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Franchise Name Dispute Risks Alienating Zimbabwe Soccer Fans

Legal wrangling and controversy have marred the 2007 pre-season of Zimbabwe's Premier Soccer League as CAPS United Football Club and CAPS Football Club battle over the use of the CAPS brand, which otherwise pertains to the corporate sponsor which used to own CAPS United but has recently launched CAPS Football Club.

CAPS United, Premier League champion in 2004 and 2005, took CAPS Holdings to court but was dealt a setback early this week when a judge declined to rule in the matter, saying it was not urgent. The soccer season begins on March 3.

Judges and lawyers are likely to have a field day sorting out the dispute. CAPS United was once owned by Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-traded CAPS Holdings, a drug firm, which spun the team off to Harare businessman Twine Phiri in 2002. It bought the Buymore team late last year and renamed it CAPS Football Club, and has said it intends to use the same green and white colors as CAPS United.

Some say the controversy could displease fans - but analysts say the team that excels will win the loyalty of fans. Both clubs are based in Harare.

CAPS Football Club also has problems with its players, five of whom want to become free agents notwithstanding contracts signed with predecessor sponsor Buymore. But analysts say their position is weak as the franchise included their contracts.

Reporter Marvellous Mhlanga Nyahuye asked former soccer administrator Wellington Dangarembizi for his perspective on the CAPS controversy.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...