Malawi government on Wednesday warned Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and Super League of Malawi (Sulom) against banking on the Kamuzu Stadium, saying it cannot say how long the facility would remain open.
The news threatens the harmonised soccer calendar which is expected to run from April to December 2013.
Malawi’s Minister of Youth and Sports Enock Chihana said he could not fully guarantee the stadium’s availability for the entire season.
“They can continue using it until we start the major rehabilitation. That is a government facility. It neither belongs to FAM nor Sulom which are private entities. If we want to have a public function, we can have their fixtures cancelled,” Chihana said when asked about the start of the renovations.
The minister said they will only know the schedule of the renovations after deciding on the right options among Private Public Partnership, using government money or seeking Parliament’s approval for a loan.
“We only allow them to use the stadium in view of the challenge of venues. But it is just a privilege for them and not a right,” Chihana argued.
Sulom general secretary Williams Banda on Wednesday admitted that they had not sought government’s assurance on the stadium’s availability, saying they have demanded teams to indicate two home venue options.
“If the stadium is option A, yet there is another event, we will automatically switch to option B. The issue of the stadium goes back to the clubs. They are the ones who own venues. We are just facilitators,” Banda suggested.
FAM chief executive officer Suzgo Nyirenda said he would come back to the reporter when contacted for his comment. He, however, had not done so by the time we went to print.
The stadium is home to clubs such as Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers.
Bullets general secretary Higger Mkandawire on Wednesday said he expected government to consult on the next closure as the facility “is for communities to which the teams belong”.
Government’s closure of the stadium last October following a recommendation from engineers for safety purposes led to the birth of Concerned Supporters, headed by Mabvuto Chibambo, who pressured government into reopening it after cordoning off in December.
In the latest development, Chibambo challenged Chihana.
“If they are private entities, government should tell us who owns Wanderers and Bullets. These are public teams. They are teams for the people who pay taxes. Government should provide the teams loan guarantees for them to build stadiums instead of pushing responsibility,” Chibambo said.
Recently, Bullets and Wanderers’ chairpersons Malinda Chinyama and George Mkandawire respectively challenged government to create conducive policies for clubs to own stadiums. Chihana had then absolved government of the blame for the earlier stadium closure in September.
“He needs to realise that Bullets and Wanderers are considered as community clubs; hence, they are not protected by law. There is need for government and FAM to push for the enactment of laws whereby teams can become independent entities. It is certainly not a healthy statement coming from government,” Chinyama told The Nation of December 24 2012.