 21-23 and is working on adjusting its programmes for the year. The Chronicle