PSL faces calendar dilemma

HARARE - The Premier Soccer League (PSL) believes they will be able to cope with the new Confederation of African Football (Caf) calendar dates changes which have already come into effect this year.

From 2019, the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals will be held between June and July rather than from the current dates of January to February.

In the past, the African Champions League and the second-tier Confederation Cup took place in a calendar year running from February until November.

For the 2018 Champions League and Confed Cup competitions, similar dates were followed but then the competitions will begin again in December 2018 and be completed by May 2019.

The new regular window for both tournaments will then begin in either September 2019 and finish by May 2020.

The change in dates to all the competitions was approved during a Caf executive committee meeting in Morocco last year, following a symposium on the future of the game on the continent.

“The change is not to fit with European clubs but to match the schedule of more than 75 percent of the leagues on the continent,” the Caf director of communications Junior Binyam told BBC Sport recently.

“This will also allow us to have a player registration period for the Caf competitions that matches the period most countries follow already.

“It will also align things according to the new time line of our flagship tournament, which is the African Cup of Nations.”

As a result of these changes, Zimbabwe which has a season which runs on a calendar year between April and December was forced to find two representatives to take part in the Champions League and Confed Cup which are due to start in December.

In the end, only defending Castle Lager Premiership champions FC Platinum agreed to take part in the Champions League while Harare City declined to take up the offer to participate in the Confed Cup.

In order to conform to the calendar changes outlined by Caf, the local season in 2019 will also need to start in August.

This would, however, bring a new totally big challenge to the PSL because not all of the local stadia have the required drainage and infrastructure to host games during the rainy season.

Zimbabwe tied to adopt the August-May football season in the 1999-2000 season but it was a total failure as rains washed out a number of matches.

At the moment, the few stadia which have a decent drainage include Barbourfields Stadium, the National Sports Stadium and Baobab Stadium.

Not all the venues have terraced stands which expose spectators to the natural conditions when it starts to rain.

Another big challenge which the league is likely to face is finding a competition to keep the local teams busy while they prepare to start the 2019 season in August.

The current season ends in early December which means teams will have nothing to do between January and August 2019.

Newly-elected PSL board of governors chairperson Farai Jere is convinced the local game will be able to manage the crossover to an August-May season.

This is something which is workable. If you look at our league, it starts from April to December; naturally, the rains start from around the end of October,” the CAPS united president said.

“We would like to look at how we would improve our existing infrastructure to make sure that it happens.

“If you look at what is happening, we are already being disadvantaged by the Champions League which is starting in December when our league is still running.

“We had to negotiate with FC Platinum to come in and take that slot based on the championship they won last year and they have already participated on that ticket.”

Jere’s deputy, Lifa Ncube of Chicken Inn said: “One of the things which the Zifa First Instances Body was looking at when they were inspecting stadiums, they were looking at drainage.

“I don’t think it will affect our changeover of the season from April-December to August-May. It’s one of the things that were already in the process of being looking at.”

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