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Playing for peanuts

During the week, Silver Strikers came so close to making domestic football history as the first elite football club to withdraw from a national competition that did not make economic sense.

Silver’s economist Chairperson, Ralph Tseka’s letter to Football Association of Malawi (Fam) General Secretary, Suzgo Nyirenda, before the withdrawal was crystal clear: participating in the inaugural Fisd Challenge Cup was more costly than the K10 million champion’s prize money at stake.

Before this withdrawal that never was, Tseka felt they could rather streamline their participation in the TNM Super League, whose prize money is K15 million.

“…Silver would not be able to fulfil Fisd Cup fixtures due to financial constraints as the cup competitions are costly as compared to the prize money. We wish to concentrate on the league games,” he wrote to Nyirenda before the U-turn.

Given a platform, all Super League teams would echo Tseka’s sentiments that participating in all domestic cup competitions makes little business sense.

Just a hazy picture of Silver’s earnings this season versus what they are likely to spend.

Silver will earn K5 million for finishing as Carlsberg Cup’s runner-up after losing 4-5 on post-match penalties to Be Forward Wanderers last month.

Silver also have K15 million league championship money to fight for. Each club also receives K1 million grant from the league’s sponsorship by TNM.

Gate collections also earn clubs money. Roughly, Silver are likely to realise K16 million from league gate collections this season.

Super League records indicate that in the first round, out of the K239 million which the 16 teams realised, Silver were the third highest earners of K8, 741,370.31.

Additionally, from the Beta TV rights’ deal, Silver—all things being equal—should alongside other teams earn some money this season.

Silver hardly sell players so they cannot expect much income from such transactions. The sale of replica jerseys proved a challenge for the Bankers.

If Silver were to sweep all silverware this season, they would earn K35 million in prize money from all top-flight competitions.

Plus the other sources of revenue, roughly it means that Silver this season will earn an estimated K40 million.

Not enough for a club, which receives over K40 million sponsorship annually from the Reserve Bank of Malawi.

How about the Bankers’ expenditure?

If anything, this season Silver must have spent over K5 million when buying players such as Thuso Paipi, Levison Maganizo, Brighton Munthali (from Premier Bet Wizards) and Chisomo Mpachika from Dedza Young Soccer.

The Bankers’ wage bill must also be roughly over K500,000. Put together, all the figures justify Silver’s reasoning that it was costly for them to participate in the cup. In fact, participation in all cups and the league is at a loss.

On the world stage, clubs do not survive on gate takings but largely on broadcasting rights, the sale of replica jerseys and naming rights, among others, according to

“A club’s income is generally generated from three main sources – Match day income, player transfer fees and TV broadcasting rights (particularly for Premier League clubs),” reads the website.

Unfortunately, in Malawi the football/sports industry is so small. Lack of structure and professionalism mean that local clubs survive on gate takings, which are also at the mercy of fraudsters. And the sharing system of such collections is also problematic.

It is for this reason that Silver, alongside Nyasa Big Bullets and Wanderers’ recently voiced their concern on the gate sharing system that sees government getting its share (25 percent of net) yet its sports policy arm, Malawi National Council of Sports, also pockets five percent from the same.

However, the clubs are their own biggest enemies. They are not organised and lack legal ownership to run like business entities. Little wonder, money meant for a club goes into wrong pockets.

Super League of Malawi’s (Sulom) report titled Survey Report on Income Maximisation released in June 2004, by the then Henry Chibowa-led regime, agrees that domestic teams do not lean on the pillars of good governance.

“Hosting teams are not accountable to anyone, not even Fam, not even Sulom and not even their sponsors as regards the money collected at the game. To the sponsors, they only provide a financial statement on what was sponsored and not the collections,” reads the report in part.

There is also a long way before clubs can start benefitting from TV rights as the economy is so small and so squeezed for a luxury that is football.

Sulom president, Innocent Bottomani, however sees a brighter future for clubs.

“The growth of Super League lies in live TV coverage; anything short of that holds no future,” Bottomani stated in his manifesto of February 2015.

The sooner that wish becomes a reality, the better.

Otherwise clubs such as Silver are playing for peanuts.

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