‘Case of beggars cannot be choosers’
While local football sponsorship is considered as a donation from well-wishers and companies, some sections have appealed to sponsors and administrators to consider negotiating better deals for prize money for all domestic competitions.
It is a fact that local clubs play football for mere pride as they spend huge chunks of money, fulfilling fixtures but get peanuts at the end of a season.
In a typical tale of a beggar cannot be chooser — local football administrators reportedly do not have bargaining powers on prize money for their respective cups and leagues.
For instance, the country’s top-flight Super League is sponsored to the tune of K95 million per annum for three years, with the champions pocketing K15 million whereas runners-up and third-placed teams receive K7.5 million and K4.5 million, respectively.
The local league sponsorship is on the lower side compared to neighbouring countries, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
For example, Zimbabwe’s Castle Premier League’s sponsorship is $700,000 every year (about K515 million) whereas the Mocambola League is sponsored at around $ 900,000 per season.
In Zambia, MTN sponsors the league to the tune of $ 1.5 million (K1.1 billion) with all top-flight teams getting prize money at the end of a season.
There are 10 sponsors for Mocambola League in Mozambique. Teams enjoy a luxury of flying when fulfilling fixtures in Mozambique.
Domestic giants, Nyasa Big Bullets, Be Forward Wanderers and Silver Strikers, spend a lot of money on squads’ reinforcements, accommodation, transport and salaries.
With the Super League set to kick off on April 14, Bullets have pegged their budget for next season at K480 million.
But even if Bullets sweep all domestic silverware next season, they would not even reach K100 million.
For example, Airtel Top 8 Cup champions get K15 million, just like league champions with the Fisd Challenge Cup kings pocketing K12 million.
Bullets Chief Executive Officer, Fleetwood Haiya, said there was need to review prize money.
“First, I would like to commend the sponsors for investing money in football despite economic challenges. But I hope there is room to consider raising prize money. We spend K15 million on buying a player and his signing on fees. [In view of this], we will discuss such issues during the [Super League of Malawi (Sulom)] Annual General Meeting next month in Mangochi,” Haiya said.
Silver General Secretary, Thabo Nyirenda, admitted that local clubs get peanuts every season.
“Football is business so we need to be serious on prize money,” he said.
But Sulom Treasurer, Tiya Somba-Banda, said sponsorship issues are discussed during contractual negotiations.
“It is a contract that is discussed and agreed upon by both parties during contractual negotiations,” Somba-Banda said.
Apart from the top-flight league, the country’s regional leagues are not spared of poor prize money.
Central Region Football Association (CRFA) league sponsorship has jumped from K10 million to K12 million next season, but Premier Division champions, TN Stars, received K1.7 million, with runners-up Wimbe United pocketing K800,000.
Up North, Simama Northern Region Football league receives K6 million whereas Masters Security Southern Region Football Association league is pegged at K10.5 million with champions getting K1 million.
When asked to comment on domestic football sponsorship in general, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) Commercial and Marketing Director, Limbani Matola, said there was need for administrators to add value to the game so as to attract sponsors.
“You cannot manage what you cannot measure. We need to make football an attractive industry. We need to build a case so as to attract high sponsorship,” Matola explained.
“For the sponsors to pump in more resources, they look at several factors such as governance. But we have to look at football as a benchmark.”
Matola also said Fam wants to ensure that regional leagues sign contracts with their sponsors.
“There were observations that some leagues were engaging in deals without proper paperwork. But we are moving in a direction that all leagues will sign contracts with sponsors,” he added.
On his part, CRFA General Secretary, Bernard Harawa, said sponsors have a final say on prize money whereas SRFA Chairperson, Raphael Humba, admitted that sponsorship is not enough.
So unless, the administrators make football attractive to the corporate world, the officials’ bargaining power will remain weak and teams will still be playing for charity.
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