Contrary to government officials, including President Peter Mutharika assurance that Bingu National Stadium (BNS) would be generating enough revenue, the facility is struggling to make ends meet.
Built with a $70 million (about K50 billion) loan from China, payable in 20 years, the stadium is failing to attract potential top-flight league teams because of high costs to use it.
The facility also faces competition from Silver Stadium, Civo Stadium and Nankhaka ground yet teams are required to make a K2 million deposit to use BNS.
Bingu Stadium acting operations manager McMillan Mwale described the situation as worrisome as they are running the facility at a loss.
“The issue of hosting matches is up to the organisers because we are at the receiving end.
“We spend between K15 million to K20 million per month to pay utility bills for water and electricity. And yet it is not being used to the maximum,” he said.
Apart from not hosting games, Mwale also said it is a challenge to secure high profile matches to generate enough revenue.
He cited the game between Malawi and Morocco in March which failed to raise enough revenue to offset the costs incurred for security, water and electricity bills.
“We also have a challenge as the 25 percent share we get from the net revenue after a match, is mostly on the lower side.
“For example, we received K800 000 from the Malawi and Morocco game yet we use K600 000 for two to three days for water and electricity,” he said.
To address the situation, the manager said they are planning to engage FAM and Sulom to consider hosting games at the stadium.
“We want to meet FAM and Sulom for the way forward because football is the biggest source of our revenue,” he said.
“We were expecting the Airtel Top 8 games to be played at Bingu Stadium, but the competition is now in the semi-finals without any game being fixed so far.”
Speaking during the opening of BNS in 2017, President Mutharika dismissed critics that the stadium is a waste of resources and sounded optimistic that it will be generating enough revenue.
“The stadium is our national pride. This is one of the best facilities in the region. It is one of the best facilities of our time,” President Mutharika was quoted by our sister paper The Nation.
“This stadium is not a white elephant and we will be able to generate enough revenue. We have facilities that can be hired for conferences and banquets,” he added.
Former BNS operations manager Eric Ning’ang’a was also quoted in our sister paper The Nation saying: “The stadium is not supposed to be idle”.
But in 11 months, the stadium has just hosted the Malawi versus Morocco game and the Fisd Cup final between Silver Strikers and Be Forward Wanderers since Blantyre’s Kamuzu Stadium re-opened last August.
Apart from a number of TNM Super League games, Kamuzu Stadium has hosted Malawi against Cameroon, Under-23 against Zambia, Women’s football team, Mozambique encounter.
Reacting to the concern FAM competitions committee chairperson Jabber Alide said the scheduling of matches is determined by a number of factors.
“Some of the things we look at before scheduling a particular match at a particular pitch are the profile of the match in question. Whether high or low, the projected attendance, volatility, the projected costs, availability of essential services, the set up of a fixture; that is if the rules and regulations demand that a game be played on home or away basis then we must schedule at respective teams pitches.
“BNS is a big facility with all the essential services. We shall always endeavour to schedule our matches at BNS in line with the criteria that we use as we have done in the past. It’s a privilege for the country to have such a good facility,” he said.
Alide agreed with the stadium manager for FAM to enter into dialogue on how best they can work together to ensure that the use of the facility is optimised.
Football analyst George Kaudza Masina, who is former FAM acting general secretary, said some teams cannot afford the facility because of their low fan base.
“The stadium is not economical to host matches. The stadium levies are on a higher side for most of the games. Apart from that, most clubs cannot manage to fill the stadium, but operations costs are always constant.
“Even in terms of security, the minimum police demand is at least 50 which clubs feel to be on the higher side,” he said.
“As for the stadium [BNS] owners, they have to revisit their operations costs which are passed on to the users if the stadium is to be relevant, otherwise it will remain a white elephant.
“For the national teams, there is a need for FAM to be marketing their games properly with advertising as a backbone and not depending on gate collections if they are to use the stadium to the maximum.”
Lilongwe Waterboard once disconnected water supply due to a K59 million bill and the facility is currently owing the water Board K153 million, according to Mwale.