by WELLINGTON TONI
HARARE, (ItNews Zimbabwe) – FACED with a plethora of headaches including match-fixing against one of its sides, failure by the new boys to pay their affiliation fees and uncertainty over the availability of stadiums, the Premier Soccer League (PSL) is in a fix ahead of the 2020 season, but its publicist is adamant the league will still kick-off as scheduled on March 21.
The PSL’s Disciplinary Committee (DC) two weeks ago booted Herentals out of the elite league after it ruled the side was guilty of manipulating their match against Black Rhinos, which they won 3-0 to survive relegation.
Herentals appealed to the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) against the DC’s ruling and even approached the High Court despite the world football governing body frowning against the latter.
Before the appeals could be ruled on, the Harare side has been slapped with a similar match manipulation charge stemming from the duel they won 1-0 against Bulawayo Chiefs in the sides’ last encounter of the past season.
Another in a series of problems is the failure by newly-promoted Whahwa FC failing to pay their affiliation fees by February 21 deadline.
The side from Gweru is arguing it could not make the payment as the day fell on a public holiday, the National Youth Day.
Kudzai Bare, the PSL media liaison officer, is not looking too much into the dilemma and believes the season will begin as scheduled.
“We are having our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on March 6. The (league) fixtures for the new season will be released thereafter,” she said in an interview with ITNews Zimbabwe.
“The new season kicks off on March 14 with a Challenge Cup match featuring the winners of the league and the Chibuku Super Cup winners, FC Platinum and Highlanders respectively. The match will be played at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo,” Bare said.
It could have been worse had the Confederation of African Football (CAF) completely banned the stadium from hosting any matches.
The CAF ruling made on Tuesday only prohibits the holding of international matches at Barbourfields and other local stadia.
On the Herentals debacle, the PSL publicist said, “I am informed that the Appeals Committee will hear the case on March 5. Hopefully, by the time we have the AGM and the Challenge Cup, everything would have been finalised.”
With the matches in question having had an impact on the final standings last season, it remains to be seen how many teams will be in the league this campaign.
Hwange, Mushowani Stars and TelOne have dropped to the first division without qualms but Chapungu would have probably survived had the matches featuring Herentials not been manipulated.
There are indications Chapungu will not go down without a fight, with the appointment of championship-winning coach, Moses Chunga, a hint.
The issue of stadia is also a nagging issue.
ZIFA’s First Instance Body (FIB), has embarked on a stadium inspection programme to ensure clubs and municipals, which own most of the venues, comply with the Club Licensing regulations.
The National Sports Stadium (NSS), shared by Caps United, Herentals and Yadah Stars) and Rufaro, the home base of Dynamos and Harare City, are banned from hosting matches.
Sakubva Stadium, supposed to be used by Manica Diamonds and newly-promoted Tenax, is closed for renovations. Gibbo in Triangle is also undergoing a facelift.
Baobab Stadium, home to Ngezi Platinum Stars, is in good pitch condition but lacks some critical infrastructure.
“ZIFA has been inspecting stadiums in the last three weeks and could provide more information on issues of concern they have highlighted on the stadiums,” Bare said.
“We will present a report to PSL after that (inspection). We cannot continue having piecemeal solutions to the stadium issues. We have to meet the standards as per Club Licensing regulations,” said ZIFA spokesperson, Xolani Gwesela.
He added, “If these stadiums are not renovated on time, we are in big trouble.”
Big trouble indeed, because ZIFA has to secure venues outside the country to host international matches.
“So we are actually appealing to the responsible authorities, councils and the government who run the NSS through the Ministry of Local Government, to expedite these renovations,” said.