HARARE – The country’s three biggest football clubs — Dynamos, CAPS United and Highlanders —are desperately waiting on mobile network operator NetOne to unveil a new sponsorship package ahead of the new season which kicks off on March 30.
Last year, NetOne, through their One Fusion brand, unpacked sponsorship worth US$350,000 for each of the three clubs for salaries and signing-on fees for the 2018 campaign.
NetOne also sponsored two other clubs, army side Black Rhinos and airmen Chapungu.
But it’s the traditional giants of local football who are reeling in financial distress especially with the influx of clubs with strong monetary backing such as champions FC Platinum, Ngezi Platinum, Chicken Inn, Triangle and Harare City, to mention but a few.
Two more corporate-owned sides Manica Diamond FC and TelOne have joined the big league.
Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United are in desperate need of corporate support as they continue to lose their best players in the market to financially stable clubs and may soon fail to compete for honours in the league.
Yet there are fears that NetOne, who gave the clubs a boost last season, may not renew the sponsorship as a result of the difficult operating environment and also because of the change in leadership at the company.
However, indications are that the giant mobile operator would renew the marriage with the football clubs with sources saying that NetOne are mulling reviewing the sponsorship packs downward.
NetOne public relations official Tonganai Watungwa was not in a position to comment on the issue on Friday. It is, however, understood that NetOne are currently deliberating on the matter and should be able to reach a decision by the end of next week.
Dynamos chairman Isaiah Mupfurutsa could not hide his desire for the club to have NetOne on board again this season.
“I’ve always made special mention of NetOne for what they did for us last season in catering for our players’ salaries and bonuses. Had it not been for them, I don’t know where we would be right now or how we would have managed,” Mupfurutsa said.
“Last season we were not doing well and fans stopped coming to the stadium so we did not get much from gate-takings to last us a season.
“The sponsorship was only for one year so the deal has since expired and we haven’t yet discussed whether they are going to renew it or not. But we have a good working relationship so we can’t rule out the chance of agreeing on a new deal.”
Mupfurutsa indicated that the club was not only looking at NetOne for support but had opened doors for other corporates interested in investing in the club.
“We have opened our door to companies who would like to assist us in various ways. We are open for engagement with potential partners as long as we don’t violate the terms of our league sponsor as well as the laws of the land,” he said.
Bulawayo giants Highlanders are also believed to be in talks with a big South African company owned by a Zimbabwean ahead of the new season.
Reigning champions FC Platinum have used their financial stability to good effect having won the last two championship races and remain strong favourites to retain the title this season.
Last year Bosso were the highest ranked among the “Big Three” in fifth place while CAPS United finished eighth with Dynamos being involved in the relegation scrap for most of the season.
And without a strong financial base, the traditional giants may struggle once again.