Uncertainty about joint prize presentations for Peter Mutharika Southern Region Football League (SRFL) and the Southern Region Women Football League (SRWFL) casts doubt on the future of the Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) interim leaderâ€™s sponsorships.
In the latest development, it has transpired that Mutharika handed over prize money to the two Southern Region leagues, but they are yet to disclose the programme of the prize presentation and why they are buying time.
The SRFL and SRWFLâ€™s â€˜dilemmaâ€™ could be linked to the trouble Central Region Football League (CRFL) counterparts faced with the presence on May 12 at Civo Stadium of the sponsor, Mutharika and his party followers during the regionâ€™s prize presentations.
On Tuesday, Mutharikaâ€™s personal assistant Ben Phiri had no idea why the SRFL and SRWFL are dragging their feet when they have the money.
“One thing is that we handed over all the sponsorship money, which includes prize money to the relevant committees and as to when they will do the finals, it is not our business. Once they are set, they will let us know,” said Phiri.
Resolving the challenges
He said they would exhaust all avenues to resolving the challenges they would face due to political inclinations before deciding that â€˜enough is enoughâ€™ on the three-year sponsorships.
The Nationâ€™s attempt to get answers over the delayed prize presentation drew a blank. The SRFL chairperson Trouble Kalua, whose body the womenâ€™s league claimed to be waiting for the prize giving schedule, has been unable to respond to a questionnaire sent to them last week.
On behalf of SRWFL, National Women Football Committee (NWFC) chairperson Suzgo Ngwira on Tuesday insisted that they were waiting for their SRFL counterparts over the prize presentation.
The uncertainty has forced some to suggest that SRFL and SRWFL are in big dilemma of making good of their earlier commitment to have Mutharika grace the prize giving ceremony.
The leagues made the commitment to invite Mutharika last year when DDP was the ruling party, but with the change of the political climate, the CRFL landed in trouble with his presence at Civo.
Civil Service Sports Club manager Peter Kandikole reportedly demanded reports from NWFC treasurer Winnie Kayuni and CRFL chairperson Dean Josiah-Banda over the presence of the DPP followers at the football function.
In an interview, Phiri confirmed that the two Southern Region football leagues made a commitment to invite the DPP chief to grace the prize presentation.
“We do not want to speculate on the political challenge though you cannot rule it out. This is because those that summoned reports on the Central Region finals have made it clear that they will not allow us in any of their fields, but as I said I do not want to speculate,” he said.
Phiri, however, wondered why other football sponsors are allowed to bring their people, including staff clad in their colours without difficulties as is the case with Mutharika. He refused to say what will become of their three-year sponsorship contract with the football leagues.
“It must be made clear that as long as he is the sponsor of the competition, he will be available at the finals [prize presentation] and so will his supporters, be it political or anybody. If this is a crime then be it; otherwise, we have seen TNM, Carlsberg and many other sponsors parading their products as well as their colours at such functions before. What is wrong with this sponsor?” Phiri wondered.
The SRFL and SRWFL leagues wound up their seasons some time back. In fact, SRFL Premier Division champions, Bvumbwe Research are now campaigning in the TNM Super League alongside their Golden Boot Award winner designate Vincent Chinthenga.
SRWFL champions waiting to receive their dues are Blantyre Zero. Bvumbwe team manager Richard Lister on Tuesday that they were told the prize-giving ceremony would be held at the end of the season and “we have also not pushed for it.”
Mutharikaâ€™s three-year SRFL sponsorship is pegged at K15 million (about $60 000) while the three regional women football leagueâ€™s total package is K19.8 million (about $79 200).
The Northern Region Women Football League hosted their prize-giving ceremony in the sponsorâ€™s absentia as they had not made a commitment to invite him, according to Phiri.
Principal secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Sports Alex Mseka on Thursday said it would be difficult for him to state governmentâ€™s position on “politician sponsors” as there is no report on his desk on the Lilongwe incident.