RABAT – The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) went all out to ensure the just-ended season was concluded with clubs playing in empty stadiums due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Raja Casablanca emerged the winners in a nail-biting contest which was decided by a single point on Sunday as defending champions Wydad Athletic Club (WAC) finished in second place.
After a four-month hiatus caused by the global Covid-19 epidemic, football resumed in Morocco under strict health guidelines to curb the spread of the virus.
It also meant that clubs would miss out on important revenue generated from gate takings which would mean viability but the FRMF, under the guidance of its president Fouzi Lekjaa, poured millions of dollars into domestic football to ensure that first and second division clubs stay afloat and finish the season strong.
Botola League clubs incurred heavy losses due to the pandemic with big clubs like Raja and Wydad Athletic Club said to have each lost US$3 million in revenue from potential gate takings and sponsorships.
“Playing football behind closed doors, was a hard decision to accept for Moroccan clubs, especially the big ones,” a Moroccan publication quoted an anonymous FRMF official as saying.
On average, Wydad and Raja attract more than 45 000 fans at the 52000-seater Mohamed V stadium. WAC, who have won the Botola league 20 times, have been representing Morocco in the African Champions League for the last five years. The continental competition added significantly to their revenue through ticket sales while the FRMF pays for its travel and accommodation when they represent the country in Africa.
Just last month, the FRMF gave an additional US$100,000 towards the teams participating in the CAF club competitions.
Despite the inability to generate revenue during lockdown, Morocco's topflight clubs continued to pay salaries to players and staff.
“The situation was getting worse for second division clubs and amateur clubs, as sponsors were unable to continue funding them.
The setback badly impacted their financial situations,” read an FRMF statement.
The federation then stepped up to assist the clubs. Through the Federation’s full support, all clubs were able to survive the difficult period.
Numerous Botola club players tested positive for Covid-19 after football resumed in the country. FRMF reacted positively to the situation and supported the clubs financially to isolate their players and staff regularly in hotels and other venues before each match.
“It was reported that between US$25 000 and US$30 000 was disbursed to each first division club, while US$20 000 was disbursed to second division clubs, for this reason,” the FRMF said.
Shortly before the league resumed at the end of July, each club from the national division of amateurs received US$30 000 from the FRMF to be able to resume football activities.
FRMF disbursed over US$1.6 million to all its all lower amateur divisions while the total amount disbursed to referees in different regional leagues reached US$225 000.