Vendors are making a fortune through exploitation of Super League clubs’ brands, investigations have revealed.
Nyasa Big Bullets, Be Forward Wanderers and Silver Strikers are the biggest victims of brand piracy.
Our investigations revealed that, on a match day, a vendor can make up to K37 000 in sales of scarves, hats, flags, bungles and even wrappers (zitenje) .
“I travel as far as Chitowe [Dwangwa] when Bullets are playing just to sell the merchandise branded with the team’s colors. At the end of the day, I make a profit. It is big business and I am always assured of selling at every Be Forward Wanderers are playing,” said a Blantyre-based woman.
Blessing Chagona, a vendor in Lilongwe, who also earns a living through selling football clubs’ merchandise, also had the same story.
“Most of my customers are minibus drivers. Of course, other people also buy my products, but I make a killing from selling to minibus drivers.
“Every match day they will want to have flags or scarves draped on their buses,” he said.
Chagona said he makes not less than K25 000 on match days. But on an ordinary day he makes as much as K4 000.
Silver Strikers board of directors spokesperson Chiku Kalilombe said clubs need a collective action to ensure their brands are protected.
“If you calculate what vendors make through sales of the merchandise, it translates into millions of kwacha which could have benefited the clubs. Lack of brand protection is killing the football industry just as is the case in the music industry.
“On paper, we got protection legally, but enforcement is a big problem. It is expensive going about stopping vendors from selling items with our clubs’ brands,” said Kalilombe.
Mighty Be Forward Wanderers general secretary, Mike Butao, said clubs’ failure to provide alternative solution was fueling the trend.
“The problem is that we have no alternative solution in providing fans with branded sports merchandise. Fans will always want to wear or use brands of their favourite football clubs, which we fail to provide and they find the solution in vendors,” said Butao.
From team shirts, caps, bungles, strips to zitenje, local football clubs are yet to understand how to derive revenue from trademark protection, unlike the situation in other professional leagues.
“The market is big and we can take advantage of this by using brand protection through involvement of law enforcement.
“As clubs, we need to unite and form a task force to work with the police to prevent vendors and other traders from using our brands. But, first, clubs must establish selling points where fans can buy sports apparel associated with their team,” said Kalilombe.