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Why gate fraud persists

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There is every reason to suspect that gate-ticketing fraud happened during 2015 Carlsberg Cup final involving Be Forward Wanderers and Big Bullets at Civo Stadium, Lilongwe a fortnight ago.

That Fam registered unsold tickets is undermined by the fact that, in the association’s organising committee’s chairperson, Jabbar Alide’s own admission, the stadium was not “uncomfortably full.”

Not that Alide ruled out foul-play completely, but he insisted that the K29 million sold reflected the printed tickets and the association could only base calculations from available information.

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Malawi News investigations have linked the unsold tickets to the happenings around gate-ticketing fraud syndicate that is complicated and sometimes even involve officials from the Ministry of Sports, Fam and Sulom, police and cashiers.

It has been established that the process of printing and selling tickets is the source of the fraud. This theory probably explains why Bullets and Wanderers’ officials rejected advance ticket-selling after getting suspicious with the sight of ‘open’ boxes containing the tickets at Civo.

A source said, generally, the fraudsters beat the system by having their own tickets printed and float them on the market through some supporters who stand outside match venues offering tickets at a discount.

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It is these extra tickets that might have led to the official ones being unsold at Civo.

“When an announcement for a number of tickets for a particular game is made, the officials go back and have theirs also printed. This practice is so common in cup games. For league games, the fraudsters either sell tickets at a discount or receive money from fans and negotiate for their free entry,” he said.

In worst cases, workers at printing companies are caught with their tickets which they sell at matches. In some cases, printing firms print fake tickets. A few years ago, a man with fake tickets he printed in Bangwe Township, Blantyre was arrested.

A few hours later, a top government official came to have the suspect bailed out at Bangwe Police Station. The suspect never appeared in court again.

Three years ago, a Bullets fan was caught red-handed with strands of kwachas staffed in his pockets at Dedza Stadium. Some Bullets officials negotiated for his release at no charge.

After cup games, it is common for top football officials to be overhead asking for their loot.

Fam president Walter Nyamilandu, during a workshop involving the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Super League of Malawi at Protea Ryalls Hotel in 2007, admitted that he caught a police officer stealing gate collections at the Kamuzu Stadium.

The ACB workshop on Financial Management (gate collections) established that the gate fraud, is among others, caused by the fact that “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 gate.”

“Some of the receipts are not torn as is the requirement and so find their way back into the system,” the workshop report stated.

“Most pilferage and fraud is conducted from half-time of the game onwards. At this time two things happen: those on the queue outside become unwilling to pay full cost for the match and so resort to negotiating with cashiers for zam’manja (tip for entry).

Most gate collectors are identified by senior club officials especially general secretaries, hence this leads to appeasement as “football officials perceive gate collectors as ‘lucky’ for being selected to man the gates since they are bound to make money, other than the normal allowances,” states the report.

Late opening of gates also render fans unwilling to pay, let alone full amounts for a ticket. The fact that assessment of gate collections is done for the overall collections and not per point of collection, creates further loopholes.

As a solution, the report from a research conducted by Chimwemwe Simwaka and Henry Chibowa, recommended that clubs should broaden their income base to ease the over-dependence on the gate proceeds, ticket sales promotions be encouraged and “the concept of price differentiation should be considered and a market for spectators needs to be segmented.”

All these lapses added to challenges cited in last week’s entry, then you have a mess of system that requires complete overhaul for even the very teams that complain and the police which is supposed to provide checks, are part of the syndicate.

Perhaps, more tellingly, the ACB spokesperson Egritta Ndala a few years ago insisted that the body can only act once tipped by the football fraternity including the media. It was ironic that these remarks came from the very same ACB that hosted the 2007 workshop.

And evidence that football fraud would persist became evident when the ACB’s very senior official, three months ago, admitted that while they are aware of the rot in football circles, the bureau is too stretched with very big outstanding cases to even begin to think about trivia matters of football.

Maybe creating of sports’ own graft busting body can arrest the cancer that is depriving athletes’ decent income.

 

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