Did I not hear that the new football season with a harmonised calendar is scheduled to start this month? Why then do we still not know the dates when the various leagues are going to kick off as we go into the second week of the month? Something tells me we are not yet ready for the new progressive system that is supposed to prevent some of the problems we have been facing.
I read somewhere quotes attributed to Super League of Malawi general secretary Williams Banda where he was saying the league had tentative dates for the commencement of the season but was held up by interests of the sponsors who had other engagements on the proposed day. A few things did not make sense to me in that explanation given what I know about other leagues.
The first question I had when I heard that was: What does the sponsor being engaged with other things have to do with the kick-off date of the season? To me, what is needed is the teams, the referees and their assistants, administrators and fans. It then dawned on me that seasons normally start with some fanfare where the sponsors want to organise grandiose launch events to get some marketing leverage.
Personally, I have no problems with sponsoring companies seeking that mileage. We all know that the sponsorship that organisations offer is not necessarily a charitable undertaking and the companies that thankfully want to associate themselves with the game need to see some benefit to their business even if that advantage is not always easy to scientifically measure or quantify.
What I have issues with — and I have stated as much before— is the situation where the game is forced to dance to the tune of the sponsors to such an extent that they influence the dates when the league should kick off. The various leagues have different sponsors and each one of those sponsors has their own interests. Shall we ever have the much-wanted harmonised calendar if each sponsor wants to advance their agenda?
Up to now, I do not understand why what happens elsewhere fails in Malawi. In other countries where companies pump in even much more money than what comes out here, the calendar is strictly managed by the football administrators. Not that sponsors are not consulted, but any possible discussions take place well in advance and within some well-defined parameters.
That is why, even at this point, people in those countries know when the following season would start way before the current one ends. Indeed, fixtures for the entire season are known two months before kickoff with a provision for minor modifications to suit the interests of television stations and their viewers. In Malawi teams do not know when they will start their season, let alone who they will face.
Of course, for newly promoted sides from the regional leagues, this uncertainty is good news to some extent because any delay in the opening of the new season means more time for preparation given the ending of their respective leagues. Going into another season after such a short break gives players of these teams very little time to recharge their batteries for a new season in a new league.
The bottom line remains, though, that the harmonised football calendar will remain a pipedream unless the game’s administrators assume its full control. Everyone who wants to sponsor any league or cup competition, therefore, needs to facilitate rather than disrupt the interests of the game.