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E-tickets are solution to stadium fraud

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DISTURBING and shocking events continue haunting the local football fraternity yet efforts to maximise revenue, through gate collections, are hampered and undermined. Issues related to poor gate collections, gate-fraud and counterfeit tickets have always been making headlines in the local media year in year out.

Last year, after the Football Association of Malawi (Fam) Charity Cup between Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers, ticket-fraud stole the limelight when counterfeit tickets bearing the same serial numbers were posted on social media implicating some officials from Fam who were involved.

That incident was only a tip of an iceberg as not long ago, the football fraternity was hit with a familiar case of suspected gate fraud when Bullets hosted rivals Wanderers in a TNM Super League match on October 3, 2015 at Kamuzu Stadium.

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After the match, K16 million gross was realised from the gates and the figure raised eyebrows considering that the first round encounter between the two giants, which had a similar capacity, saw a record gross of K26.8 million being collected.

The Daily Times on October 5, 2015 had back page headline: ‘16m derby gross raises eyebrows’ and three days later the same paper carried a story that Bullets players had boycotted training demanding the removal of three officials who were implicated in gate fraud.

The officials, Mabvuto Chibambo and Bruce Tambwali, were later removed and they were cleared early this year of any wrong doing because of lack of sufficient evidence. The incident did not spare Wanderers camp too as the then supporters secretary, Paul Mphepo, and treasurer, Chifuniro Chimlambe, stepped down to pave way for investigations after being implicated in gate fraud.

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In the midst of the controversy, a 24 year-old, Bullets supporter, Ronnex Wataya, who is a Computer Programmer, read an article in The Sunday Times which had a teasing and questioning headline ‘How K7m grew wings from the derby.’

He was then aged 22, and decided to invent something to get rid of gate fraud to allow major stakeholders especially the players and teams to get a lion’s share.

“It was disturbing to learn that even some police officers, cashiers and supervisors were caught red-handed at some gates, helping fans get into the stadium through fraudulent means. I was further shocked that the firm that was hired to handle the gate proceeds, just dumped the money after the game without reconciling with tickets allocated to each gate,” he said.

Using his Information and Communications Technology (ICT) expertise, the young Bullets supporter has invented Droidfix Smart Ticket Android and Desktop Application that can help end gate fraud. His invention comes at a time when major sports stakeholders have not been looking within but abroad to get an e-ticketing system which seems to be the ideal situation to end gate fraud.

“Droidfx is an individual startup firm. I launched Droidfx technologies in 2014 with a purpose to provide mobile and desktop technological solutions through development and implementation of software and web services. Droidfx Smart Ticket is available on both android and windows platform, since the world is going mobile now hence I also invented Droidfx Smart Ticket Android Application,” he said.

Wataya said Droidfx Smart Ticket is an NFC Application that writes and reads data in an NFC chip/Tag by simply tapping the phone on the tag, and turn these tags into tickets, the information written into the tag is automatically saved into database that can be accessed by the admin and every operator who is using the app somewhere during any kind of operation.

“The information is also automatically written into CSV/Excel like format in the mobile external directory just to keep raw track of the data for references,” he said. Wataya said upon reading the tag, the app automatically checks the information found in the tag and looks for match in the database if found the app notifies the ticket is valid, if not found it notifies as well the invalidation of the chip. He said the world, including Malawi, needs to embrace his innovation to overcome gate fraud.

“Unfortunately here in our country regardless of multitudes that do love and watch soccer in our respective stadium, still the teams do not get enough from gate collections. The current method allows the people assigned to the gates to easily pocket the gate collections and corrupt officials also take advantage [of the situation] to pocket the cash submitted by gate collectors. Using these recyclable tickets instead of cash for entry on the gate will be easier for the board and teams to monitor the collections,” he said.

Wataya presented his innovation at the Information and Communications Technology Association of Malawi (Ictam) Innovation Forum at Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi in December last year. Ictam President, Wisely Phiri, said it could be a good idea to embrace this innovation but it requires a multi stakeholder approach.

“I think despite the innovation solving a well-known problem, it failed short of winning an award as there were equally good innovations from other innovators. Currently the gates at the stadium are being manned by people. “You need gadgets to be installed that will be opened only when one swipes his card which will have the e-value based on what amount is in the card.

If we still have people at the gate, there will be corruption even with people who do not buy the cards. These stadiums are not owned by the clubs hence the stadium owners are supposed to invest in the automatic control system at the gate,” he said.

Phiri also asked Wataya to consider adding more to his innovation by interlinking with the banks and mobile banking solutions like TNM Mpamba and Airtel Money.

“However we believe the best solution is to remove the hard cash from the transaction chain so that someone can pay electronically,” he said. Wataya said it was simple to interlink his application with money service providers as long as they enter into agreement.

Currently the cost of e-ticketing system from foreign countries is estimated to be around K300 million for major stadiums whereas Wataya has offered his innovation at around K30 million if his firm provides the services and at K50 million if a company buys his application. It means purchasing of other tailor made gadgets to be fixed across the stadiums Malawi could save slightly above K150 million if they buy Wataya’s innovation. Apparently, the development comes after the government launched ‘Buy Malawi Strategy’ which calls for stakeholders to buy services and products made in Malawi. Spokesperson in the Ministry of Sports, Simon Vundula, said it was possible to buy from Malawi if the product satisfies basic requirements.

“If the product meets all the factors then we can consider it. At the moment, we have entrusted Malawi National Council of Sports with the responsibility to look into e-ticketing issues to curb fraud at the gates and help teams realize maximum revenue,” he said.

At the moment, Wataya’s innovation might be overlooked when scores of unpatriotic officials continue to reap where they did not sow.

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