Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
THE football landscape is set for a change following resolutions made at a meeting convened by the Ministry of Sport and Recreation during the week, some of which will ensure missile throwers are arrested and security costs for clubs be reduced.
Sports and Recreation minister, Makhosini Hlongwane called for the meeting over concerns of violence that had reared its ugly head, particularly concerning Highlanders matches. Two matches involving the club were abandoned in a space of three weeks due to hooliganism.
Sources who attended the meeting said among measures expected to be adopted by Government include assisting clubs in enlisting the services of the police at reduced cost while clubs should be given full stadium hire and the ministry would be at the forefront of assisting clubs weed out political elements masquerading as football supporters.
Police would also be requested to arrest those who throw missiles into the pitch and engage in hooliganism, something that has not been happening in proportion to the acts of violence taking place.
Hlongwane invited Highlanders, the PSL, Zifa and the Sports and Recreation Commission to a crucial indaba at his offices on Wednesday.
In an interview on Friday evening, Sports and Recreation Commission chairman, Edward Siwela said they realised from the meeting clubs would not be able to stem violence on their own as some of the issues needed policy formulation at Government level including local government.
“It should not necessarily be a blame game but collectively as the sporting fraternity we should work together to ensure the environment at football matches is conducive for families to enjoy the game. Clubs need to be imaginative when dealing with violence and while we know club administrators mean well they seriously need to think outside the box in confronting this scourge,” said Siwela.
He said it was critical that fans are identifiable to ensure those causing chaos are isolated and apprehended unlike the current scenario where supporters cannot be identified. Siwela added it was critical to enact prevention than seeking solutions after the acts.
“Security was raised as a big concern and in that light clubs are encouraged to engage marshals who can then work with police to control the crowd. Clubs simply need to do more to counter violence and ensure football is attractive to families,” he said.
Clubs have over the years raised concern over the costs of hiring Zimbabwe Republic Police details to provide security at matches with most saying it was prohibitive, hence they only agree to a lower number than recommended, something which clubs have been rapped for when incidences of hooliganism take place.
In 2014, then Highlanders chief executive officer, Ndumiso Gumede lobbied the police to reduce their costs but was rebuffed by ZRP chief, Commissioner-General, Augustine Chuhuri.
Gumede argued rates as were crippling the already financial burdened local football clubs.
He cited one match in which the police took a bigger chunk of the gate-takings than Highlanders.
Intervention by Government would ensure there are enough security details to deal with crowd trouble.
The provision to give clubs full stadium hire could positively impact on the clubs cash flow as they would rake in more revenue from touchline advertising and vending kiosks. This would allow clubs to be in full charge of what is sold and bottles that can be turned into missiles do not make their way into the stadium.
Despite getting a huge chunk of the gate takings (20 percent) for stadium hire, the Bulawayo City Council has not fortified Barbourfields Stadium to ensure there are places through which people can sneak in and also bring in things such as alcohol and other potential objects.
An absurd situation obtains at the moment where clubs are attracting fans to stadiums but only benefit financially through gate-takings with match venue owners getting more income from touchline advertising and vending kiosks, revenue that is not shared with the club.
Arrest of hooligans has been few and far in-between, an act that is being touted as one of the major deterrents.
Sources also revealed that it was also noted during the meeting that while hooligans may be arrested they are treated as a public nuisance when they go to court and are fined around $10 for their act while clubs would fork out a $2 000 fine. Sources during the week also said the verdict from the disciplinary hearing for Highlanders for the abandoned match against Dynamos was released to “authorities”.
“The hearing process has been completed and finer details are with the authorities who might release them this week.
The problem is that no one wanted to say something ahead of weekend matches, it’s the same idea to say let emotions cool down first,” a source said.