FAM president Walter Nyamilandu has admitted that making a breakthrough in television broadcasting rights deals has proven a tall order, saying there is need to explore its viability.
His sentiment comes barely days after Mibawa Television managing director John Nthakomwa said the local television market, which largely relays free-to-air packages, cannot sustain the model which Super League of Malawi (Sulom) is looking for in its drive to identify a bidder for the top-flight league.
Live football television coverage is viewed as the best way for clubs to generate revenue amid the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen games in other countries being played without spectators.
Said Nyamilandu: “We will need to explore the viability of television broadcasting because it has it’s own challenges locally.
“The potential revenue realised from the sale of football rights has proved to be insignificant and does not make commercial sense for both the broadcaster and the [TNM] Super League.
“Secondly, the viability of playing football without fans has to be tested in Malawi. From our consultations with the stakeholders, there is growing resistance by the fans not to play competitive matches in an empty stadium.
“Obviously it is not ideal, but we will need to accept and move on. The problem is that lots of people are still in denial and taking the virus for granted.”
Sulom president Tiya Somba-Banda was not available for comment yesterday.
Football analyst Charles Nyirenda said established leagues elsewhere restarted without spectators because revenue from television coverage is enough to sustain and keep them viable.
He said: “In our case, the football authorities have concentrated on gate collections as their mainstay, ignoring incessant calls for years to commercialise the game. And now they are harvesting from their misplaced faith in money from the turnstiles.
“I don’t know how they intend to deal with the serious shortfall on revenue for the clubs to fulfil their obligations on fixtures because the absence of gate fees and the undeveloped TV revenue source spells trouble, really.
“In fact, one may wish to know whose wishes they intend to satisfy. If clubs cannot get enough money from TV revenue, a thing that has flopped before, what more now with Covid-19 that has hit businesses badly. Honestly, I don’t envy the position football authorities find themselves in at the moment.”
Last week, Nthakomwa said Mibawa Television will not participate in the bidding process for Super League games because they had proposed a different approach which Sulom did not buy.
He said: “We proposed a different arrangement. We need partnerships with a pay TV channel for football. Otherwise, only foreign companies will benefit from Malawian football as they have the capacity.”
The last time the league sold television rights was over three years ago when the now defunct Beta TV won the bid, but the deal fell through because it could not pay the agreed K266 million fee, resulting in a legal battle.
The then Beta TV station manager Theunis Bester said it was practically impossible to generate enough revenue for offsetting the production costs on the local scene.
Clubs from most leagues across the globe generate income through sale of television broadcasting rights.