Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor—
ADVERTS For Africa, the company whose relationship with CAPS United has turned toxic, plotted a smooth but hostile takeover of the Premiership giants, without even injecting a cent, in what would have been a spectacular boardroom coup. The partnership between Adverts For Africa, represented by Zing, and CAPS United, collapsed barely a month after the two parties announced their marriage in Harare, with the Green Machine saying it represented a watershed moment in their quest to become the dominant force in domestic football.
Hailed as a landmark sponsorship deal for a domestic Premiership club by a South African company, the proposed deal was somehow announced before it had been signed and, with the marriage now in tatters, startling details have begun to emerge.
Documents in possession of The Herald show that what was supposed to be a dream sponsorship deal was, in fact, a smooth takeover of the country’s third biggest football club by the group that had come dressed as sponsors.
The sponsorship agreement, drafted by Adverts For Africa, a copy of which is in possession of this newspaper, which the CAPS United leadership decided not to sign, made it clear that:
The sponsor will be granted commercial rights, which the club owns, and total autonomy, over the club’s management, upon the terms and conditions set out in the agreement.
The sponsor shall take total responsibility of all club affairs including, but not limited to, sporting, marketing and social from the commencement of the agreement.
The club warrants to facilitate the opening of a bank account, which will be controlled by the sponsor, and further to provide the following, within 30 days, accompanied by traceable and proper supporting documents — debtors and creditors’ list; audited financial statements for the past three years, board resolutions; minutes to the board meeting and all company registration documents; full board members list and shareholding structure; the parameters and mandate of the board members in the day-to-day affairs of the club and their stake, if any; CAPS United fans and their stake, if any, in the ownership of the club and their mandate authorising the partnership; full disclosure of all pending litigation and the stages they are at.
The club warrants to give control of all revenue streams management affairs to the sponsor; these shall include, but not limited to, gate-takings, television rights, prize money, endorsements, sale of players, imaging rights.
The club grants to the sponsor the rights for exploitation in connection with the club within the total autonomy of the club’s management during the term and subject to the terms and conditions of the agreement. The sponsor shall be entitled to exploit the rights in connection with the advertisement and promotion of sponsor products/sponsor services.
In return, Adverts For Africa promised that it shall, on the signing of the deal::
Take over the running expenditure of the club from the 20th of February 2015.
Guarantee the club’s debt, which was accrued in the past year only. The debts shall be submitted with supporting documents and will be paid in terms which will be specified by the Sponsor.
Take care of the players and technical staff wage bill from the 20th of February 2015 and signing-on fees owing from the 1st of January 2012 only. It (the Sponsor) shall not be responsible for any debt accumulated prior to this date.
Ensure that 25 percent of the revenue generated by the Club, under the management of the Sponsor, will be channelled towards the liquidation of the said ascertainable debts.
CAPS United chief executive Joe Makuvire yesterday broke his silence over the saga, which has been raging for the past few weeks, and confirmed that their relationship with Adverts For Africa had broken down.
“These guys dreamt of owning a football club in Zimbabwe, drew up a scheme and, without paying anything, with no obligation at all, where their empire would be built around promises without any deliverables, in what I believe was a scheme pregnant with manipulation, basic chicanery where the owners of CAPS United had to, in a manner that was tantamount to stupidity, simply hand over their club to some other people,” said Makuvire.
“Everything was done in a way that disregarded scrutiny and it was my first encounter, in sport and commerce, where partners emphasised on handshakes than the legally acceptable way of sealing such agreements.
“It was my first time as a sports administrator where I came across a so-called sponsor who would push for a launch of the sponsorship agreement without a contract having been signed. I refused to sanction the launch and only attended after some people, within our institution, felt that it would send the wrong signals if I wasn’t at the function.
“My sixth sense told me that the whole transaction was smelly and bordered on being dubious and we were coerced as a clubs to go to that launch and announce that something big was happening at the club, without anything to show how big this thing was, when that big thing was going to happen and we were just celebrating a package that was simply hot wind.
“We accept our culpability in the whole matter that we told our people that we had found a sponsor when the reality was that there was nothing on the table and everyone was working on a promise that was never going to be delivered.
“Our financial challenges in the previous years made us salivate at the prospects of embracing a South African company coming in to partner the club and providing a lasting solution to our financial woes.
“We ended up being too happy to the extent of being careless and negligent, but reality soon hit us hard as our so-called sponsors began to make unreasonable demands and excuses on the basis that they were the only option available for us.
“Our coaches, players and even our fans believed that these guys had the money to run the club, but the reality is that there was nothing of that sort.”
Makuvire said alarm was raised when their partners failed to pay the February salaries for the technical staff, the players and office staff on February 25 as had been agreed.
“On the day of the launch, ZING promised that they would pay salaries for the coaches, players and office staff members by February 25, but we were surprised when they then requested a sum of $14 700 from our coffers for to meet this obligation,” said Makuvire.
“We duly gave them, with the so-called sponsors saying that their intention was to add another $18 500 to ensure that it services the monthly bill of slightly more than $30 000 for the first month.
“You have people coming in as sponsors, announcing that they have big plans for you and in the first month of operation, they ask you to give them whatever you have in your coffers to enable them to pay the players, coaches and office staff.
“But what really shocked us was that even after we gave them $14 700, they did not add the $18 500 they had promised, but instead they only brought $6 000, which was about $8 000 less than what we had given them, which they said was for the payment of everyone.
“That’s when the alarm bells started to ring among us because from a position where we had $14 700 in our coffers to try and balance our books before the sponsors came on board, we now had just $6 000 being given to our people from our money, with more than $8 000 unaccounted for.
“We never got any cent from ZING and we challenge them to prove that they paid money to anyone at our club and, rather, we are the ones who want them to account for the more than $8 000 that they took from us.
“The decision to discontinue this relationship was not a personal but a professional one made on the advice of our lawyers and supported by the rightful owners of the club.
“The proposed relationship violated local laws, the whole thing was meant to dodge local laws while these guys find a way of merely taking over the club without satisfying those laws and we had to choose whether we go ahead with them and in the process expose ourselves to possible criminal issues or we pull out.
“We understand and acknowledge that expectations had been raised by this possible partnership, but we plead with our stakeholders, especially our players, coaches and supporters, to let the club do the right things and find a lasting solution to our financial challenges without exposing ourselves to possible criminal issues and also surrendering this club to people who come in pretending to be sponsors.
“We are doing something right now to get a true partner and CAPS United Football Club wishes to apologise to the nation for getting involved in such a transaction in the first place and we promise to ensure that such a thing will not be repeated again.”