Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre can no longer host international matches following new Confederation of African Football (CAF) regulation requiring all stadiums to have seats for spectators in the face of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
The development means that the Flames will now have to shift back to the 40 000-capacity Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe for the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
The other stadium with individual seats for spectators is the recently-upgraded 5 000-capacity Mpira Stadium in Blantyre which, however, may not be suitable for Flames high profile matches.
Football authorities have been shunning Bingu National Stadium, arguing that the cost of hosting matches at the venue was higher than Kamuzu Stadium and other venues.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary Alfred Gunda said Covid-19 has brought in regulations that must be embraced for the good of the sport.
“Let’s accept that Covid-19 has brought far-reaching and unprecedented changes in every aspect of our lives. Football has not been spared. We should therefore, expect such changes in the regulations which are aimed at making playing football safe amid the Covid-19,” he said.
A circular from CAF acting general secretary Abdelmounaim Bah, dated July 26 to member associations, outlines a list of requirements that all stadiums must meet in order to host matches.
He said: “CAF has identified main points which are considered as must-have requirements in order for a stadium to be approved for high level matches.
“Where a country’s stadium does not fulfill the requirements, their national team and clubs may be required to play their matches in approved stadium in another country.”
Bah said that for a stadium to be certified fit to host matches it must have a high quality pitch, floodlights in case of evening matches, teams and official benches, individual seats in the stadium, international standard clean and decent dressing rooms, and sanitary facilities for spectators.
The facility is also required to have stadium safety and fire certificate issued by local authorities first aid and treatment facilities; stadium control room with television surveillance monitoring screens, six flag poles, media facilities, four star hotel facilities and a hospital closer the venue.
While, the other requirements have been in place for sometime, CAF has added the individual seats requirement in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic to reinforce social distancing safety measure.
“Seats for spectators must be individual, fixed to the floor, separated from another, shaped, numbered and of unbreakable and non-flammable material and have a backrest of minimum height of 30 centimetres when measured from seat,” reads the new regulation in part.
Kamuzu Stadium has concrete terraces with no designated individual seats.
In addition, CAF has also listed a number of secondary requirements which are considered as obligatory, but in the case of non-compliance, the stadium may be temporarily approved, with specific recommendations and a time-frame given to fulfill the missing requirements.
The continental football governing body has advised its member association to utilise the suspension of football due to Covid-19 to improve the stadiums ahead of inspection.
Director of sports Jameson Ndalama said he needed time to study the CAF circular before commenting if government would fit individual seats to enable Kamuzu Stadium host matches.
But Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said CAF’s new regulation has put to rest why Flames matches should be played at Bingu National Stadium.
He said: “We have always said this. Did it have to take CAF to pump sense into us that Bingu National Stadium is far much better than Kamuzu Stadium?”