How local football has been affected by COVID-19

Sadate Munyakazi, the president of Rayon Sports says that their budget has been hugely affected by suspension of the football league. / File.

Just like many countries across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every sphere of life, and pretty much everyone has a story to tell about how much they have been affected.

We have seen how the economic and social life of people has been altered by the recently imposed countrywide lock down in Rwanda.

Socially speaking, football and sports in general has felt the effects of the pandemic– and these range from struggles to have funds to maintain the teams, to scenarios where different individuals that have gone jobless due to the impasse caused by COVID-19.

Sportsmen started feeling the pinch as early as March 15 when the Rwanda Football Federation announced that matches will be played behind closed doors, and only a couple of days later things became even more serious when all sports activities and events were halted when the country registered its first COVID-19 case.

To date, with literary no sports activity going on in the country, it is not just the clubs that are languishing due to no gate collection; but referees, ticketing officials, among others that used to make a penny on match days are also on the receiving end of the troubles.

In an interview with Times Sports, Sadate Munyakazi, the President of Rayon Sports shed some light on the woes.

“90 percent of the money that Rayon Sports uses is from our fans, and it is mostly collected at stadiums,” he said.

Munyakazi says the club used to get at least Rwf15 million from gate collections every month, and now, their budget has been hugely affected by suspension of the football league.

“We are financially confronted by this situation. We have to find a way to pay our players, because they have contracts with us, and we are obliged to give them monthly salaries.”

To this effect, the club has come up with a campaign to raise funds from its fans during these hard times.

Since Saturday last week, the club has collected about Rwf2.5mf million from its fans. This is just a small portion of the 20 million they hope to raise, but officials say it is so far not faring badly.

Rayon Sports’ and other clubs’ troubles are however just one facet of a big problem: many other actors in the game are losing money, and among these are service providers like hospitals who used to be paid for ambulatory services on match days, vendors who used to sell drinks and snacks inside stadiums, ball boys, ushers for VIP seats, and transport companies that used to take players to stadiums.

24 matches have been played so far in the Rwanda Premier League, and clubs remain with only six matches to go. The season was meant to be concluded by May 31, but now, officials are not sure when the league will end.

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