Its Been An Historic Season

Marketing and Communications Manager Brian Zuma reflects back on what was ultimately a succesful campaign and looks at the challenges lying ahead for the club.

When I decided on a change in work environment, one thing I was very clear about was that whatever I would be doing after leaving the Municipality, it would have to be marketing the City of Pietermaritzburg and contribute to the exposure of this wonderful brand. I am very passionate about my City.

The reason why i joined Maritzburg United as Marketing and Communications Manager, is because i believe very strongly that this club has an overwhelming contribution in marketing our city and exposing the Pietermaritzburg brand, as well as contributing to the economy of our City. We have many big events that are held in our city on an annual basis, and by having these events, our City gets highly profiled.

The difference is that many of them happen either for a day or a couple of days once a year, yet with Maritzburg United, you have 15 home games excluding cup games. A minimum of 24 games are televised either on SABC or Supersport. That is massive exposure brought about by “The Team of Choice “.

The majority of our people, who love football as their primary means of entertainment and socialising, are able to watch live in their own city, their favourite teams like Chiefs, Pirates, Sundowns etc, because we have Maritzburg United. People who live in Cities that do not have football clubs that play in the Premier Soccer League, are deprived of this wonderful opportunity and how they so wish that they too, had a club in the PSL. They either have to travel long distances to watch their teams, which is expensive, or they have to rely on television.

Maritzburg United is a golden asset, not only for the City of Maritzburg, but for the entire province of KwaZulu Natal, in the same way that Amazulu and Golden Arrows are. It is unfortunate that in the coming season, KZN will only be represented by two teams, which means extra costs in terms of their travelling expenses.

This year, history was made at Harry Gwala Stadium. Coincidentally, this happened when the country is celebrating 20 years of democracy, which Baba Gwala, after whom the stadium was named, fought so hard for. On the 11th of March 2014, the Freedom flame that was doing rounds throughout KZN, landed at Harry Gwala Stadium when Maritzburg United hosted Free State Stars. MEC for Finance, Ina Cronje, Msunduzi Municipality Mayor, Cllr Chris Ndlela, uMgungundlovu Mayor, Cllr Yusuf Bhamjee to mention but a few, were part of the government delegation that descended at the stadium with the flame.

For the very first time in the history of Harry Gwala Stadium, a cup semi final, the Nedbank Cup was played there. Let’s be honest, a cup semi final, is the highest level of any cup competition that can be played at our stadium, because a final will never be played there. That game which we played against Orlando Pirates is historic. It also enjoyed dual television coverage, by both Supersport and SABC which translated to viewership of more that 4million people. All eyes were on Maritzburg on that day. What exposure!

As if that was not enough, the following Saturday , the 10th of May 2014, history was made again. The ABSA premiership trophy, was handed out to the Champions, Sundowns, and this was happening at Harry Gwala Stadium for the very first time. What an experience for local football lovers, and again, dual television coverage and over 5 million viewers. Again, massive exposure for Pietermaritzburg. The Msunduzi Municipality must be commended for coming to the party in assisting us to be ready to host these big games. Our supporters who always come in their numbers, we thank them endlessly.

Having said all of that, people do not realise the challenges of running a football club without sponsorship. It is a miracle that this club has been kept afloat for the past 11 years in the PSL. Whilst the PSL grant to the clubs increases slightly once in a while, club running expenses increase every year. Player salaries, flight, transport and accommodation costs escalate all the time. Without a sponsor, it is nearly impossible to keep up.

For any coach to be able to implement his plan and achieve his objectives, and those set by club management, he has to work under an enabling environment. There must be proper training facilities for the club, which will include a fully fletched gym ( even a High Performance Centre for that matter), proper training fields with good surfaces, change rooms and showers, offices and a pool, just to mention a few. Any coach needs to have a well structured development academy in the club.

This allows for him to have a pool from which to draw players which he has an opportunity to mentor whilst they are at the academy. It also provides a source of revenue for the club when they have to sell these players. Without a sponsor or government support, we cannot achieve all of this.

The most successful teams, Pirates and Chiefs, have millions of rands of sponsorship, and all the other teams in Gauteng , Sundowns , Wits and Supersport, they all have massive sponsorships which is why they do well. Moroka Swallows lost their sponsorship, and they were almost relegated this past season. Golden Arrows lost their sponsorship and they were relegated this past season.

About a year or two ago, the Eastern Cape Government offered Maritzburg United to relocate there and use the Nelson Mandela Bay world Cup Stadium as the home ground, with a lot of other facilities including financial support to the club. Maritzburg declined the offer for the love of our City Pietermaritzburg, also with the hope that ultimately, some kind of financial support would come forth. That offer that the club declined, has been given to newly promoted Chippa United, and they have considered relocating to Port Elizabeth because the Eastern Cape Government has given them financial support, they are able to attract players and technical staff that they want.

With two KZN teams left in the PSL, sponsorship for Maritzburg United is vital. Amazulu have a long standing sponsorship from Spar, they are much better off. What about us?

Brian Zuma
Marketing and Communications Manager

What are your thoughts on the recently completed season, do you agree with the points Brian has made? Please use the comments box below....

20 May 2014