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The Lilongwe Declaration needs review

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Super League of Malawi (Sulom) is set to implement the much talked about Lilongwe Declaration signed by clubs in 2009, but doubts are on the contentious issue of the number of teams from an institution that should be allowed in the Super League.

Back in 2009, The Lilongwe Declaration, following advice from Fifa development officer Ashford Mamelodi, proposed the restriction of teams from one institution in the top-flight league.

Other countries adopted the recommendation and to date, the Super League is the only league in this part of Africa that allows more than one teams in the top-flight league.

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If adopted, the move would see the league runners changing the constitution to cut the number of teams from the same institution and this would largely affect the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) that has five teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Super League of Malawi has said it is keen to have the Lilongwe Declaration implemented.

The current executive committee targeted the implementation of the Lilongwe Declaration when it was voted into power in March.

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Sulom vice president Daud Suleman said ground work had already started.

“We are meeting this weekend in Lilongwe for executive committee meeting and a plan will be agreed there,” Suleman said during the week.

The VP disclosed that they had already started drafting a strategic plan that would be a roadmap to implementation of the Declaration as the league goes professional.

“There has been progress. Draft strategic plan has been done, hence this weekend meeting is the key to unlocking and getting buy-in from the rest of the executive committee,’ he said.

Without getting into details, Suleman, however, said there were issues in the Lilongwe Declaration that needed review.

“There are issues in the Declaration that need to be reviewed given the time difference between 2009 and 2015 plus the clubs licencing activities that have started,” he said.

General secretary, Williams Banda, the only executive member who was in Sulom back in 2009, said the principles in the Lilongwe Declaration were the same as those in the Fam’s club licensing.

“The principles in club licencing and the Lilongwe Declaration are almost the same. The objective is professionalism,” he said.

He, however, was of the view that there was need to define Malawi football based on needs assessment.

“It’s a way to go, but, we need to develop a roadmap. Stakeholders need to make a commitment. We need to define our football in Malawi,” he said. “We need to consolidate and come up with one policy document . We need to have Malawi football policy that is applicable to our situation.”

Sulom’s biggest challenge in restriction of institution teams, is the league’s lack of sponsorship.

Institutions like the MDF have the financial muscle to sponsor five teams while the corporate world looks on teams fold up due to lack of sponsorship.

Meanwhile, MDF spokesperson Lieutenant Paul Chiphwanya said he would have to consult their lawyers before commenting on the issue.

But Former Football Association of Malawi general secretary, Charles Nyirenda, who facilitated the week-long workshop while he was in office in 2009, said implementation of the proposal would face challenges due to changes that have happened between 2009 and 2015.

“At present that is impractical. As a matter of fact, things have become more complicated now. Back then, we had only three army teams and inaction on that front has seen the figure of army teams rising to five with more in each region knocking on the door to join the fray,” he said.

“The solution to this is transforming the game into a business whereby clubs will have owners who are risk takers. As things stand at the moment, the process of collapsing army clubs into one is going to be a long haul. The situation has been allowed to grow so huge, making it very difficult for everyone to solve the resultant puzzle.”

He, however, was of the view that the Lilongwe Declaration was still a blue print that if religiously followed would transform Malawi football.

“Well, the spirit behind the Declaration was good and its relevance can’t be queried,” he said.

“Up to now, football has been run like an amateur activity and unless real serious steps are taken to go professional in terms of mindset and management culture, let us forget about things changing in the foreseeable future.”

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