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ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube says he will seek ways to slash gate charges to as little as US$1 for Premier Soccer League and national team matches to lure more spectators to stadiums.

He made the submission to the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture this week, arguing that many Zimbabweans were turning away from the game because they have little to spare for football in light of the prevailing economic hardships.

The Premier Soccer League have pegged US$3 for the cheapest ticket, although clubs can apply for variation of the gate charges.

Dube acknowledged that many clubs survive on gate-takings as their source of income due to lack of sponsorship.

But even if they are to mark the entry fees higher, Dube noted that the clubs are still struggling to make ends meet as only a few people are coming to the stadiums.

He said his board will soon meet to discuss ways to make football matches affordable to the common people, who form the majority of the population, while at the same time remaining a viable business.

“One of the things we are going to discuss as a board is the entrance fees,” said Dube.

“Under the current circumstances perhaps we need to reduce the fees, at least, looking at the economies of scale where we say we were charging an average US$3 now, if we reduce it maybe to US$1, it might fill up the stadiums and boost the gate takings.

“In this country, in fact, in this region it is difficult for a team to survive on gate takings. What we would like to do, obviously, is that all our spectators are able to afford coming to watch the games.

“We can only do it by reviewing the entrance fees. As the recent games showed, people are not coming and it is even worse for our Division One leagues because there are no mechanisms to charge those that come to watch the games.”

Dube’s argument could be buttressed by the figures obtained from the Premier Soccer League offices in the last three seasons which point to a sharp downward spike in attendance figures.

According to the statistics released by the PSL at their management meeting in December last year, there was a significant drop which was attributed largely to the rise in gate entry fees from US$3 in 2012 to US$5 in 2013.

A total number of 495 098 fans watched the league matches last year compared to 643 293 during the 2012 season.

The figure reflected a 23 percent loss in terms of crowd support as 148 195 fans decided to stay at home.

In 2011, when the domestic Premiership went to bed with Castle Lager as their flagship sponsors, it generated huge excitement among the fans and there was a marked improvement, in terms of fans who came to the stadiums, with 611 103 people paying their way to watch local league matches.

But the liquidity crunch gripping the country and the arrival of pay per-view television channel SuperSport to beam live games could have contributed significantly to the decline in the numbers of people attending the matches.

The small clubs bear the brunt of the prevailing situation with several games failing to attract above 100 paying supporters during the last three seasons.

Big guns Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United are probably some of the few teams that have managed to consistently attract sizeable crowds to their matches.

Therefore, to make business sense, the reduction of the entry fees might not be effected across the board as teams may apply for an upward variation for the big matches or in games featuring the giants of local football.

Dube believes it makes sense to fill the stadium with more people paying less than for teams to play in virtually empty arenas.

Sport, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Tabitha Kanengoni-Malinga hailed the proposed move to slash the gate charges but warned the football leadership they needed to come up with a sound business model to keep the teams afloat.

Kanengoni-Malinga said g marketing was needed for both the local clubs and the national teams so that fans will not have to fork out more on the match day.

“We need to come up with innovative ways of making money. Not just for zifa but for our football teams. So you need to come up with a great marketing strategy that will help us raise funds.

“I remember before we were talking about the issue of sports kit and we discussed about tax incentives for companies that come to support football or marketing team regalia so that supporters can buy it at low cost. Supporters can buy jerseys for the team they support.

“I think the dollar-for-football, as well, will help but it has to be marketed very effectively so that people can actually respond to it and come to the games. And many things should happen at these games in terms of marketing, getting people winning prizes.

“We really just have to go all out and try to change the face of football. I think we have the talented players and now we need to work on the supporters to bring them on board because the fans are ones who will help us change the image of football,” said Kanengoni-Malinga.

But the PSL clubs have more to worry about even if the attendance numbers are boosted.

PSL chairman Twine Phiri said it remains difficult for clubs to survive on the little they get from the gates because of the levies that are charged by various service providers.

Phiri pleaded with the ministry to intervene as clubs are benefiting little from the gates, which remain their only source of income.

The CAPS United boss is one of the members of the Dube-led board whose other members are vice-president Omega Sibanda, John Phiri, Bernard Gwarada, Miriam Sibanda, Fungai Chihuri and Tawengwa Hara.

Source : The Herald