As the TNM Super League kicks off next weekend, the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) says it anticipates a substantial drop in revenue due to the current social-political and economic environment.
Sulom general secretary (GS) Williams Banda said they expect the patronage of the league games to drop just like last season during the presidential election campaign period.
“Last season we experienced a drastic drop in the patronage as the country was busy with the tripartite elections campaign. We also expect the same in the first round and may be until the political situation improves,” he said.
Ministry of Health and Population has also warned people to stay away from public gatherings such as sports events in the wake of the corona virus strain that is spreading fast across the globe, a development Banda said would also impact football patronage.
The GS said they also expect a drop in media coverage of the games as media houses prioritise political parties’ rallies coverage which coincide with league games during weekends.
“Last season, most media houses preferred covering political rallies at the expense of buying broadcasting rights for Super League matches. We expect the same thing to happen this season,” he said.
Interestingly, the same media houses owe Sulom K40 million from last season’s Super League matches broadcasting rights deals.
“Some of them owe us the broadcasting rights dues from 2018 season,” Banda said. “This has also affected our revenue collection.”
Consequently, Sulom owed clubs their share of the broadcasting rights from back in 2018 which they had to struggle to settle.
“We had to use other sources to pay all the clubs their money. Right now we don’t owe any club,” he said.
But it does not rain but pours for Sulom as the National Football Referees Association (NFRA) has also hiked officiation fees by 10 percent.
Following the hike, Sulom now has to pay K160 000 per game plus food and transport allowances for a set of four referees which is up from last season’s K84 000.
NFRA general secretary Chris Kalichero confirmed the development, saying it was due to the rise in cost of services.
“We had to revise the fees upwards after meeting with our Sulom counterparts. Actually, we wanted to go higher than 10 percent but we understand the problems our friends are experiencing,” he said.
Last year, the referees went 10 months without pay and Sulom ended up with K10 million arrears for the officials who threatened to boycott the last games of the season.
The arrears were settled early this year after NRFA threatened not to officiate 2020 season games.
Banda attributed the failure to pay the referees to the low revenue collected last season.
“As you are aware, the referees fees are not factored in the TNM sponsorship. We use gate revenue, club affiliation fees and broadcasting fees to pay them. So, one problem leads to another,” he said.
Banda said this year they will be strict on gate management and broadcasting rights to avoid accumulating arrears with referees.
“The forecast is not good. The only solution is to ensure we have prudent gate management and also be strict on broadcasting rights.
“Only those that have paid upfront will be allowed to broadcast the matches. Those that owe us will have to settle the arrears to access the 2020 games,” he said.
Meanwhile, clubs say they expect the situation to improve after Football Association of Malawi (FAM) organised a business symposium at Mpira Village.
Nyasa Big Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga said the symposium was an eye opener.
“If we could practice what we discussed at the symposium, we can transform our league. I am sure we can come up with other ways of realising revenue such as forming partnerships with other stakeholders,” he said.
Be Forward Wanderers general secretary Victor Maunde said the onus is on the league-runners and clubs to implement idea that were discussed at the symposium to change Malawi football’s financial problems.
EXP Africa Agency sponsorship director Stewart Masela, is facilitated the workshop.
Masela has worked with Absa, where he oversaw sponsorship with the Absa Premiership, Bafana Bafana, the Springboks, Absa Currie Cup and Springbok Sevens.
He also has a wealth of experience from SuperSport, where he worked as general manager, corporate affairs.