Zim's cashless transfer window

HARARE - The past few decades have seen football transforming into immense commercialization across the globe but it seems Zimbabwe has not yet caught up.

Football clubs across the world have grown as organisations. Players have made a lot of money and club owners have made windfall gains either directly or indirectly from investing in clubs.

Every season millions of dollars are being spent by football clubs in player acquisitions, retaining talent, building infrastructure and making the brand popular.

In the just ended January transfer window, English Premier League clubs spent £180 million.

The £180 million transfer bill took the total gross spending by Premier League clubs in the 2018/19 season to an estimated £1.4 billion, the second-highest season ever following record spend of £1.9 billion in 2017/18.
In South Africa, Absa Premiership clubs also paid a reasonable chunk of amount for buying players.

And while in other countries, teams continue to approach football as a serious business it is a different case in Zimbabwe where clubs remain stuck in the Stone Age period.

One would probably crack head to remember the last time a local club paid a transfer fee to purchase a player from another team.

Local clubs have since mastered the culture of waiting for players’ contracts to run out before signing them as free agents.

During the current transfer window ahead of the start of the 2019 Castle Lager Premier League on March 30, clubs have been busy in the transfer market.

However, not a single cent has exchanged hands between two clubs as the financially hamstrung local teams have targeted mainly free agents.

Local football agent Gibson Mahachi said due to the current economic climate, there is not domestic club in the position to be able to pay a transfer fee for a player.

“It’s a rather complex topic. You find that there is no local club in the country that can afford to buy a player,’ he told the Daily News on Sunday.

“Why? Most clubs are incapacitated, they don’t have the money to spend on players and they would rather wait for his contract to expire so that they take him for free.

“Take for instance if Dynamos, Highlanders or CAPS United wants a player from say FC Platinum and if he costs around $30 000; would they be able to pay such an amount? This is largely because most clubs do not have good sponsorship to cover budgets.

“So the only time that a player can move is when he is a free agent when he is not happy with the current team.

“It’s a very sad chapter in our football because our brothers in South Africa have branded their teams very well. Their teams are well sponsored and their league has become one of the best in the world.    

“So yeah, I think it’s more to do with sponsorship. Once you have sponsors, you are sitting on the money that you can use. Here we can only sell players outside the country; locally it’s difficult. I think a lot has to be done to be able to attract sponsorship.”

As a result of this huge activity on the free agency market, a number of players are now resorting to signing one-year deals and no longer commit to long-term deals.

Winger Phenias Bamusi was one of the most sought-after free agents during this current transfer window.

Bamusi signed for Triangle United at the start of the 2018 season from CAPS United and had a memorable year with the Lowveld side.

He helped the Sugar Sugar Boys to a fourth place finish in the league and scored in the final as they beat Harare City to lift the Chibuku Super Cup trophy.

He was also voted to be among the 11 soccer stars of the year 2018 due to his brilliant performances.

However, he had only signed a one-year deal with Triangle and the club tried in vain to tie him down to a new contract.

In the end, the winger returned to CAPS United, a club he had only left just over a year ago, without even a cent exchanging hands between the two clubs.

Ngezi Platinum Stars are considered to be one of the best financially sound clubs in the domestic game backed by their parent company – Zimplats.

According to their latest financial report, the Australia-listed company’s 2018 final quarter revenue increased by 10 percent to $152.9 million.

However, Ngezi Platinum are yet to pay any transfer fee for a player during this transfer window as they are also targeting free agents.   

“Generally, clubs are financially constrained to part with fees expected to be paid to buy any player of their choice,” Ngezi Platinum chief executive officer Nyasha Kadenge told the Daily News.

“I also think it’s a mindset/culture issue which is that this is what we do and that is what we are going to continue doing.

“However, we are going to have to get to a point where we realise we are going to have to spend money to get the quality we want to have or to retain the quality we have too. To be able to do that the Club has to make money to do so.

“Professionalism should be instituted in the way clubs are run. Having the right Human Resources to steer the ship and everything else will follow. Confidence will grow in the market. It becomes easier to attract sponsorship.

“Your players can be the face of different brands. Fans filling stadia, merchandise sales and etc.”

Back-to-back current Zimbabwe champions FC Platinum caused a stir when they were promoted to the top flight in 2011.

They snapped up some of the best talent in the local game but all these signings were free agents.

Midfielder Joel Ngodzo is reportedly to have received a $60 000 singing-on fee when he joined from Highlanders that year as a free agent.

Despite their vast financial resources Pure Platinum Play are yet to break the bank to sign a player from another club.

This transfer window, they have brought in Rainsome Pavari, Godknows Murwira, Lameck Nhamo and Edmore Chirambadare as free agents.

In fact, Chirambadare’s former South African Nation First Division side Maccabi FC have refused to clear him insisting that he still has a contract with them.    

“I think what is lacking from most of the clubs is to have an appreciation of marketing,” FC Platinum spokesperson Chido Chizondo said.

“There are very few channels from which clubs generate revenue which makes it difficult to buy players among other things.

“But I think clubs need to come up with ways to raise funds like looking for sponsorship. As clubs we need to look into football as real business so as to attract stakeholders.”

As one of the country’s biggest clubs, Highlanders are not spared by the economic challenges as well and have also resorted to rely on the free agents market.

The club has already signed Cleopas Kapupurika after his contract expired with Dynamos, Prince Dube and Bukhosi Sibanda have also arrived after their contracts were terminated in South Africa.      

“The sponsorship that is available is limited because corporates struggle to fund marketing budgets where football sponsorship is channeled through,” Highlanders chief executive officer Nhlanhla Dube told the Daily News on Sunday.

“There is very little (if not nothing) television money. The rest of the world makes loads of revenue from this stream. The South African league does very well without turnstile revenue. Our match day ticket revenues distribution does not favour growth of club revenue.

“Resources and their availability limit the renewal of contracts before they lapse and players tend to hold out for contracts to lapse so that they negotiate higher rates with different clubs or the same team.

“Football is entertainment and suffers when there's limited excess money in the pockets of fans and potential fans.

“A lot needs to be done before we can start talking of football as a business in this country. Some of the long term objectives should be to see clubs having their own stadia among other things.

“Things like touchline and stadium advertising should fall in the hands of clubs. Stadium hire rates are very expensive. Councils should allow clubs to hire stadia clean and allow use of all stadia facilities for revenue generation for example tuck shops and advertising space.”

The country’s most successful club, Dynamos has resorted to conducting trials in the hope of finding good free agents to sign.

Due to their success and glamourous history, DeMbare should be at the forefront of spearheading professionalism and breaking transfer records but that is not the case with the Harare giants.

Aces Youth Soccer Academy co-director Marc Duvullard, who has helped the country nurture some of the best talent, said most clubs are unwilling to pay any signing fees to acquire their players.

“It’s a question of quality. There has to be good management from the clubs,” the Swiss coach said.

“As an academy, we have a lot of players requested by certain clubs but the problem is these teams are not willing to pay anything and it’s very sad.

“It will be good for players to grow, have exposure and other things but how about us? You develop the player from as little as eight years but they leave for free.

“It’s really bad. It’s high time we start to take our football seriously if we want to be successful. Professional clubs cannot have players for free. They need to pay. This is not a normal scenario.”

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