Players of seven self-sponsored TNM Super League clubs have gone three months without receiving salaries, a development they say has worsened their struggles for survival.
Mighty Tigers FC, Ntopwa FC, TN Stars, Chitipa United, Karonga United, Mzuzu Warriors and Ekwendeni Hammers have confirmed within the week that they are unable to fulfil their contractual obligations with their players as they have nowhere to get finances in the absence of gate revenue, which is their main source of income.
Currently, the players are relying on Football Association of Malawi (FAM) Covid-19 Relief Fund from the world soccer governing body Fifa. Each Super League player gets K40 000 per month since June.
The players said they were hoping to continue receiving from their clubs besides the monthly stipends from FAM.
“When FAM came up with the Covid-19 Relief Fund, we expected that it was going to be supplement to our meagre salaries and act as a substitute for game bonuses that are not receiving due to football inactivity,” said Tigers vice-captain Christopher Mikuwa.
“While we appreciate the monthly stipend from FAM, we are still struggling to make ends with it alone. It could have been better if we were getting something from the club as well. As you know, nowadays, even renting a better house costs not less than K20 000 and we need money to feed our families.”
Football Players Association (FPA) president Jimmy Zakazaka, who is a former Flames striker, said the clubs are in breach of contractual obligations by depriving the players their monthly salaries.
“It is a clear breach of contract for the clubs to deprive players of their salaries. Nevertheless, it is difficult for us to assist the players since most of them are not registered with the FPA,” he said.
However, the clubs say they cannot do anything to sort out the players.
Chitipa United general secretary Duma Ngoma said since government announced the suspension of sporting activities in March as a precautionary measure against the deadly pandemic, they have not been able to raise a penny for their players’ monthly stipends.
He added that the pandemic worsened their situation as it came at a time they were already struggling to pay their players five-month salary arrears for last season.
“The players just need to bear with us because, at present, we really do not know how we can raise funds. We will have an executive committee meeting in the next few days to discuss our situation and we are pleading with the well-wishers to come to our rescue,” Ngoma said.
Ntopwa FC owner Isaac Jomo Osman, Tigers chairperson Sydney Chikoti and Karonga United general secretary Ramzy Simwaka agreed with Ngoma, saying their clubs face a bleak future and are not capable of raising funds for players’ salaries.
“Life is very hard; as you know, I am the sole financier of Ntopwa FC and I get my money through small businesses that are no longer thriving. Only God knows the future of the team,” Osman said.
TN Stars general secretary Chifundo Kaliwo Nyirenda said they have nowhere to get financial assistance considering that businesses of their individual financiers have also been heavily affected by the effects of the global pandemic.
FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda has backed the clubs for their action, saying while their contractual obligations is to pay their players salaries, they cannot do so when their resource base is has been affected.
“One of the things that compelled FAM to financially support the clubs was to make sure they survive because we know our situation. The clubs mostly depend on gate revenue for survival and if they are not getting anything on that end, they can hardly support their players,” he said.
“It was foreseen that some clubs could face challenges due to their resource base. Yes, it is a contractual obligation to pay salaries, but how can you do that when you are not doing any business? Companies are laying off their staff because they are unable to make revenue. Football is no different.”
Gunda added that the clubs’ actions are backed by law, which allows entities not to fulfil their contractual obligations if there are unforeseeable circumstances such as financial crisis.