THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19
Well the soccer industry in Zambia has ground to a halt. 1100 professional footballers have to sit around hoping their salaries will keep coming while the COVID outbreak is contained.
Playing football is an expensive task. Hosting a match can cost as much as K50,000. And that is the host.
In Super Division a match is serviced by a minimum of 20 policemen who cost K150 each. The referees cost around K10,000 a game. Just painting your pitch is a K1,200 job. An ambulance cost K1,000 an hour and you need it for 3 hours. A fire engine costs roughly the same. Preparing a pitch is costly. Unless you have an expert groundsman, it’s a K3,000 to cut grass and ensure a good playing surface. An industrial strength genset uses 100 liters of diesel an hour. The ones at Heroes and Levy use 150 litres an hour. A drum of diesel is K3,200 and you need two a game. The ball boys and girls nowadays get a drink and some biscuits and K20 and you need 10.
If you dont own the ground you have to hire it. The cheapest ground at Super Division Level costs K3,000 an hour. Heroes costs a stupendous K 50,000 an hour. Dont switch on the floodlights they chew money like it is going out of fashion. K6,000-K10,000 an hour.
You need stewards, you need gateminders etc. Add it all up and one can see how a game costs as high as K50,000 to host. K15-K25,000 is the minimum.
Did I mention that Referees can set you back K9,000. In short a league game in 2 hours can generate up to K300,000 in economic activity.
Gate takings depend a lot on the stadium. 1
Heroes for instance qis a sieve. It’s hard to control access. The desperation of the fan wanting to get in for free has to be seen to be believed. In Kabwe the there is a big water tank 15 meters off the ground and fans perch on top. At Nkana stadium there are massive streetlight pylons outside the stadium up to 30 meters high where fans perch. At Godfrey Ucar Chitalu stadium the razor wire is repeatedly flattened by gate crashers and there are steps gouged into the walls which people use to climb into the Stadium.
The biggest revenue maker at a stadium is the VIP area. Most stadiums can seat 300-1000 people there and they theoretically provide all athe profit. By paying K100- K1500 the fans in the Grandstand should generate K30,000 to K150,000 kwacha.
The open wing faithful pay K5, K 10 or K 20 and depending on the stadium capacity can generate K10,000 to K120,000.
Why is grandstand so vital ? For the same cost of sales you can price the same product up to 10 times more than open wing. Your 500 seater grandstand can outsell the 5,000 seater open wing.
Here is where things go wrong. The grandstand can be filled up by a lot of non paying fans. Unlike the open wing fans who will pay their due the grandstand can become packed by non revenue generating guests. The VIPs, the football officials, the referees, the politicians they can wreck your business model. You will find VVIP which you should charge a premium for is completely non revenue generating because all the guests there are non paying.
It is an irony of life that the man in the street pays to watch football but the cream of society fight tooth and nail to get into the stadium free. Some VIPs are fantastic. A certain service chief always buys extra tickets over and above the complimentaries.
The final revenue earner is the concessions. If anyone is making money in your stadium they should pay. From the small time street vendor to the big FMCG they must pay.
The billboards in the stadium if priced right can make money you can place approximately 40 perimeter boards around the stadium and a rent of say K3,000 a month and you have a potential K 120,000.
Another big source of revenue is selling your young players or squeezing every ngwee out of your wily veterans.
Now you are the away team. You need a good bus to take your team and its equipment a long way across the country. The longest haul in the league is from Mongu to Mpulungu and epic 1300 kilometer journey. Lumwana is another. If you are Green eagles from Choma that is a 1000 kilometer journey. Teams who have the wherewithal instead charter planes and fly to Solwezi and link up with the business Solwezi and then drive to Lumwana. However this is where the fun starts the airport at Solwezi does not support night flights. Lumwana is 100 kilometers from Solwezi. Teams petition for matches to start at 1400. Lumwana push back. Their fans only knock off at 1300 from the mine. If kick off is at 1400 they will be late for the game. Emails fly until a deal is struck.
So now you have arrived in the town where you are playing. You need to find a training pitch. Super Division teams get gouged. They get charged K500 per or even higher. Popular training pitches include schools with nice pitches and even in Lusaka a pitch at a commercial farm. Miller Devils an amateur side have a nice pitch. And the club makes a little money on the side renting it out for training g even to the national team.
You also need good accommodation. Typically 20 rooms 10 doubles and 10 singles. Accommodation can easily cost K10-20,000 a night depending on where you are staying.
Nkana FC show wrangles a sponsorship deal with Southern Sun and when in Lusaka teams stay there. Prince Charles is a football friendly lodge. It is not unusual to find three teams there. They can meet the dietary needs of footballers. Thinks have changed nowadays. Teams are on well designed diets and Zambian players have apps to monitor weight and diet.
Let me now talk about the most expensive portion of running a club. PLAYERS. A run of the mill Super Division club has a payroll of K300,000. The super powers have wage bills as high as K800,000 a month. Being a professional footballer is if you make it a high paying job. Top of the line players get K50-90,000 a month. Good players will cost you K20-40,000 a month. Average players have it much harder you can get a salary as low as K3,000 up to K15,000.
Players also get winning bonuses. They range from k1,500 to as high as K20,000 in Champions League. There are strikers who have a bonus for scoring.
Being signed by a big club can change a players life. A 19 year old kid with serious talent can have a contract of say K6,000 basic plus a House in Chilenje plus K150 transport for training every time he comes for training. One player told me how his life changed from walking 10 kilometers every day to training and getting K10 transport he was signed and he moved his Mum from a shanty town to Chilenje and later a Vitz he shared with his Mum.
The ultimate is to sell a player to Europe $500,000 is a massive boost to a Zambian clubs coffers.
Finally playing in CAF. It can make you tonnes of money but it is costly. Airline tickets hotels training pitches etc.
Mamelodi Sundowns, TP Mazembe and some of the Arab clubs are fantastic at organisation. They will hire cars well in advance, organising gyms, training pitches, and they know their way around Lusaka like it’s their home town Pretoria.
The rewards are fantastic after all the costly travelling. Get past the group stage and you can make $2 million a year. ZESCO United have consistently made a profit from playing in CAF.
So the Corona virus has brought this to a screeching halt. No revenue while expenses continue particularly the biggest one, payroll.
1100 jobs at risk. The whole sports ecosystem is at risk. The longer the halt lasts the more the clubs will bleed. Sponsors will be forced to tough decisions.
I just hope we defeat COVID-19 quickly. It could put thousands of people out of work in the Zambian football industry.
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