FAM and Sulom say they will be strict in the enforcement of social distancing should football resume in August to control further spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
However, this could have a huge impact on clubs which rely on gate revenue unlike in most countries worldwide, where clubs make money through television rights.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) competitions and communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka also said the calendar will run it’s whole duration and end in May 2021, but insisted that World Health Organisation guidelines will apply to ensure safety of players, supporters and officials.
He also said the line up of competitions will be like in a normal season.
Said Zakazaka: “We will start with the Community Shield, then the [TNM] Super League followed by the Airtel Top 8 Challenge as we do every year. It is only the dates that will change, but the programme will be the same. There will not be any compressed fixtures to make up for ‘lost’ time.”
On his part, Sulom president Tiya Somba-Banda, while allaying fears of a compressed fixture, also said they will be strict in the enforcement of social distancing guidelines in the stands.
He said: “The duration of the league will not change. But we will be very strict on enforcement of social distancing guidelines. Everything is in place to ensure a smooth start and at the same time protect players, fans and officials.
“We have been working on how we can start the league running once the suspension is lifted.”
Somba Banda said teams will be given three weeks to prepare for the league.
He said as for the big matches that attract huge crowds, they will control patronage by printing fewer tickets to correspond with social distancing arrangements.
“These are some of the arrangements we have put in place as we seek to ensure safety of all stakeholders. We will have stewards in the stands to ensure the fans observe the guidelines,” said Somba-Banda.
Civil Service (Civo) United general secretary Ronald Chiwaula said they agree with the authorities and urged them to seriously look at the recommendations from health experts.
He said: “To us it’s safety first. We know revenue will be affected, which is painful, but we can’t compromise on lives of people. However, we are not sure how FAM and Sulom will enforce the guidelines. This could be tall order.”
Chiwaula also urged Sulom to meet clubs before the resumption of football.
TN Stars administrator Jones Banda admitted that the guidelines will affect revenue, but welcomed the recommendations on having normal fixture, saying it makes planning easier for teams with limited resources.
“A compressed fixture would mean clubs spending more in a short time and that is not healthy for teams without sponsorship. On social guidelines, it will be difficult because football is an emotional sport and I don’t think fans can be controlled,” he said.
He asked Sulom to call for an AGM to accommodate input from clubs before commencement of the season.
“The best way is to have an AGM so that we can all put across our suggestions and map the way forward so that we can have a successful season, “ said Banda.
Be Forward Wanderers also agreed with the suggestion to have an AGM so that clubs can put across their views.
Nomads’ GS Victor Maunde said: “We applaud FAM and Sulom on the move to have a normal fixture, otherwise a compressed fixture would have affected the players’ physical condition resulting in injuries.”
At its executive committee meeting held on May 30, FAM endorsed the proposal by its Covid-19 task force to resume football in August and resolved to consult government and other stakeholders on how Football can resume “so that we start the season in the safest manner possible”.