Stadia owners say they will only accept to have football matches played at their venues without fans when football restarts if FAM commits upfront payment for hosting games and maintenance costs.
Initially, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) wanted to restart with reduced capacity, but following an upsurge in new Covid-19 cases, the association has ruled out playing with fans.
However, only three TNM Super League clubs—Civil United, Silver Strikers and Blue Eagles—out of 16, own stadiums while the rest use facilities owned by Ministry of Youth and Sports, district and city councils who claim that they were not consulted on the matter.
But FAM Covid-19 Task Force says it is in the process of consulting all stakeholders before the football resumes.
Mzuzu Stadium manager Paul Kachililka said playing without fans will only be practical if FAM pays up front a hiring fee and maintenance costs of the stadium.
“The Mzuzu Stadium is a source of revenue for Mzuzu City Council. There are maintenance costs that come with hosting football both before and after the match. If we are to host matches without supporters, then FAM and Sulom will have to pay us for such costs upfront,” he said.
Mulanje Park Stadium manager Memory Baluwa said playing without fans would pose challenges for the facility’s owners Mulanje District Council.
She said: “Playing without fans will be challenging to us because we spend a lot of money just to keep the stadium in good condition. Without gate revenue where will we get money for this? Is FAM going to provide funds?”
Baluwa also proposed that FAM should consider the stadium staff who will be working during the matches at the stadium amid Covid-19.
“We have staff employed by the council to work at the stadium. Will there be risk allowance?” she wondered.
Karonga Stadium manager Wilson Ngwira said apart from the extra costs of maintaining the stadium, playing without supporters would require more security.
He said: “I understand FAM is saying they will explore having matches on television. But what FAM should know is that we are in rural areas and not many can afford television. Besides, not all games will be televised. In our case, we anticipate supporters giving us problems when we have matches.
“Some will definitely want to force themselves into the stadium. We don’t have the capacity to stop them. FAM will have to help us in ensuring there is tight security so that the safety of our property is guaranteed.”
The stadia owners, who get 25 percent of the gross gate collections, have also accused FAM of not consulting them when coming up with a decision to resume football.
“We are just hearing these things in the media. We were never consulted,” said Kachilika.
Baluwa said FAM needed the buy in of stadium owners before going ahead with the proposal.
“Right now we don’t know anything apart from what we hear on social media. I hope FAM will engage us so that they hear our views on the matter,” he said.
Kamuzu Stadium manager Ireen Mkoko said they were also not consulted but will wait to hear from their superiors Ministry Sports and Culture on the resumption of football.
FAM Covid-19 Task Force chairperson Chimango Munthali said they will engage the stadium owners once it is clear when football will resume.
“It’s an ongoing process. All stakeholders will be consulted so that we get their buy in. The stadium owners will be consulted through the office of the FAM Club Licensing which right now is working on the cost of playing matches without supporters,” he said.
The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 is expected to decide when football can resume after FAM Covid-19 Task Force presented a roadmap towards restarting football.