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Gates of fraud

How the syndicate works

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ON BAIL—The Suspects

The fight against gate fraud will never be won if there is no overhaul in gate management to deal with a syndicate that has become complex, Malawi News can reveal.

According to our source, a former team manager at one of the Blantyre giants, there are multiple mafia groups that operate at football venues, with Kamuzu Stadium as the hub of gate fraud.

The source alleged that club officials, supporters, stewards, policemen and women and stadium officials were part of the syndicate.

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Despite the arrest of four gate cashiers and their two directors over the alleged theft of K437,000 at the end of the TNM Super League match between Mighty Wanderers and Sable Farming, the syndicate will continue raking in large chunks of gate collections if left unchecked.

“Forget about the people who sneak into the stadium; a lot of money is stolen at the gates through well organised arrangements.

“The first group has duplicate tickets. These ones sell their tickets first before they start selling allocated tickets for the match on the day,” he said.

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The source said another syndicate is established during pre-match meetings, where stakeholders make plans for the match.

“During pre-match meetings, others with sinister plans create camps to achieve their goal. In this case, security personnel and cashiers agree to let in some people at a cheap cost.

“Imagine some refuse to work at certain gates while others refuse to work with people they are not familiar with. They opt to work with people they know too well or those they have strong ties with to achieve their ill motive. The money is usually collected by an individual and shared at the end of the match.

“At times, they don’t issue receipts or tear them to show that payment has been done and the ticket has been used. One of them collects all the tickets that haven’t been cut and goes outside the stadium to sell them at a low cost. For instance, a ticket of K2,000 can go at K1,500 or K1,000,” he said.

The source said another group uses its muscle to force some people into the stadium.

“If you can observe keenly, you will notice that some well-dressed people do not enter the stadium but loiter around the venue. They use their power to force their clients to get into the stadium at a small fee compared to the gate charges and yet veterans with Fam [Football Association of Malawi] identity cards are denied entry,” the source stated.

Additionally, the source alleged that most gate management firms are related to club officials.

“Gate management firms must be investigated. You will be shocked that most of them have strong links with officials of the big teams. There are cases where gate management companies goof big time but they have never been held accountable for their mess,” the source said.

The revelations come few days after Super League of Malawi (Sulom) held its long awaited annual general meeting at Mpira Village, Chiwembe Township, in Blantyre last Saturday.

Sulom President Tiya Somba-Banda said, following resolutions they made at the AGM, they were in the process of setting up a taskforce to come up with measures aimed at addressing the problem of gate fraud.

“Delegates to the AGM agreed to form a taskforce on gate management,” he said, adding that clubs were supposed to submit names of the taskforce by close of business yesterday.

However, Bullets Chief Executive Officer Suzgo Nyirenda, who has been speaking on behalf of the clubs on various issues, confessed gate fraud was a cartel which cannot be easily broken.

“As I said earlier, gate fraud involves a syndicate which means it can have members of every stakeholder available at the stadium. We need to be vigilant in this fight.

“For instance at Bullets we have introduced advance ticket sales to overcome gate fraud. Our tickets have holograms to easily identify counterfeit ones. We came with this measure in absence of e-ticketing,” he said.

National stewards chairperson Pascal Nkuta also corroborated the statements, saying others manipulate the system.

“As stewards we are supposed to monitor and check the stadium before the match and also search spectators as they are going in. However, when a steward leaves his or her role it is enough to raise suspicion. We also encourage fellow stewards to be straight. We worked jointly with the police when four gate cashiers were arrested,” he said.

Kamuzu Stadium Manager Ireen Mkoko said their staff cannot be part of gate syndicate.

“No member of our staff can be involved in gate fraud. They know that once they mess up at the gates it will definitely cost them their employment. Our staff only supervise at the gates,” she said.

South West Region Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Beatrice Mikuwa backed her colleagues saying they cannot be part and parcel of the syndicate.

“The police is available at the games to provide security. We arrested those four people because our officers were on ground doing their work. We just need support from all stakeholders to overcome gate fraud,” Mikuwa said.

The development comes at a time when stakeholders have been calling for an electronic ticketing system.

Former Wanderers General Secretary David Kanyenda said lax of control systems such as absence of electronic turnstiles create a fertile ground for fraud.

“Lack of personal integrity on the part of those assigned to man the gates is another influential factor. Lack of adequate monetary resources on the part of fans, combined with high gate charges, may impel folks to cut corners in order to watch their favourite teams

“Part of the solution to maximize match day revenue entails sale of advance tickets even on a season long basis,” he said.

Silver Strikers Board Member George Kaudza- Masina, speaking in his personal capacity, said gate fraud was a complex syndicate which cannot be easily broken.

The former Football Association of Malawi acting General Secretary said the biggest challenge was that gate fraud involves people who matter in football administration and their accomplices.

“Gate theft has always been there but formal arrests and persecution have never happened. There are known cases where people have been arrested with concrete evidence, unfortunately, people running the game have always been on the forefront facilitating for their release.

“This criminal syndicate is so complex as it involves a lot of players from football administrators, club officials, stadium management, security agencies, stewards and the owners of the companies assigned for gate collections,” he said.

Masina agreed with our source that most of the gate management firms had links with the big teams.

“The most annoying and unfortunate thing is that most of the so called directors of these gate collections firms are just a fraud as behind them are kingpins who like operating from the background.

“It will take ages to make good of gate fraud as the decision makers of our beautiful game are part of the syndicate,” he said.

Masina said going forward; e-ticketing would be the solution.

“Even selling tickets in advance, these criminals always find a way to produce their own tickets. Otherwise, if those arrested are left for justice to take its course, it might scare these unpatriotic people who most of them solely depend on gate fraud for their survival.

“It has also to be appreciated that these thieves are so dangerous that they can kill anyone coming their way. This gate fraud is equivalent to drug cartel which involves a lot of people who are respected in society but conducting criminal activities,” he said.

Recently, Minister of Youth and Sports Richard Chimwendo- Banda told our sister paper, The Daily Times, that they were working with the Malawi National Council of Sports to speed up the implementation of e-ticketing.

“We are working with the Malawi National Council of Sports to speed up the process. As a matter of fact, e-ticketing is one of the reform areas. In the past it was lacking resources but we are working with treasury to secure resources to kick start e-ticketing. Very soon we will update the public on how far we have gone,” he was quoted.

For two days, Chimwendo Banda did not pick our calls to update us how far the process has gone.

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