FAM does not prefer Bingu National Stadium for Flames matches sanctioned by CAF and Fifa because the stadium’s permanent perimeter adverts infringe on the football governing bodies’ contracts with their sponsors and partners, it has emerged.
The 45 000 capacity Bingu National Stadium has hosted four Flames matches against Morocco, Comoros Island, Madagascar and Lesotho since it was opened four years ago while Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre, in contrast, has hosted 11 games during the same period.
CAF and Fifa, who are in partnership with several companies such as Total, Orange, Coca-Cola, and MTN, require that stadiums hosting the matches should be free of adverts, a development Bingu Stadium cannot guarantee.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) took the Flames games back to Blantyre after Kamuzu Stadium reopened and the venue has hosted matches against Cameroon, Zambia Under-23, Zambia (women’s), Botswana, Botswana Under-20, Swaziland, South Sudan, South Africa Under-20, Mozambique (women’s), Kenya (women’s) and Zimbabwe (Under-20 women).
The Flames have five upcoming African Cup of Nations (Afcon) and Fifa World Cup qualifiers against Uganda, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Mozambique, but unless the situation on adverts changes, the stadium cannot make the grade.
The development has resulted in Bingu National Stadium struggling to be self-sustainable as government had planned when it built the facility through a concessional loan amounting to $70 million (about K50 billion) to be repaid in 20 years.
Though the facility gets K6 million every month from the government, it is not enough to pay utility bills and maintenance.
FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda confirmed that Confederation of African Football (CAF) rules and regulations do not allow them to stage matches at a venue that infringes sponsors and partners’ rights.
He said: “It’s like when someone is renting a hall for a wedding. You expect the hall to be empty and you bring your own decorator. That is the idea in football advertising and marketing.
“What CAF or Fifa want is a stadium that is free of adverts; a stadium that is unblemished so that it is not in conflict with sponsors’ exclusive rights.
“We have discussed this issue with Bingu Stadium management before and they promised to rectify the problem.”
Soccer pundit Kelvin Moyo noted that Bingu National Stadium is losing out due to its archaic advertising medium.
He said: “The Bingu National Stadium is a modern facility that needs to have digital advertising boards. Nowadays, people use digital perimeter boards. Actually, it’s not only CAF or Fifa that will have problems with having games played there.
“Even if Malawi hosted the regional Cosafa Cup that would be a problem. For example, if you have mobile service operators advertising on fixed boards and the competition is also sponsored by another mobile service provider, then you will have problems,” he said.
Director of Sports Jameson Ndalama confirmed having discussed the issue with stakeholders, including FAM.
“The thing is that it was an oversight when we were opening the stadium back in 2017. We were not supposed to have such permanent adverts painted at the stadium,” he said.
Ndalama, however, said government is now considering alternatives so that it is in line with the requirements.
He said: “Some of the contracts with the advertisers are still running while the others expired.
“Government is considering other forms of advertising other than permanent painted ones. “We will either use temporary boards that can be dismantled or go digital.”