By Duncan Mlanjira
The withdrawal of the prestigious Standard Bank Knock-Out Cup is really a big blow to Malawi’s football but several observers believe that it can sustain itself by creating a conducive system that can generate revenue for its operations like tournaments.
“This is not an apocalypse,” commented former decorated player with Chanco FC, Madalitso Musa, now journalist. “This cup started simply as Fam Cup and it was well managed and that was a time when the corporate world decided to abandon football in Malawi.
“The cup by all means, must live on. What we should be worried about it is that Standard Bank might just have been civil to say ‘harsh economic times’ is the reason for their pull out when the truth is that someone at Fam was playing crook and the bank could no longer stand the filth.
“Banks make a lot of money and we all know that soccer is not a hole in their pocket. Going forward, I think it is time we make our game attractive so that we stop the culture of deifying sponsors. Elsewhere, sponsors run on their knees to sponsor clubs or competitions. They even offer to sponsor a training kit,” Musa said on social media Facebook.
Super League of Malawi vice-president Daud Suleman said the Knock-Out Cup can finance itself because people just love the game regardless of which brand is sponsoring.
“There was the Kamuzu Cup, Chibuku Cup, Embassy Trophy, BP Top 8, the Press Cup — they all left the stage [yet] the game grew bigger. Other sponsors will surely pick the Knock-out Cup or else we should try a zero deficit knock out cup self-sponsored via gate fees and broadcasting rights — nzotheka,” Suleman said.
Yamikani Mtalika agreed with Suleman on the self-sponsorship idea but he expressed reservation in that gate management is not that transparent.
“It’s an open secret that gate collections are not managed well,” Mtalika said. [It] only benefits stadium owners, the police and team supporter who man the gates.
“For the idea to work it would require proper management not what is happening now. People steal money in broad daylight,” he said.
Albert Chigoga said the situation is scary because it might have a ripple effect on other sponsored competitions.
“The statement by Standard Bank is very clear—a decision made on the backdrop of poor economy,” Chigoga said. “Sponsorship is not a simple gesture, it is a business strategy. Organisations pump their resources in sports with hope that such initiative can in turn benefit their business in terms of revenue growth.
“My fear is; at the rate our economy is nose diving, we are very likely to lose the existing sponsors and at the same time not having potential ones,” he ominously said.
Fam president Walter Nyamilandu said this was a huge setback and a big loss but they accept the decision to withdraw and association is prepared to move on.
“We treasure the good times and support [we had with Standard Bank] for the good of the game,” he said. “At the end of the day, nothing lasts forever and I hope other doors will open soon.
“We wished we could have been given adequate notice of one more season to look for another sponsor but at the moment we will just bring forward the Presidential Cup to keep our competitions alive,” Nyamilandu said.
The Standard Bank Knock-Out came into being replacing what was then call the Fam Cup, which the association initiated following the withdraw of sponsorship from football due to violence that escalated in mid 2000.
Several companies, including Standard Bank, came forward to support the Fam Cup and later the Bank decided to go solo by introducing the Knock-Out format in which six top teams in the Super League qualified for the event and two were voted in by the Bank’s clients.
Another tournament that Fam runs is the Carlsberg Cup while Super League of Malawi administers the TNM Super League.