Lack of division of responsibilities during matches is the main cause of violence at matches, a Fifa report compiled by United Kingdom-based safety and security experts Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) has revealed.
The world football governing body’s report states that there is lack of clearly defined responsibilities for all stakeholders during matches, as a result, no one takes responsibility for security.
“The SGSA view is that the concept of sports grounds safety should be fully embraced by all parties to ensure the highest possible levels of spectator safety,” reads the report.
The Fifa consultants have since recommended that there be clearly defined responsibilities of all stakeholders with one officer in command on the match day.
Fifa engaged the firm to inspect Malawi stadiums safety and security following a stampede that killed eight people during Independence Day celebrations on July 6.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has since acknowledged that the situation needs to be addressed before next season kicks off.
FAM General secretary Alfred Gunda said standard practice is that stadium owners provide security during matches, however, in Malawi this is not applicable.
He said: “In normal circumstances, stadium owners are responsible for safety and security at matches. The understanding is that the home team owns the stadium. Unfortunately, in Malawi, teams do not own stadiums. That is why there is the blame game on who should take responsibility where there is lack of the same.”
Gunda said the situation forces FAM and Super League of Malawi, to take full responsibility of security at matches.
“As a body mandated to run football in the country, we take full responsibility of anything that happens at a match because we are answerable to Fifa,” he said.
But Fifa is of a different view.
“FAM currently assumes the responsibility for safety at the venues. The SGSA’s opinion is that the stadium management at each venue should be responsible and accountable for safety at the venues. There must be a clear understanding of all stakeholders as to who is in command of the planning, implementation and control of the safety arrangements. The role of the clubs after hiring stadia, government and security services must be clearly defined.”
Football violence and hooliganism at football matches has of late escalated, with no solution at hand.
While in the past the violence and hooliganism was between rival supporters, this time there is a systematic and organised violence perpetrated by home teams.
In the latest case, a Super League match between Be Forward Wanderers and Mzuzu University (Mzuni) FC failed to take place at Balaka Stadium after the visitors, Mzuni, walked away claiming their technical panel was assaulted by Wanderers supporters.
Sulom general secretary Williams Banda also agreed with Fifa observation of division of responsibilities.
But Banda said all efforts to curb football violence and hooliganism will be in vain if police and stewards do not come to the party.
He said: “Stewards and police are key in maintaining order at matches. But they fail us. Some end up watching the match instead of doing their job. You find that there has been security breach yet not a single person has been arrested.
“For example, in a case of Wanderers vs Mzuni match, a hired police officer responded that he was a traffic police officer so he cannot get involved in arresting supporters for misconduct.”
PremierBet Wizards owner Peter Mponda also wondered why security personnel at matches fail to do their job.
He said: “When we go for pre-match meetings, we are told of hiring 60 police officers, 40 stewards and on top of that, 50 people from ‘network’ [clubs] security—strange things happen in [Malawi] football.”
Sulom treasurer Tiya Somba-Banda said stakeholders shoudl be ashamed fo the escalating violence.
He said: “What we lack is the system and a process to move as designed without physical presence of authorities. When things move because of presence, we should know that it is fear that is driving the process and not the system. For instance, supporters are not supposed to be at the dressing room area, yet we see this in Malawi!
“People who run football in the country—Sulom, clubs and authorities that be—are the problem. We tolerate matters that are not supposed to be there in the first place. We cannot be discussing in pre match meeting about supporters at dressings rooms. We should be ashamed of ourselves.”
Mzuni chairperson Albert Harawa said it all goes back to club officials to instill discipline in their supporters and not encourage them to bully opponents.