Econet withdraws PSL sponsorship

Enock Muchinjo


TELECOMS giant Econet Wireless has terminated its five-year sponsorship of football in Zimbabwe through the Premier Soccer League (PSL) with effect from the end of the current

season, it was announced yesterday.


In a statement, the company said the decision to terminate the largest ever football sponsorship deal in the country’s history was taken in response to a row between the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) and the PSL in which Zifa banned the PSL management committee after the league refused to release the contract it entered with Econet to the national association.


“The action by (Zifa) and the subsequent media reports on the issue have brought the name of Econet into disrepute, and we do not want to be involved,” said Econet spokesman Sure Kamhunga.


Econet will however stand by its obligations until the end of the current season.


Kamhunga said Econet directors had reviewed the saga between PSL and Caps United over rival Net*One sponsorship, as well as the latest developments between Zifa and the top-flight league and concluded the Econet name was being dragged into disrepute.


“All we as Econet wanted to do was to help develop football in Zimbabwe in the same way our sister companies are doing in other African countries like Nigeria. It has become clear to us that there are powerful forces in Zimbabwe who do not want us to be involved in soccer sponsorship, and we have therefore decided, sadly, to withdraw completely,” he said.


In order to avoid unnecessary disruptions, Econet has given PSL notice up to December to find new sponsors “acceptable to the relevant authorities”. Sources say government was not happy with Econet’s sponsorship of the top-flight league.


Econet owner Strive Masiyiwa is accused of bankrolling the opposition.


However, Kamhunga said Econet had been working well with the PSL and the clubs.


“This is very sad because we had just got to the stage with PSL where they had sorted out their administration, and we were now ready to pump in money which would reach all the clubs. We hope that another sponsor will work with PSL and finish the work we had started,” he said.


The decision to sever ties with the PSL was made after a marathon meeting yesterday where the Econet management team tried in vain to persuade their board to stay on, arguing that with Econet’s support, Zimbabwe would become a stronger football nation.


Meanwhile, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe chief executive officer Doug Mboweni expressed appreciation for the professional approach of the PSL management committee towards football administration.


Mboweni said Econet had been impressed with the common sense of purpose demonstrated by the PSL leadership. “If this is maintained, it will enable them to successfully identify more sponsors for the football league.
 
We wish them well in the future,” he said.