THE Premier Soccer League is devising more ways to enhance match-day experiences after recording a significant increase in the number of people who paid to watch Premiership games in the 2023 season as compared to the preceding three terms.
Exactly 509 996 fans attended the 306 league matches last year, representing more than a 100 percent jump in the figures recorded in the 2021-2022 season.
Of course, there were restrictions in the number of attendees at match venues due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021-2022, but last year’s figures also dwarf the numbers in both 2018 and 2019 seasons when the world was yet to be plagued by the endemic.
About 442 880 fans paid their way to the stadia in 2018 and that number dropped to 406 247 people in 2019 before coronavirus washed away the scheduled 2020 term.
Only 220 756 people attended the games in the 2021-2022 season apparently due to the limits put in place by the authorities to keep the Covid-19 epidemic under check.
Although the more than half-a-million people present at the games last year presents positivity in the manner in which the Premiership is being embraced, the PSL chefs and stakeholders believe more needs to be done to make the league a preference not an option.
Speaking on the side lines of the PSL pre-season stakeholders consultative workshop in Harare last Friday, PSL chief executive officer, Kenny Ndebele, said they are embarking on a deliberate plan to hear views from those involved in the game.
“Of course, 509 996 people paid to watch all Premiership games in the 2023 season, representing an increase from the previous three seasons, but we still feel that we have the potential to attract more spectators at our games,” said Ndebele.
“This pre-season, we have embarked on a deliberate consultative series with the game’s stakeholders.
“We met with the referees two weeks ago and last week, we were with the PSL teams and this week (last week), we gathered the stakeholders, including security companies, medical teams and the media to hear from them what ought to be done to improve the attractiveness of our league.
“We are planning to meet the fans before the season starts, probably next week or the week after. We also want to hear from them and see how we can implement that.
“We will consider the very valid points raised during the consultations and I am sure they work. We want to involve everyone so that we can make our product the go-to thing.”
Sports Leaders Institute of Zimbabwe (SLIZ) president Russel Maradza Mhiribidi said match-day experience should be made a priority.
“Back in the day, we used to see junior curtain-raising games. People would be at the stadium as early as 11am because they would watch the Under-11, 13, 15 and the reserves for the teams to play at 3pm.
“It was such a phenomenon and imagine how many family members would come to watch their 10-year-old, 13-year-old and 15-year old son playing football at Rufaro Stadium.
“They would obviously not leave until the senior teams play at 3pm. I think that should be considered,” said Mhiribidi.
“I also think the media should play a critical role and make people know who the team stars are and what they say before the games including the reserves and the juniors because they would all play at the same stadium on the same day. It creates some hype and people love that.
“The authorities could as well incorporate some fun including putting up some ancillary games, say during half-time supporters for Team A and Team B can compete in a penalty shoot-out,” he said.
The 2024 PSL season is scheduled to kick-off on the weekend of 1-3 March, exactly a week after the Castle Challenge Cup pitting league champions Ngezi Platinum Stars and Chibuku Super Cup winners Dynamos at Baobab on February 24.
The ZIFA First Instance Board, which inspects stadiums and enforce club licensing compliance in teams, has already started its work, paving the way for the commencement of the season.