Huge crowd, big loss

Petros Kausiyo and Eddie Chikamhi Sports Reporters—

ZIMBABWE’S Warriors showed their pulling power by attracting one of the biggest crowds seen at Rufaro in recent years but the revenue from the sellout turnout still left ZIFA swimming in a pool of debt with the Association reporting a loss. According to an income and expenditure statement released by ZIFA yesterday, the Group L qualifier against Guinea, which ended 1-1, attracted a paying crowd of 25 713, grossing $88 542 but still ZIFA recorded a loss of $12 481.

However, others will question the attendance figures given that, clearly, there were more people at Rufaro on Sunday than the 28 000 who packed Rufaro in October 2012 for the Dynamos/Highlanders league match which grossed $168 000. The cheapest tickets for that game were $5. Yesterday, ZIFA revealed that their expenditure related to Sunday’s big match amounted to $101 023.

It also emerge that a host of creditors had swamped ZIFA after the game given that the Association had borrowed heavily in anticipation of the big crowd. ZIFA had to borrow to pay for the tickets of all the foreign-based players, to fly the match officials from Botswana, give them their match fees and also accommodate them as demanded by the organisers of the tournament.

Premier Soccer League chairman Twine Phiri, who is also a ZIFA board member, went into the cash room soon after the game to collect the players’ bonuses and allowances, which had been promised to the Warriors on the eve of the match. Phiri last night confirmed that he had broken with tradition and went into the cash room soon after the match. “It is true that I went into the cash room but everyone was aware that as a Board we had agreed that we would pay the players immediately from the match revenue.

“When a meeting was held with the players, Prophet Walter Magaya had also made a guarantee to the players that in the event that the match had attracted a crowd not good enough to pay them he would pay the difference and I was tasked by both the Prophet and the Board to ensure that soon after the match we would collect the cash and pay the players.

“I had to stay on until late at the stadium while the reconciliation was being done and so my presence in that cash room was above board and it’s not like all the ZIFA Board members who were at the stadium invaded the cash room to line their pockets,” Phiri said. Reports yesterday had indicated that four ZIFA Board members at the stadium paid themselves $1 000 each, in allowances accruing from last year.

ZIFA communications manager Xolisani Gwesela, in confirming the loss, said the Association, which of late has had to rely on the Warriors’ home matches to make reasonable revenue, was still saddled with the debts.

Gwesela said the amount generated from the gates could not do much for the cash-strapped Association which is reeling under a heavy strain of debts. Player allowances, which included camping and appearance fees, gobbled the biggest chunk after $22 000 was set aside for the purpose while another $12 500 went towards accommodation.

The Warriors were camped at a Harare lodge but no sooner had the game ended that the senior team found themselves in fresh trouble after ZIFA failed to pay for their accommodation and food and the lodge’s management threatened to lock them up. ZIFA had promised to pay Daisy Lodge part of the $11 200 they owe for the Warriors camping costs stretching from the previous assignment against Malawi and the association had committed to paying from the proceeds of the match against Guinea.

But that still fell short and in the end Warriors coach, Callisto Pasuwa, was made the sacrificial lamb with the gaffer being detained as surety that ZIFA would honour their pledge.

According to the breakdown issued by ZIFA, Harare City Council claimed $13 281 for use of Rufaro. ZIFA also paid six percent of gross revenue in levies to the Sport and Recreation Commission while more levies were paid to CAF and FIFA which totalled $11 511 while a host of service providers also lined up to get their dues.

Some of the figures, however, will need a lot of explanation. For $11 096 was paid by ZIFA to a Harare travel agent to secure tickets for the foreign-based players and referees but the figure that appears on the balance sheet provided by the Association, as funds paid for that cause, is $12 500. The ticket refund for Czech-based defender Costa Nhamoinesu was given as $1 900 when in fact the player received a part payment of $1 200.

“The statement was prepared by the accounts department and we trust that they exercised due diligence with the figures. So we stand by what is on the statement as a true reflection of the records,” said Gwesela.

“We are grateful to fans and all partners who contributed to the success of the match. “ZIFA is humbled by fans who thronged the stadium in their large numbers and we would like to apologise for the confusion that surfaced at the entry points. “The Premier Soccer League, Joma, Tanganda Private Limited, Herentals College, Daisy Lodge, Prophet Magaya and his partners all contributed generously towards the successful staging of Sunday’s match,” said Gwesela.

Given that ZIFA rely heavily on the Warriors home games, their last source of major revenue, unless major sponsors come on board, is the CHAN qualifier against Lesotho at Barbourfields next month. This is because the Nations Cup campaign will resume in March next year when the Warriors travel to Swaziland before they host Sihlangu at Rufaro in the same month.

Meanwhile, Callisto Pasuwa has reaffirmed his commitment to continuing contract talks with ZIFA despite the frustrations he has often endured during his spell as both Warriors and Young Warriors coach. Pasuwa is currently working on “a gentlemen’s agreement’’ with ZIFA with no formal contract agreed upon.

The coach’s manager Gibson Mahachi said they would give the association “reasonable” time to come up with their offer. Mahachi also revealed that ZIFA have paid about 90 percent of what they owed the coach, paving the way for contract talks to move into gear. “Now that the match against Guinea has come and gone I don’t think there are going to be major distractions. We have been working to create a platform for the negotiation of the deal.

“We last had discussions with ZIFA about two weeks ago and we resolved to give them time to come up with their proposal, which the coach is still waiting for. “From the discussion we have had and with the way we have been engaging, I think these things have to be finalised soon. We are going to give them ample time to negotiate but we cannot go for another month without knowing exactly what their position is.

“They should come out in the open on whether they want the coach on full-time basis or part-time. So we will not engage anyone else at this moment except ZIFA. But if we don’t get any joy then the coach could be open to other options at club level if he is available. Life has to go on,” said Mahachi.