Kamuzu Stadium supervisor Charles Mhango has admitted that lack of adequate security led to the facility exceeding its capacity when it hosted the Blantyre derby—featuring Mighty Be Forward Wanderers and Big Bullets— last Saturday.
The stadium was packed to the brim and fans resorted to invading the cordoned-off areas.
According to Mhango, following the cordoning off of five of the six open stands, the stadium’s capacity was reduced from 35 000 to around 22 000.
“The stadium’s capacity was surpassed considerably as almost every available space was filled.
“Spectators even occupied the no-go zones which was dangerous, but there was little we could have done to control the situation because the police officers that were hired were [few],” said Mhango yesterday.
The stadium official said only 120 police officers were hired, in contrast to 350 that were hired in the recent 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between the Flames and Zimbabwe’s Warriors.
“Now, if you compare the crowd that came for the Flames match to that of the derby, you will see that the latter attracted a bigger crowd and in such circumstances, security was going to pose a challenge.
“We could not prevent people from invading the cordoned-off areas because it would have led to pandemonium and to avoid such a scenario, we left it like that,” said Mhango.
Asked why the organising committee hired a lower number of police officers, Mhango said: “Such issues are often raised, but then teams also consider costs. They would want to make more from gate revenue considering that the money realised is shared among several stakeholders.”
He also dismissed suggestions that the organisers printed more tickets than the actual capacity.
“Tickets that were sold were 22 000 as per stadium capacity, but we had some unscrupulous fans finding their way in through points. We also have others such as officials, players, sponsors and media who get in for free,” he said.
The match grossed a record K26.8 million (US$59 556). Except for one eastern stand, all the other open stands were cordoned off two years ago after government established that they had developed cracks and were a security hazard.
Since then government has been giving assurances that the stadium would undergo a major rehabilitation.