20 for 20 with PlaybyPlay Inc’s Munya Mwenye

The sports business. It’s a very diverse business, you can be known for being an athlete, a coach, or that person who helps athletes reach their peak physically, or the person who whispers their injuries away, you can even be known as the voice that defines a sport, better yet you could be that person who scouted that star way before anyone knew who he/she was. There are many lucrative avenues one can take in the industry and boy are they rewarding if you reach the top of any one of the avenues.

I had the pleasure of interviewing one individual who alongside a passionate co-founder and a competent staff are looking forward to rising to the top of the sports agency world in Zimbabwe. Better yet I have the privilege of calling him a friend, Mr. Munya Mwenye.
Join us for his 20 for 20 as he profiles the good work they are looking to accomplish at Play by Play Inc.

1PM: What is PlaybyPlay Inc and how long has it been in existence?
MM: PlaybyPlay Inc is a full service sports,music and entertainment company, that looks at managment of talent in the form of athletes and artists with a focus in the events space. It has been functional since November 2019.

2PM: Tell us about your role at PlaybyPlay Inc and if you can kindly introduce your team to us too?
MM: Ok so myself and Willard Kachere are the co-founders and our roles are more of business development on a day to day running of the business. We also have Kevin Mwenye, Nyasha Mapuranga creative strategist, Juluian Shiriyedenga legal, and Ephraim for all things graphical.

3PM: Behind every successful business, there is a good reason that has to wake up the top brass every morning. What is a good reason for you?
MM: As PlaybyPlay Inc we wakeup every day hoping to take one step forward to unlocking the relationship between athletes/artists and corporates. Most people in Zimbabwe have this mindset of believing that sports/music are just a hobby. Yet they are two multi-million dollar industries. We as PlaybyPlay Inc aim to help our athletes and artists receive the recognition and respect they deserve as well as creating an environment that inspires the next generation of stars to take these industries seriously. These two industries deserve to be seen as legitimate career paths for our talent Zimbabwean youth across the globe.

4PM: How would you describe the sporting landscape in Zimbabwe right now?
MM: I would say we are very much behind in terms of sport. We lack the right infrastructure for Zimbabwean sport to thrive, we need more grassroots programs that create an ecosystem that goes all the way to the national teams of each discipline. Added to that we also lack professionalism, from administrators, coaches all the way to players in most of our sporting codes.

5PM: How does the current sporting landscape affect Play by Play Inc as a business?
MM: The status quo in Zimbabwean sport affects PlaybyPlay Inc in a number of ways. As PlaybyPlay Inc we look to thrive on events, and to have these events there has to be clearance from various boards/unions. And in most cases, one has to pay a bribe just to get clearance for an event that will benefit their own union.
Another issue we face is because of the way sport is run in Zimbabwe, the lack of transparency between some unions and many sponsors makes it difficult for industry players such as PlaybyPlay Inc to get the much-needed sponsorship we need for events.

6PM: What according to you would you say are the measures the government, stakeholders and citizens each can take to change the status quo if any?
MM: For us as a business we believe that sport in Zimbabwe just needs to start being taken seriously. We need the government to buy in and implement proper programs from the grassroots level that filter all the way up to the national team. Make Zimbabwean sport a priority and a tool to counter the scourge of unemployment in the country, to whatever extent possible. In the same vein government, and stakeholders should facilitate proper selection criteria for aspiring national sports association administrators and minimum requirements for these individuals. And we are talking about simple things here, one can be to become an administrator oneshould have a sporting background or at least academic merit within the field. This together with transparency and well-documented programs will prove the level of sports in our nation to attract sponsorship.

7PM: Who are some of your clients in the sporting side of your business?
MM: I am happy to say we represent Zimbabwe cricket stalwart Ryan Burl and Zimbabwe rugby captain Hilton Mudariki.

8PM: Do you believe there is a need to regulate businesses such as yours? There have been some stories globally of sport agents fleecing their clients, closer to home you hear such things. What are your thoughts on this?
MM: I dont believe there is a need to regulate the business. But laws just need to be put in place that protect the athletes. I have heard of agents taking as much as 20% from athletes from either endorsement deals or club movement which is wrong. With managing athletes The athlete becomes the business. But what then happens to the business when you are looking to break it? The better a business is run the more attractive it becomes and the more revenue it generates. That’s the same thing with athletes. Have their best interests at heart, grow them and dont take advantage of them

9PM: Which sporting code do you wish you could represent the most as an agency?
MM: Football definitely. It’s the main reason I decided to study sports management. It’s the main reason I got into the sports business, so it’s only natural I feel that one day we have a hand in that particular sport.

10PM: How would you rate the talent identification mechanisms in the Zimbabwean sports scene?
MM: I think it’s really good I must say, I am proud of the mechanisms in place at the moment but there is room for improvement. We as a nation are facing challenges we then go wrong is nurturing that talent and exposing it to the right environment that allows it to grow.

11PM: A few years ago high school sporting circles were beaming with sporting talent across many sporting codes. How would you rate the current crop of talent in Zimbabwean high schools?
MM:To be fair our high school system is way better than our club systems. It’s more competitive and has a huge following. It’s sad this year we couldn’t experience much of high school sport with Rugby being the biggest and most supported.

12PM: Which sporting association in Zimbabwe would you say is the worst run association?
MM: The Zimbabwe Football Association definitely.

13PM: As PlaybyPlay Inc, I know that one of your missions as a business is the unlock Zimbabwean sport’s commercial value. Tell me more about this, what does it mean and how critical is it that you succeed at this?
MM: It’s very critical to us actually, that is one of the reasons PlaybyPlay Inc was formed. We would like to bring the viable commercial aspect of sport to the country and help people realise that there is a business side to the world of sports. Willard and I were very fortunate to go beyond the Zimbabwe’s borders for our tertiary education with Willard schooling in Australia and myself in South Africa. Being exposed to the sporting environments in these countries made us realize what the Zimbabwean sporting industry was lacking, the professionalism that was required, and how critical the support from corporates actually is to sports. We then had a single-handed approach driven by the desire to create an environment that becomes attractive for corporates to get involved and look to support sport in the country in whichever way they can. We also look to make brands out of our athletes. It’s very sad how a Zimbabwean cricketer can go to a country try like Bangladesh and not be able to work freely but be escorted with security because of fan appreciation whereas in Zimbabwe they can literally walk in town and no one will even notice them.

14PM: What is your plan as PlaybyPlay Inc to unlock Zimbabwean sport’s commercial value?
MM: We will aim to manage, create relationships with corporates, and run transparent projects that are successful and well documented giving corporates value for their money. Added to that we will also aim to make sure our athletes become brands that the corporates will look to be associated with.

15PM: How many years will it take for this unlocking of value to take place in your opinion? And what if any could be possible accelerators and decelerators of this process?
MM: To be honest with you, I dont know. Zimbabwe is in a tricky economic climate and unfortunately, any success in the sporting world will be enjoyed if the economy is thriving. However, our goal is to make a difference no matter the economic climate. It’s our mandate as the new generation to make a difference and bring the change that is needed and inspire the next generation. It won’t happen over night but we believe we can make it happen.

16PM: What is the current value of the Zimbabwean sporting commercial sector? Can you estimate or are there any calculated figures you can use as a reference?
MM: I can’t really give an accurate figure of the current value, but its evident from the performances of various sporting associations, leagues, and some athletes that they are struggling. There’s hardly any support from the corporate space, there is little to no investment going into clubs/franchises so any valuation could be very disappointing to say the least.

17PM: What is the best run sports league in Zimbabwe?
MM: The best-run sports league in the country? That’s a tricky one. I’d probably go with Premier Soccer League as they usually fulfill most of their fixtures and they are consistently securing sponsorship for their league.

18PM: Which sporting code would you say has the most talented individuals in Zimbabwe, which sporting code would you say has the hardest working individuals in Zimbabwe, and which sporting code would you say has the most potential to develop world-class talent in Zimbabwe?
MM: The most talented sporting code would have to be rugby we have so many quality rugby players especially in schoolboy rugby. If we had a proper system for our club rugby and a rugby franchise system then results in players earning and making a living it would stop talent from giving up and looking to seek greener pastures in different countries or completely stop playing as the sport isn’t really practiced “professionally ”
Hardest working would have to be hockey. The hockey league hardly gets funding nor does it get exposure. But the players constantly work hard and fulfill their fixtures in current environment.
And the code with potential to develop world class talent is cricket. Already Zimbabwe has produced some of the finest cricketers in the world however due to the union being in debt over the years they have struggled to continue with various programs that were in place many years ago. I have read they are almost debt-free now due to the works of the current board which I will like to applaud. Now I’m sure they will be able to reinstate the programs that saw a book in quality high schoolers who were developed from national U13 setups to the national team in the early 2000s.

19PM: What would you say to anyone who has been thinking of going into your line of business?
MM: My advice would be follow your dreams. You will find people who will talk you down about your idea as it’s not something that’s been tried and tested in the country. However every business starts from somewhere. Its up to you, your determination your passion to achieve it. When strive started econet. No one believed it would reach the heights it has reached So go for it.

20PM: Its the year 2025 and what is happening at PlaybyPlay Inc?
MM: In 2025, I’d say I hope to be less hands-on and the business grows to an extent where we are able to touch many lives. I hope to at that time to focus more on football God willing, while having managed to create a monopoly on the rugby and cricket space in Zimbabwe. Ultimately, for PlaybyPlay to be one of the biggest sports music and events companies in Africa.

Philani Mukwakwami

FOUNDER

Sports are a hobby horse of mine, what happens in-between the lines is just as thrilling as what happens outside of them.