OPINION | The problem with our football: Lincoln Mutasa on how to turn the game into a business

Zimbabwe football
We need to treat the running of the club as a business, says Lincoln Mutasa

By Lincoln Mutasa

There are a lot of issues that creep up across the board when we discuss the sports industry in Zimbabwe, but I believe some of the issues are just symptoms of a major structural malfunction.

I am glad when we address it as the Zimbabwe Sporting Industry, because I believe a major problem is that we do not treat sport with respect as the industry that it is.

Over the years, we have observed and witnessed the lack of Goal Congruence across the structural layers of the industry. We have seen a lean sporting industry turned into a top heavy structure which is not proactive to enhance the development of the industry.

Thirdly, I believe another major problem is what I call too much political harvesting and over taxation applied to the industry. They say “success has many mothers whilst failure has many orphans”. You have a situation where the leadership individuals and ruling party are keen to jump on the band wagon of successful individuals or teams in our sporting disciplines to benefit from the publicity politically, and yet they have enacted zero laws to create an enabling environment for the sport to flourish.

That is political harvesting where you reap where you have not sown. This applies across the board for clubs and at national level.   

What should be done?

To treat the industry with respect the numerous levies should be removed or cut drastically and encourage proper taxation which will enable the industry to grow. The top heavy structure which was created by the coming in of the Sport and Recreation Commission was a back door vehicle to siphon money from sporting clubs and create jobs whose benefit is not visible to the clubs and associations.

The industry should be allowed to grow and develop various earning streams across the entertainment and communication sectors, instead of being inhibited by negative policies, numerous levies and culture of appointees who are not often up to speed.

“…time for football administrators to tell lawmakers; free lunches are over unless they legislate for tax incentives…”

– Lincoln Mutasa

I believe we can achieve goal congruence across the layers if we move away from top to down administrators and encourage the reverse where we have less appointees from influential powers but encourage those with passion for the sports to gravitate to the leadership.

What I mean is, an appointee on a sports body if not having been immersed in the sport, will be serving at times non-sporting goals but may be after prestige to build one’s name and targeting board remuneration at the expense of improving and maintaining the prized assets who are the sports men and women. Once we can align the objectives from top to the players, we will begin to pull in one direction and the momentum will push our sports and industry to a much higher level.

On political harvesting, I would urge the industry to lobby the lawmakers that the free lunches are over unless they legislate for tax incentives to enable corporates to benefit from sport sponsorship. This alone will see the industry growing as more sports men and women will be able to access funding to enable them to reach to the 10,000 hours necessary and became masters of their discipline.    

Why ZIFA cannot attract sponsors

Maybe we should ask ourselves why it should be necessary to sponsor an organisation like ZIFA. I believe this becomes necessary if it has challenges in developing adequate revenue streams for sustainability.

Everybody loves a winner and, unfortunately for ZIFA over the years although the national team has done well, the successive boards have tarnished the brand enough to scare away the corporates. From the outside, it appears the current board has started well and has attracted some sponsors, but a lot still has to be done to improve perceptions.

There is also need to treat the industry as a business which I feel has been a challenge especially when you read of the enormous debt carryover. How did we get there? The management needs to take measures to clear the debt so that corporates do not feel they are sinking money into a bottomless pit.

It is very similar to the national predicament where we are heavily indebted to Bretton Woods Institutions, and are now struggling to attract new money. The challenges ZIFA face in attracting corporate sponsorship is the huge debt, a tarnished brand and not treating the industry as a business.

Sport literacy and management

We have cultivated a culture of appointing to administer sport to people who have diverse objectives. Some are there to represent political interests, others to use it as a stepping stone with visibility for personal objectives, and others are there believing they can harvest from the gravy train. This culture has led to the lack of goal congruence across layers.

So unfortunately the people at management at times have limited interest but do have personal goals which are not aligned to the sporting objectives, but more a platform to achieve other non-sporting goals.

How ZIFA can attract sponsorship

There are many strategies ZIFA can employ to rebrand, change corporate sponsorship as well as debt clearance. However, paramount will be to have dependable and accountable administrators who give confidence to potential sponsors that their money will be used well. Another strategy could be to invite me or others to do consultative work for them and help address some of these challenges.

Asiagate scandal – tackling greed

Yes, socio-economic factors do play a part, but paramount is greed. Similar scandals have happened in countries where players are well remunerated, so it may be more than just terrible social economic factors. The ring leaders can also be described as belonging to that group of administrators who come in with unaligned goals and pursue personal objectives which end up tarnishing the sport. 

Dynamos: what I did differently

We need to treat the running of the club as a business. In so doing we have to look after our assets very well; the players and the coaches. There also has to be clarity on the business model being pursued.

During my tenure, we inherited a model which survived on sponsorship from BAT as well as very healthy gate revenues. The first thing we did was to invest in training the coaches, Sunday Chidzambwa and late Obadiah Sarupinda, who we sent to Brazil. On their return, the club harvested many trophies and grew on the continent.

We looked after the welfare of our players, our most valued assets, who ended up with real estate and cars.

We had a vibrant junior policy and developed other revenue sources for the club. Those who wanted to harvest politically, we encouraged them to put up the prize money for us to play.

In a nutshell, we reaped what we had sown. At times one feels clubs are milking cows they do not take out to field. Granted the economy is challenging, but a clear business model will help create other revenue streams.


Lincoln Mutasa, a former player, served as chairman of Dynamos FC through some of the club’s most successful years. He recently spoke to Tatenda Mashanda