The local football fraternity has lamented the losses they will make following the suspension of the TNM Super League due to the coronavirus pandemic fears, but feels it could be a folly to kickstart the season and put lives at risk.
TNM plc and the Super League of Malawi (Sulom) decided to suspend, until further notice, the 2020 season which would have kicked off yesterday after President Peter Mutharika on Friday declared a state of disaster, restricting public gatherings to less than 100 people.
Coronavirus has gone on the rampage, hitting hard on sports around the world and the shadow of the disease hangs gloomily on the domestic football.
Officially known as Covid-19, the fatal virus has already spread to nearly half of the African continent, including Malawi neighbours Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa.
TNM plc, Sulom, clubs and players yesterday said the suspension will affect them financially, physically and mentally, but the dangers that Covid-19 poses cannot be ignored.
TNM public relations and sponsorship manager Limbani Nsapato said although the suspension will have negative impact on the company’s promotions and visibility at matches, there was a need to take precautions.
“TNM as a responsible Malawian company is concerned and sensitive about public health and the safety of Malawians. We are taking all necessary steps to ensure that all people, including football fans, are safe,” he said.
“The league has, therefore, been suspended until further notice. Updates on the re-launch will be provided as soon as they become available.”
Sulom president Tiya Somba Banda yesterday acknowledged that gate collections are a major source of revenue for the league and that broadcast rights deals are an alternative money-spinner, but the suspension was inevitable.
He said the suspension will also put pressure on the Malawi football calendar.
“We will use most of this time to work on governance issues,” said Somba Banda.
Clubs have also not been spared on the losses.
According to Sulom records, the 2018/19 season for instance, clubs made K541 million in gate revenue. No other avenue gives teams such an income.
Silver Strikers board chairperson Victor Madhlopa and Nyasa Big Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga agreed with Be Forward Wanderers general secretary Victor Maunde, Civo United general secretary Ronald Chiwaula and Azam Tigers chairperson Sydney Chikoti that the suspension will have an adverse effect on their operations.
“The postponement of the games will affect all football clubs as we have already spent a lot in preparations for the season. This means preparatory-phase expenditures must continue, wages must still be paid for players and employees that are on contract. Moreover, contract periods will be running out without games and revenue opportunities will be closed. The crucial source of entertainment for many football lovers will also be denied,” Madhlopa said.
“Yet, this will be for the good of the population, as risking the spread of the coronavirus will be deadly.”
On his part, Chigoga said: “We will accept the suspension as a good cause to protect Malawian citizens although the postponement means everything comes to the standstill as a club in terms of football activity.”
Maunde said apart from spending without any activity on the ground, the club’s commercialisation campaign would be affected as their SMS promotion, which rakes in money when the league is in session, will be idle.
Chikoti said they support the suspension because “safety must be prioritised”.
On their part, football players said they will be heavily affected financially and fitness-wise, as they have already been on an off-season break for three months, but they believe it is better to save their lives.
Wanderers’ captain Alfred Manyozo Jnr said the latest development means loss of game bonuses and fitness levels.
“It is going to affect us really bad in terms of fitness and the momentum we had after intense training and preseason games,” he said.
His Blue Eagles counterpart Micium Mhone said players will struggle financially during the suspension, but they are happy that their lives will not be at high risk.
Football analysts George Kaudza-Masina and George Chiusiwa said the suspension of the league is ideal for the good of the players and spectators at large because “prevention is better than cure”.