Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
BULAWAYO-based Premier Soccer League (PSL) teams will play their opening five home matches for free when the season starts as part of Bulawayo City Council’s efforts to assist them since their revenue has been affected by the Covid-19 enforced lockdown.

Bulawayo has four Premiership clubs, Highlanders, Chicken Inn, Bulawayo Chiefs and Bulawayo City.

Ward 27 councillor Siboniso Khumalo’s motion to grant clubs free use of Barbourfields and Luveve Stadiums for their opening five games instead of two matches that the local authority’s finance committee had recommended was seconded, making it a resolution at a full council held on Wednesday.

In May Highlanders wrote to the local authority requesting assistance in raising funds and resources amid the crisis triggered by the pandemic.

Bosso lost their NetOne sponsorship when the mobile network operator decided to end all support for sport to direct its resources towards the Covid-19 fight.

That termination created a challenge in funding the basic function and sustenance of the club, which heavily relies on gate takings, membership fees and player transfers.

In the letter to council, Highlanders’ chief executive officer Nhlanhla Dube expressed fears that problems brought about by the loss of a sponsor might result in the collapse of the club, with players and workers dumping Bosso.

The council’s finance committee chaired by Mlandu Ncube declared Highlanders as a strategic institution, whose existence had an economic multiplier effect.

It said benefits accrued to various organisations directly or indirectly from Highlanders’ existence.

“Recently, Highlanders FC distinguished itself as a responsible institution by embarking on a fundraising campaign to equip Ekusileni Hospital in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Ekusileni was one of the health facilities earmarked as an isolation centre.

“In view of the foregoing, Highlanders could not be allowed to collapse under the watch of the City Fathers. The city had a collective responsibility to intervene timeously to save such a strategic institution,” reads the report.

The chamber secretary had no objections to the finance committee’s recommendation that Bosso be allowed to play their first two home games at Barbourfields Stadium for free to assist in the club’s recovery.

“Although the assistance may not have a big impact in reducing the club’s obligation on one hand and does not appear to be a big dent on council’s finances on the other. It demonstrates council’s desire to save the club,” said chamber secretary.