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My dearest readers....

When the dearly-departed Premier League of Eswatini (PLE) Chairman, Victor ‘Maradona’ Gamedze (may his beautiful soul repose peacefully), introduced the MTN league first round incentives for both the premier league and National First Division league five seasons ago, it was proclaimed as one of the best innovations in creating sustainable competitiveness throughout the season. It worked like a charm as the league competition became exciting from the start right up to the end. The league stopped being a predictable procession of a one-horse canter. The games stopped descending into an eyesore, forcing some of us to watch because of work constraints or lack of social options. But that was then. This is now. Since the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down from March 2020, life has not been normal as we know it. A lot has changed not only at the way we do things but generally in every sphere of our lives. Therefore, we cannot continue to act like its normal when the COVID-19 pandemic has determined otherwise. This noble and exciting innovation needs to be reviewed for many reasons.


The primary reason is that our teams are financially struggling and need every cent they can lay their hands on to survive. The team owners are struggling to make ends meet or to keep their teams afloat, in particular with only one competition, the MTN league, in existence and without any source of income as fans remain banned from coming anywhere near our stadiums. As it is, it is increasingly becoming difficult how the football industry, which employs quite a sizeable number of people, will survive under the circumstances. We have already seen pockets of disillusionment and real-life challenges in some of our top teams who had to deal with disgruntled unpaid salaries of players; failing to hold training sessions and generally hogging newspaper headlines for all the wrong reasons. When a big team which is fervently supported like Manzini Wanderers becomes synonymous with all these negative headlines, it does more damage to brand football in particular at a time when the economy is on its knees. With all the societal ills, the unfriendly political atmosphere and the economic hardships we are going through as a country, there is seriously need to review some of the innovations which were relevant years ago.


Is the whole concept of the first round incentives still relevant today? Methinks not. Our football teams needs money to survive. They desperately need money to organise themselves and honour the league games. In a league competition where you can only win E1 350 000 yet some of our top teams spend as much as E4 million per season, it does not need a rocket scientist to deduce that this does not make any business sense. Infact it is one of the wonders of the world how these gentlemen who keep the teams afloat manage to spend about E400 000 of their family monies every month to keep Swallows, Highlanders and Wanderers alive. With no source of income or any cent coming through, this kind of arrangement is honestly unsustainable.


That’s why it is important that we consistently review all the ‘good ideas’ which worked in the past because, for starters, our teams need to survive and function right now. The over E500 000 paid as first round incentives for both the premier league and first division could be better used elsewhere preferably as monthly grants for the teams. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in a state of war. We cannot continue doing things as if all is normal. What is the point of having our league rated the third best sponsored league in the COSAFA region when our teams are living from hands to mouth? When the league’s best player gets a lousy E12 000? These are the things that need to be reviewed, pronto. For starters, the first round incentives need to be scrapped and the money can be used as monthly grants for the teams, even if it is as low as E10 000 per team monthly. Some of the teams can put this money to good use.


As it is, the first round incentives seem to be tailor-made for the privileged security forces teams who really don’t even need the money. The first round incentives have seriously become irrelevant if you consider that the National First Division league champions take home a meagre E180 000. As the all-too-powerful South Africa’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) Chairman, Dr. Irvin ‘Iron Duke’ Khoza is wont to say; ‘‘you cannot dry today’s clothes with yesterday’s sun!”  Case closed.

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