A vision to fill KZN soccer stadiums

2012-09-17 00:00

BHEKI Gumbi believes that for local football clubs to survive, teams should ensure that the whole family can watch matches in the stadiums.

Gumbi is the former chairperson of the 2010 football World Cup local organising committee in uThungulu District and brought Nigeria to Richards Bay to train.

His formula to persuade more fans to watch home games is to create a KwaZulu-Natal supporters’ association and offer fans a social outing with discounts, options to secure season tickets and transport.

“There are problems within football. When you watch a provincial rugby match, the concept is about getting the people into the stadium early, providing entertainment and having the fans socialise afterwards. This creates supporters and a sense of pride.

“In football this is missing.

“People filter in just before the game starts and leave immediately afterwards. One of the reasons for this is that soccer has not been packaged as a family outing and is seen as unsafe,” said Gumbi.

Added to this was that KwaZulu-Natal supporters showed greater support for Gauteng’s big three — Kaiser Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns.

“A study I carried out revealed that in excess of R3,9 million is leaving KwaZulu-Natal every time there is a derby match in Soweto. This is a fair whack of money. What we also found was that the supporters’ base of local clubs in this province is small in relation to the size of the supporting base in the same province for Gauteng clubs.

“Sadly, when one of the big three arrives on our shores the stadiums have more support for the visiting team than the local side.”

He said this put KZN teams under undue pressure both at home and away.

He warned that should a local club fail to maintain their position in the Premier Soccer League, “we actually create a situation where the big teams will no longer visit, as there will be nobody to play”.

Gumbi said Richards Bay-based Thanda Royal Zulu in the National First Division proved how important it was for a team to have a home ground. He said the uMhlathuze Stadium was often packed.

“I have been touring all the clubs in the province and there is excitement surrounding this initiative.

“We want communities to take ownership of their teams and to walk with them all the way to becoming champions,” said Gumbi.

• zulunews2@feveronline.co.za

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