Old and obsolete—that is the message from Fifa security and safety experts to Kamuzu Stadium owners, Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development.
Built as a multipurpose facility, Kamuzu Stadium is no longer capable of hosting any event and UK-based Peter Weymes and Rick Riding from Sports Grounds Safety Authority, feel it is going to take a miracle to revamp the facility back into accessible, safe and comfortable state.
Not that the facility is beyond redemption, but because it has been neglected for decades, resulting in multitudes of safety and security defects.
Basically, the Kamuzu Stadium has a design exported from Great Britain during the colonial era.
The colonial stadiums were built with steep open stands with a portion of the stands covered. This design was long discarded with the all-covered stands adopted to protect spectators from bad weather.
The Kamuzu Stadium also has no specification on whether spectators should stand or seat while modern stadiums have an all-seating capacity.
The stadium seats for modern stadiums are plastic, but Kamuzu Stadium still uses concrete slabs which make controlling the capacity difficult.
The concrete stands are also generally regarded as hazardous in times of emergency.
The stadium’s covered section still has the ancient style of wooden stands that were banned in 1980s due to their susceptibility to fire.
There are no facilities for the disabled, making the stadium not user-friendly.
Modern stadiums have a contingency plan, prepared by the stadium management and sets out the action to be taken in response to incidents occurring at the venue which might prejudice public safety or security or disrupt normal operations. Kamuzu Stadium has none.
The stadium’s venue operation centre (VOC), a designated room or area within the stadium from which all safety and security operations are controlled and managed, is long gone.
But while these may be upgraded so that the facility can have modern safety measures, the cost should worry the sports ministry.
According to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority experts, the capacity is halved.
Conversion costs vary but, the average is $500 per seat.
This means the 30 000 capacity Kamuzu Stadium can be turned into a 15 000 all-seater stadium at a maximum cost of $7 million (about K5 billion).
In the 2017/18 National Budget, government allocated just K1.5 billion for the stadium’s renovations.
Director of sports in the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Jameson Ndalama, said government is ready to accept to the recommendations from the Fifa experts.
He said for now, the decision to demolish the Kamuzu Stadium and rebuilding a new facility, is on hold.
“Our aim is to have a stadium that is in suitable state. That is why we are in the process of purchasing a new artificial turf. As for the other areas, let us wait for the official report from the Fifa experts. We are more than willing to learn from them,” he said.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda observed that it will take more money to reach Fifa standards.
He said: “Mind you, the report from Fifa will be comprehensive and for the stadium to start hosting matches government will have to ensure that it has fulfilled them.
“But can government manage to do that? That is the question. Maybe, the best way is to construct a new stadium rather than spend more money on this old thing.”