It is without doubt that the financial muscle of Super League teams has been tasted and exposed during this time when the world has been hit by coronavirus pandemic.
Most Super League teams are sailing in troubled waters failing to pay salaries to their players. Such teams include Chitipa United, Mzuzu Warriors and Karonga United whereas some teams including Ntopwa FC and Mighty Tigers are struggling to pay players in time as support comes in tits and bits.
Giants Be Forward Wanderers effected 50 percent pay cut after their sponsor-Japanese firm Be Forward Limited-reduced sponsorship package following loss of business due to the pandemic.
It is only commercialised teams, Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strikers who seem free from trouble at least for now. The two operating as companies have not effected any pay cut.
However, MultiChoice Malawi managing director, Gus Banda, said football set up must be re-organised to make it more attractive and competitive to enable teams make more revenue.
“Sometimes the organisation of the local leagues leaves a lot to be desired. If we make the league attractive and competitive that’s when we can attract more other partners to pump in resources,” he said.
However, a local analyst George Chiusiwa, feels football in Malawi is not appreciated.
“The world over, football has evolved from being just a game to a global industry with commercial or business interests being the driver of the sport,” he said.
Chiusiwa asked both Football Association of Malawi (Fam) and Super League of Malawi (Sulom) to effectively market the domestic game and clubs find new and innovative ways to deliver value of the game to the football fans and the corporate world.
“A better quality of the game will attract corporate bodies to venture into football in avenues beyond sponsorship such as branding rights, broadcasting rights, merchandisation, football business consortiums and player image rights. An attractive quality of the game goes with its competitiveness,” he said.
Chiusiwa also feels that the onus is not with Fam and Sulom only but clubs as well.
“At club level, we also need good business practices to ensure that clubs perform better. This requires diversifying the clubs’ revenue structure by focusing beyond the gate revenue; banking on gate revenue is narrowly addressing the revenue challenges of Malawian clubs,” he said.
The pundit has called on teams to consider turning commercial to generate extra income which can help them during tough times like this.
“Football clubs also need to strive to employ people with expertise in marketing, business and sports management to spur on the commercialisation process,” Chiusiwa said.
To enhance the competitiveness of the local game, Chiusiwa feels there is need for football authorities to make some sacrifices.
“It’s important that clubs with a weaker financial position in the elite league be provided with subsidies or seed money to enable them compete better. This will make them retain the best players and have good management and administration structures in line with club licensing regulations. Competitiveness of the team has an impact on the valuation of players on both the local and international player market,” he said.
Sponsorship is another area that needs attention and clear division.
“Consortiums in sponsoring the elite clubs should also be encouraged to bolster the financial capacity of such clubs. We have failed a great deal as a country to consider football as a special type of business. Malawi has failed to regulate sponsorship agreements such that corporates in football view their involvement in the game as charity. This is why sponsors just abandon the game willy-nilly,” Chiusiwa said.
He adds that the issue of monopoly of sponsorship should also be revisited, as it was a huge drawback.
“We also need to lay down good business or commercial strategic plans at clubs, Fam and Sulom. Lack of a strategic business vision in our game has resulted in clubs and the football authorities [Fam and Sulom] aimlessly running our football without any meaningful targets or ultimate goals from the business sense,” he said.
The 2020 season was suspended on March 20 before its kick-off. Maybe it is time for the administrators to rethink and make football attractive and competitive.