Football fans have been barred from watching matches in stadiums following a decision by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 to restrict public gathering to a maximum of 100 people for two weeks.
Super League of Malawi (Sulom) says football matches will proceed as planned despite the restriction, but without fans.
Sulom communicated the development in a letter addressed to all the 16 TNM Super League clubs and copied to the Inspector General of Malawi Police Service George Kainja dated December 22.
Reads part of the letter signed by Sulom general secretary Williams Banda: “It will be misconduct to find supporters loitering around stadia premises and law enforcers are advised to arrest all those found loitering within stadium premises without due responsibility.
“All those duly sanctioned to provide services will be accredited.”
Sulom also states that the games will be played with strict adherence to Covid-19 guidelines and directives.
Sulom president Tiya Somba Banda yesterday said they will ensure that the fans follow the games in the comfort of their homes through television and radio.
But the decision has not gone down well with the fans, who have accused the task force of playing double standards.
Concerned supporters spokesperson Mabvuto Chibambo blamed the task force of laxity.
Chibambo did not spare Football Association of Malawi FAM and Sulom as well, accusing them of not involving supporters in the Covid-19 prevention process.
In an interview on Tuesday, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu described the fresh restriction on public gatherings as a setback.
“Most of the recent cases are imported, why should we suffer for government’s laxity?
“The same task force has also allowed minibus operators to increase capacity from two to three people per row and you wonder what really government is up to,” he said.
He said: “We had made a lot of progress in the new season after a long lay-off and our systems are now up and running.
“With a lot of stakeholders making a living out of the process, it will disturb our livelihood and business as well as entertainment.
“It does not augur well, particularly coming during the festive season when fans were expecting high entertainment.”
The FAM president said he hopes that all sectors will be treated equally and that football will not be victimised.
“It [the restriction order] has to be applied across the board.
“The decision has been made for good reasons to save lives of Malawians, which are precious, so we hope it will apply to all,” he said.
The decision will affect the most sought-after local fixture—the Blantyre derby—which features domestic football powerhouses Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers set for January 2.
It will be the first time the derby will be played without fans should Sulom stick to the date.
Somba-Banda said they will discuss the issue and map the way forward.
“But all in all, we will comply with the regulation accordingly,” he said. Nomads chairperson Symon Sikwese yesterday said they cannot play without spectators.
“With the financial situation we find ourselves in, it is a non-starter to play without fans because we were getting a little something from the gate collections.The revenue was giving us a boost,” he said.
The ban has come days after the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson and Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo-Chiponda warned football fans that they risked being barred for not adhering to Covid-19 precautionary measures, including wearing face masks and social distancing.
“We do not want to be forced to ban sports sports activities. We appreciate that athletes depend on sports for a living, but it it it continues, we will be forced to act because we do not want to put lives of the people at risk,” the minister was quoted by The Nation as having said.