Malawi National Council of Sports (MNCS) has ordered Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) to introduce club licensing system next season to ensure there are clear guidelines in terms of player-transfer, contracts and club ownership.
MNCS administration manager Henry Mereka made the statement during NAM elective assembly at Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi, saying club licensing is the only way that can bring sanity in domestic netball.
“We would like to see club licensing being established in domestic netball as we need to see orderliness in the way clubs handle players and ownership of clubs should be clearly defined. Everything has a start and we would like to make sure there are proper guidelines that can help netball to be respected in all aspects,” Mereka said.
At present, there are no clear structures to guide netball clubs on players’ contracts and recommended transfer fees. Some clubs take advantage of this loophole to prevent their players from joining other clubs by tagging exorbitant transfer fees, snatching players from poorly-funded clubs without paying development fees and having enslaving contracts that do not benefit their players.
For instance, Tigresses lofty all-rounder Laureen Ngwira has spent over one and a half seasons on the sidelines because Tigresses are refusing to let her join any other club despite the player insisting she wants out.
Alliance Capital Stars wanted to sign her last year aside from offering her a job at Alliance Capital Limited but Tigresses argued they could not release her until her four-year contract, which runs up to 2019, expires. The development frustrated Alliance Capital, who decided to pull out Stars’ sponsorship. At present, there is a similar problem as Kukoma Diamonds are also struggling to take her on board.
But Mereka said such challenges will become history once NAM embraces club licensing as is the case with football. He pledged to assist the local netball governing body on this aspect by conducting research on how netball leagues are run professionally in other countries such as Australia, England and South Africa.
“Netball is a sport that puts Malawi on the international map, where Malawi Queens are the second best team in Africa and sixth in the world. However, the organisation of the sport in the country leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.
NAM new president Khungekile Matiya welcomed the development, but said club licensing is a new phenomenon that requires a lot of time to be put in place.
“We will soon establish a task force to help us on how we can go about the issue because club licensing is a new phenomenon in Malawi netball. It is indeed unfortunate that despite our status on the global netball stage, our clubs have no proper contracts with their players and they run on the absence of executive committees,” she said.
In spite of that, Matiya, who is the outgoing Southern Region Netball League (SRNL) chairperson, said as NAM, they will take it as a priority to sort out Ngwira’s transfer saga with speed.
Lilongwe and Districts Netball League (LDNL) chairperson Charity Malango said club licensing would help to deal with problems within her fold where big clubs entice players from low profile teams to join them but fail to fulfil their obligation of paying development fees.
“This would be a big relief for low profile clubs which invest a lot to develop players yet they get nothing when the netballers are taken by big clubs. Their concerns will be legally binding,” she said.
Nevertheless, Diamonds general secretary Chimwemwe Bakali said NAM should tread carefully on the establishment of club licensing because there are both merits and demerits with the system.
“Of course, we are very far in terms of running our leagues professionally despite netball being an old sport in the country. But we do not need to just jump into conclusion to embrace club licensing without first analysing the merits and demerits of the system,” he said. n