Columnists Features

Increased Super Division to enhance competition


THIS Saturday, Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) councillors are expected to rectify amendments to the association’s constitution which will, among other things, see an increase in the number of Super Division teams from 18 to 20.
The draft constitution that has been making rounds in the public since October 15 last year covers a number of areas that need to be relooked insofar as governing the local game is concerned.
Some matters border on technicalities that even some councillors do not understand. I wish I had the luxury of time to analyse the constitution clause by clause.
For the sake of time and popular interest, I will restrict my discourse to the imminent increase of top-flight teams from the current 18 to a prolapsed 20.
It is worth noting that this proposal comes barely a year after FAZ members increased the number of teams from the previous 16 to the current 18 in the elite league.
The increase from 16 to 18 teams was part of the structural changes the soccer governing body, then under the leadership of the soccer icon Kalusha Bwalya, made “to address key components of football development and the countrywide distribution of the league”.
So, has the goal of “addressing key components of football development and the countrywide distribution of the league and enhancing football competitiveness” been achieved in a space of one year?
Certainly not, a year is too short a period for the fruits of such a major shift in the administration of our league to bear, hence the association should have waited a little longer before they could propose for an increase.
I am no football prophet and perhaps I will never be one, but based on what is on the ground, there seems to be general consensus among councillors that come Saturday, this provision will be passed.
There are still a number of issues that needed urgent attention in Zambian football, and blotting the Super League is not one of them considering the local game is experiencing sponsorship problems.
I recently engaged FAZ former vice-president Emanuel Munaile on the matter and he expressed his own reservation over the same.
“It depends on what they [FAZ] want to achieve, if they want to spread the league across the country and accommodate other teams in regions, then that is the way to go.
“However, Zambia has a lot of problems today regarding the issues of sponsorship. This is emanating from the fact that even companies that have the capacity to sponsor football are not doing so,” Munaile says.
The clubs may be for the ideas to increase the number of teams in the elite league but I am of the view that their sponsors have reservations of their own over the same.
Running an elite football team is not an easy undertaking because it is a costly venture; with the amateurish standards of our game, the profits that sponsors get out of these teams are negligible.
With two more teams added, it means the operation costs of clubs have increased in that they are required to player for more fixtures (from the current 34 game to 38).
FAZ are mute on the issue of the package that teams get at the end of the season. Will it be increased or it will remain the same? If the latter happens, then it means less money for clubs.
All the association has preached over the imminent changes to the structure of the Premier League is that it “will enhance the quality of the game and allow sponsorship to all levels”.
Another former FAZ lieutenant Boniface Mwamelo has fired warning shots about the proposal to increase the number of teams in the Super Division at the expense of other issues.
In a resent exchange of notes between Mwamelo and myself, he  said the association should have spent more time in ensuring that the clubs adhere  to the requirements of club licensing rather than blotting the super league.
He said the increase is unnecessary at the moment as it will only be a burden to the sponsors of clubs and do little to improve the quality of football in the country.
“Changes should be made from bottom up, not the other way round. What people should be focusing on at the moment is issues to  deal with club licensing to enhance professionalism in our game.
“For example, there should be compelling clubs to set up viable youth teams to tap talent at a young age, money should be channelled towards such ventures, not just fulfilling league fixtures,” Mwamelo says.
The past immediate FAZ vice-president says an increase to the number of teams in the Super League is actually against FIFA’s proposal that Zambia should reduce the number of teams to make football viable.
“FIFA once did a need assessment for Zambian football and their proposal was that we need to reduce the number of teams from the then 16 to 14, then eventually to 12 so that we maintain the quality,” he said.
He said he has always been against the increase of the number of teams even when he served as vice-president in the Kalusha Bwalya regime which increased the number of teams 16 to 18 in 2015.
“Last year we had a challenge in finishing the league on time after we increased to 18. If it is increased to 20 it will be worse…those championing the cause of increasing the number of teams have not given any footballing reasoning behind this decision,” he said.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail sports reporter.

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