By Sikhumbuzo Moyo
Mobile network operator NetOne’s decision to pull the plug on its sponsorship of Caps United, Highlanders and Black Rhinos was allegedly influenced by one of the teams’ directors, who pestered the company to offer revised figures based on the interbank rate.
Sources said the director (name supplied) wanted the telecoms firm, which first started sponsorship of the three teams when the official exchange rate was 1:1, to benchmark their new sponsorship package using the prevailing interbank rate.
“NetOne had been an all-weather friend that actually gave us more than the agreed figures during the course of the season as they were alive to the fact that prices of goods and services kept rising.
“They could have chosen to stick to the initial figure which had been eroded by inflation, but the company increased its package without our input. It seems this still wasn’t enough for him and he insisted that NetOne sticks to the initial package, but use the interbank rate,” said the source.
Despite assurances that NetOne was committed to reviewing the package to a figure that was acceptable to them, the team’s director insisted on the revised interbank rate at every meeting, much to the annoyance of the company’s decision makers.
“They were happy of Highlanders’ professionalism and it might not even surprise some of us if NetOne continues bankrolling Highlanders. I am sure even their (Bosso) previous sponsors BancABC would not have pulled out had it not been for the frustration that came from these other teams,” said the source.
NetOne though has not formally communicated its position to the three teams, but sources told our Harare Bureau that the mobile network operator was pulling the plug to concentrate on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was paying salaries of Caps United and Highlanders’ players and technical teams as well as providing tracksuits and playing kit, and paying accommodation and transport costs for their away matches.
“While NetOne has a demonstrable record of contributing immensely to the development of football in Zimbabwe, the recent developments affecting the entire world have made it difficult to maintain a long term sponsorship commitment to Highlanders and Caps United.
“As a business, the operating environment has been constrained with the overall economic landscape expected to shrink, thereby affecting revenue generation capacity for most companies, NetOne included. The uncertainty brought about by this pandemic makes it imperative to review our long term financial obligations and re-align our strategies and expenditure to high priority areas.
“As such, maintaining long term football contracts is no longer tenable. It is against this background that NetOne has decided to discontinue the three-year sponsorship, particularly as they relate to the 2021 football season.
“NetOne will fulfill its contractual obligations and will process the full sponsorship amount to both teams as it relates to the 2020 football season. However, notice of termination will be served for the 2021 season,” sources told our Harare bureau. The Chronicle