Low fan attendance at PSL matches: What is the problem?

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Talking Football with Lawrence 

When Dynamos coach Tonderai “Stanza” Ndiraya was speaking to the media ahead of his side’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League clash against ZPC Kariba, he was asked about his thoughts regarding low turnout at league matches.

Fan attendance at DeMbare home games has been uncharacteristically low since the local top-flight resumed after the COVID-19 enforced break.

Ndiraya, just like anyone interested in the PSL, admitted that turnout has not been the same.

In fact, the former Warriors assistant coach even mentioned that he usually tells the new foreign players at the Harare giants, that the club attracts huge crowds at matches nationwide, but they struggle to believe him.

Low turnout at PSL matches is not confined to Dynamos matches alone. The scripts of their rivals Caps United and Highlanders, in that regard, read the same.

Only 800 fans attended CAPS’ goalless draw with Ngezi Platinum Stars at the National Sports Stadium, and that is the largest crowd attracted by Lloyd Chitembwe’s men this campaign.

Only 600 fans witnessed their 6-0 demolition of hapless WhaWha at the giant facility two weeks ago.

A lot of factors have been taken into account to explain why PSL matches have had low fan attendance.

Some are of the view that the PSL’s asking price of USD3 for the cheapest ticket is too pricey.

But how can that be the case, considering that has always been the price since the country adopted the multi-currency system in 2009?

How has the ticket suddenly become expensive when it has been the same for the previous 13 years and fans continued to flock in large numbers?

Others, particularly Dynamos fans, insist attending the club’s home matches at the National Sports Stadium is too pricey, unlike at Rufaro.

A DeMbare fan from Glen View, Budiriro, Highfield or Glen Norah requires commuting just once from their respective places of residence straight to Mbare to attend matches at Rufaro.

To watch the Glamour Boys at the National Sports Stadium, though, those fans have to commute to the Central Business District first, before commuting to the giant facility.

While that is a very expensive requirement for most fans amid the prevailing tough economic conditions, it is still tricky to conclude those logistical issues can better explain low turnout at Castle Lager Premier League matches.

Highlanders fans don’t have any logistical problems, but still, turnout at Babourfields Stadium has been uncharacteristically low.

2500 is the highest number of fans who have attended a league match at Emagumeni to watch Bosso since top-flight football resumed.

What that simply means is that there is something else which can explain the poor attendance at PSL matches.

The COVID-19 vaccination requirement could be the biggest contributing factor to fans not turning up for local top-flight matches.

Due to the devastating effects of the novel virus, the government ordered, upon giving the green light for fans to attend PSL matches, that the vaccination card is a pre-requisite.

Vaccination is not mandatory in Zimbabwe, which explains why only 2 767 243 people are fully vaccinated, which is about only 18.6% of the country’s total population.

The irony is that we are in the pre-election season and other gatherings, like political rallies, which attract more people compared to football matches, do not require attendees to produce Covid-19 vaccination cards.

To prove that the vaccination card requirement is an issue, thousands of fans have been attending Northern Region Division matches where it is not required and the atmosphere has been electric.

Should the COVID-19 vaccination requirement be scrapped to allow more fans to attend football matches in the PSL?