The planned reduction of capacity at Super League matches due to novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has jolted Super League of Malawi (Sulom) to intensify other avenues of reaching out to the masses.
While elsewhere, having fans in stadiums is out of question for now, FAM has opted to propose a drastic reduction in the capacity to half.
Sulom president Tiya Somba-Banda supported the idea; saying ‘one size fits all’ approach cannot work in Malawi context.
“Playing in camera is viable but the most viable option in our case is reducing the capacity in the stadiums so that, we can impose social distancing in the stadium. For instance a stadium capacity of 5 000 we can reduce to 2 000. Since this will mean reduced number of people, we will increase the gate charges,” he said.
Somba-Banda also believes the social distancing at football matches can work to the Malawi football industry’s advantage.
He said: “This is an opportunity for us to grow our game on television and radio. We don’t see this as a stumbling block. The fact is that despite the social distancing measure, people would still want to watch the games on television or listen to the games on radio.
“Besides, it’s not only television and radio. There also other channels that are used for people to watch football which we must use to the maximum so that people still enjoy football,” he said.
“Basically, it is not about convincing the media houses, but for the industry to realise that we now have a prime time in football. The masses will not be able to go stadiums and watch matches, thereby making the other channels of watching football lucrative.
“We have seen how political parties have exploited the use of live streaming political rallies to over 50 000 viewers. Football can even surpass such figures.”
With Sulom struggling to secure an official broadcaster for TNM Super League matches for the past four years, which results in games being sold on piece meal basis, soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda, says Sulom will have a tall order substituting gate revenue with television rights.
“This is something that Sulom has struggled to achieve under normal circumstances. Do they think it will be easy now with the economic challenges brought by Covid-19? Malawi football will struggle under such circumstances. In the absence of gate fees as a source of income, what other options are left?
“This is the more reason why Super League has to go the commercial route because today we would have been talking of a fall back being on SuperSport funds as those leagues that qualified to beam matches on the network do. Teams benefit well from that source. But continuing with socials football isn’t sustainable at all as we have seen during the prevailing coronavirus,” he said.