The Presidential Cup has been hit with low registration at district level with some sections attributing it to the hiked registration fee which has been pegged at K5 000 (about $12) each club, up from K1 000 (about $2.56) last year.
The cut-off point for registration at district level is today [Saturday], but as of on Friday, just a few teams of the targetted 2 000 had registered in all the regions, raising fears that this year’s competition will have few teams.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) last week justified the 400 percent registration fee hike at district level, saying it was done to meet the high cost of living that has seen the budget of the competition soaring to K70 million (about $180 000) from K60 million (about $150 000).
FAM competitions manager Casper Jangale and Southern Region Football League (SRFL) vice-general secretary Kingsley Simbeye confirmed the low registration on Friday.
According to Simbeye, as of Friday morning, Blantyre, which last year registered 85 teams, had registered three teams.
Jangale said apart from the South, the situation is the same in the Central and Northern regions.
Former Youth Development and Sports Minister Symon Vuwa-Kaunda has since asked for government’s intervention, arguing that the hike in registration fees defeats the whole purpose of the Presidential Initiative on Sports (PIS).
“FAM might have had a point by increasing the registration fees, but then it defeats the whole purpose of the PIS concept which was to encourage as many teams as possible to take part in the tournament so as to identify and develop talent from the grass roots.
“The deadline for registration is tomorrow [today] and yet according to the records that I have, only three teams from my district [Nkhata Bay] had registered as of today [Friday].
“The [K5 000 or about $12] fee is prohibitive and I appeal for government’s intervention. Otherwise, this year’s tournament will not meet the intended purpose as only a few teams will register. We also have to consider the current economic situation and K5 000 at district level is too much. Maybe if they [FAM] could have maintained the K1 000 [about $2.56] fee,” said Vuwa-Kaunda on Friday.
The former minister said being the sponsors of the tournament, government needs to intervene on the situation as FAM only runs the competition on their behalf.
Simbeye attributed the development to the raising of registration fees for district teams from K1 000 (about $2.56) to K5 000 as one of the contributing factors.
“We are moving at a very slow pace and I have strong belief we will have few teams this year. It is only a day to go and I don’t think we can have 50 teams coming just within this short period,” he said.
“Teams that take part in the district competitions are not sponsored and are mostly township teams which rely on contributions from players to pay for registration and other expenses.
“We have to take note that the cost of living has also soared, which means most teams will find it tough to travel and fulfil fixtures.
“But having said that, it also has to be considered that in Malawi, teams have the tendency of registering late. So, probably they will come at the eleventh hour,” said Simbeye.
Jangale said their findings show that the situation is the same in other parts of the country.
But Sports Minister Enoch Chihana said they would meet the organisers mid next week to look into the issue.
“The tournament is organised and run by FAM and, therefore, there should have been reasons as to why they increased the registration fees,” said Chihana.
When he was informed that FAM’s justification was the recent inflation which has led to the high cost of living, the minister said he will meet the stakeholders to see how best they can tackle the issue.
“We’ll discuss the issue on Wednesday and look into the issue and then map the way forward. If the registration fees is indeed the cause for low registration, then we’ll have to see how we can proceed,” said Chihana.
The low turnout could be a blow to the organising committee which expected not less than 2 000 teams to take part in the competition to raise more funds from registration fees.