Football Association of Malawi has said for security reasons it strongly oppose governmentâ€™s insistence that Sundayâ€™s Presidential Cup final match between Big Bullets and Moyale Barracks at Kamuzu Stadium should be free of charge.
But Ministry of Youth and Sports, has put its foot down that the showdown will be free-for-all.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu on Wednesday said: â€œWe still strongly oppose the idea of the game being free of charge for security reasons, but we have no choice if they [government] insist on their stand as long as they are aware that whatever happens, FAM will be absorbed of any blame.â€
The countryâ€™s football head said they have since advised government on the need to ensure that the security of the fans is guaranteed.
â€œWe are concerned as an association that of late, Malawi football is attracting big crowds which has the potential to cause a huge risk if we do not have adequate security coming at a time when Fifa imposed a maximum sitting capacity of 32 000,â€ he said.
Nyamilandu further said they are also concerned of football being used for political means.
â€œ[And] we thought the new regime was going to correct all the wrong practices that were happening in the past.
â€œ[The decision on free entry] is also not in the spirit of empowering football clubs and institutions that are struggling financially and it was high time the decision was reversed.
â€œWe believe that football is now big business. We have since advised our counterparts [government] that they will be doing that at their own peril,â€ added the FAM leader.
Bullets chairperson Malinda Chinyama also shared Nyamilanduâ€™s sentiments.
â€œGovernment should have understood us, it is all about the safety of the crowds because already people are coming out in large numbers and what more with free entry?
â€œWhat should also be borne in mind is that there is currently high tension between Bullets and Wanderers fans and tempers might flare. So, even if they [government] put in place high security, things are bound to go out of hand.
â€œThere is also a high risk of a stampede because the match will attract a huge crowd,â€ said Chinyama.
He suggested the need for all the stakeholders to meet and agree on one thing.
â€œIf they still stick to free entry then fine and good, but they should realise the need to sensitise the fans on the need to take a firm line and provide maximum security.
â€œThey have to look at the consequences of their decision,â€ said Chinyama.
However, Sports Minister Enoch Chihana insisted that the match will be free-for-all.
â€œWe are aware that there will be a huge turnout, but this tournament is sponsored by government and security will be guaranteed,â€ said the minister.
Chihana also said people pay tax and, therefore, the move for free entry is justified.
â€œAfter all, why should the system change now when in the past it has been free of charge even when two of the three past final matches had [Mighty] Wanderersâ€”who also have a huge following?â€
He also dismissed FAMâ€™s concern on revenue, saying the clubs are already guaranteed K10 million (about $40 000) and K5 million (about $20 000) prize money for the champions and losing finalist respectively.
Last week, FAM announced that as per Fifa requirement, FAM will print 32 000 tickets for the match and charges will be K500 (about $2) open stands, K2 000 (about $8) MBC stand, K3 000 (about $12) covered stands and a seat in the comfort of the VIP enclosure will cost K5 000 (about $20) but government questioned the move saying the norm has been that the final match is free of charge.