While football supporters elsewhere contribute towards the welfare of their clubs, Nation on Sunday has learnt that at Be Forward Wanderers and Big Bullets it is selected fans who receive financial rewards.
Wanderers vice-general secretary Chris Kananji and his Bullets counterpart Kelvin Moyo in the week confirmed the arrangement which they described as parasitic to the well-being of their clubs although they feel powerless to stop it.
At Wanderers, the supporters’ committee is entitled to 12 percent of gate revenue after a match as allowance for gate supervision, transport to and from away games and other expenses while their Bullets’ counterparts get 10 percent.
The supporters’ cut is made from the team’s 25 percent take from gross gate collection. The fans have been getting the money for over a decade now but decisions to come up with the percentages were institutionalised recently.
Ironically, while players receive nothing if they lose a game, and frequently complain about unpaid allowances or game bonuses, their ‘passionate’ fans are assured of fat wallets after the final whistle regardless of the result.
Elsewhere, including in the English Premier League and (EPL) South Africa’s Premier Soccer League (PSL), supporters contribute to the welfare of their team through payment of membership fees, organising fundraising activities and buying their teams’ merchandise. Their benefits are mainly the enjoyment and the entertainment they get through their clubs’ performance on the pitch.
“Of course, this arrangement does not exist elsewhere in world football and it was not supposed to be present in the first place.
“However, it is a deep-rooted system that our executive committee already found in practice and it is not easy to stop it because this is where some fans get their bread and butter. They might take any attempt to stop it as a ploy to take them out of employment,” said Kananji
He added that it is also frustrating to note that some fans even demand sitting allowances for attending pre-match meetings.
Moyo said it is unfortunate for Bullets to share their meagre spoils from the gates with their fans, but he argued it will be disaster if they try to immediately put an end to the practice.
“This is really an issue of great concern considering the struggles we go through to sustain the club and pay our players. But we cannot deny that such an arrangement requires to be handled with care for it has been in existence for a long time and it needs more time to make the supporters understand,” he said.
Moyo further said they are trying to slowly replace this trend with some innovations that can help their supporters’ committee to be totally independent and get involved in income generating activities for the team.
Bullets supporters’ committee chairperson Stone Mwamadi and his Wanderers’ counterpart Dinesi Chitsulo admitted the system is not good for their clubs but they are treading carefully in their campaign to make fellow supporters understand.
They said they will have meetings with their colleagues at the end of this season to thoroughly discuss the matter.
Said Mwamadi: “This issue puts us under pressure whenever we think of tackling it. Indeed as supporters we need to contribute towards the well-being of our club. It pains to see how our players struggle financially. However, we need intervention from other stakeholders to help us handle this case. I will leave a happy man if I see meaningful changes in this whole setup.”
According to soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda, this unusual arrangement is somewhat not as bewildering as the determination to come up with a percentage to be given to the supporters.
“The question that arises is this: Is using a percentage the most efficient way to expand the scarce resources? If yes, then one would wish to know whether 10 or 12 percent is appropriate,” said the former Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary.
He said every big sports event the world over requires helping hands but having a situation whereby supporters, some of whom help themselves directly to the money through dubious and fraudulent means, pocket 10 percent from gate takings is worrisome.
“Supporters lending a hand just need honorarium, such as a ‘thank you,’ and not a sort of payment that can make their clubs bleed to death. It is not on to breed a type of racket that has potential to kill the clubs. The flaw is quite grave and it deserves urgent attention before it graduates into an incurable cancer!” Nyirenda said.
He also said in as far as team officials are at the mercy of supporters, it is difficult to effect change.
“Here is a situation whereby the officials are put into positions by the supporters and, therefore, as ‘token of appreciation’ the officials are forced to dance to the supporters’ tune. So, it is difficult to stop the practice unless if the entire set-up is reviewed,” said Nyirenda.