The Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has said Be Forward Wanderers will be given the preference to join the 2018/19 CAF Champions League following recent calendar changes in the continental club tournaments.
Last month the Confederation of African Football (CAF) confirmed that the periodicity for continental club competitions will run concurrent with the European calendar beginning in September and ending in May the following year.
The domestic top-flight TNM Super League runs from April to December, which means by the time the champions are identified, the continental club championship would already be underway.
But FAM acting competitions manager Casper Jangale on Friday played down fears of a possible ‘crisis’, saying: “As it is in the short-term, the right for participation will be given to the preceding champions and, therefore, in this case, priority will be given to Be Forward Wanderers, again.
“In the event that they are not ready, then it will be their runners-up, who were Nyasa Big Bullets, and if they, too, are not ready, then the third-placed team [Silver Strikers] will jump into the fray.”
As for the CAF Confederation Cup, he said Carlsberg Cup winners, Bullets, would be given priority to take part.
“Carlsberg Cup is now considered a national cup, but this will have to be reviewed because even the Fisd Challenge Cup also has a national element since it is competed for by teams at district and regional levels.
“So, the [FAM] competitions committee in liaison with the executive committee would have to review and make a determination,” said Jangale.
Kamuzu Barracks are holders of the Fisd Challenge Cup.
Jangale also said the review will include scrutinising teams to determine their capability of taking part in the continental tournaments “because there is a possibility that we could block a team which is capable of meeting the conditions”.
Wanderers chairperson Gift Mkandawire on Friday said they are willing to take part in the continental club championship for the second year running.
“Of course, we had some challenges in terms of finances due to our sponsor’s decision to withdraw their financial commitment at the eleventh hour because they had some concerns and it is something we need to discuss.
Wanderers were eliminated from the Champions League in the preliminaries by Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) side AS Vita on 6-1 aggregate. They lost the first-leg 4-0 in Kinshasa before going down 1-2 in the second-leg at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe on Wednesday.
“But this time we will ensure that everything is in place. It is something that we will discuss with our sponsors and all stakeholders and then plan properly. If we had started some of the initiatives we had in good time, we could have made progress, but then our other challenge was that we did not have enough time as we only sealed the title a few weeks before deadline for CAF tournaments’ registration.
“So, in a nutshell, we have learnt our lessons and next time our planning will be better,” he said.
Reacting to FAM’s determination, Bullets chief executive officer Fleetwood Haiya said: “This is a good development and I hope our football governing bodies will also consider changing league calendars so that we can be in line with most of the countries in the region i.e. South Africa.”
On his part, sports marketing consultant Felix Ngamanya Sapao hailed FAM for the decision.
“That’s the way forward and I hope same criteria will be used in Confederation Cup. Ideally, the league sponsorship should also include as a package for CAF participation and likewise in the national cup,” he said.
Sapao also suggested the need for FAM to change its calendar so that it is aligned with that of most African and European countries.