Salima Sugar Company Limited has committed a whopping K40 million annual package to become the first national netball league.
The sponsorship was secured by Minister of Youth and Sports Richard Chimwendo Banda following a meeting he had with the sugar manufacturing company’s board and management on the sidelines of the sports conference in Lilongwe on Friday.
In an interview, the minister said: “The main reasons we are lagging behind in netball is due to lack of proper developmental structures as well as a national league.
“When I engaged Salima Sugar, I proposed if they could help us with national league sponsorship and they committed K40 million.
“We are grateful to Salima Sugar because they are among the few that are helping us to develop sports through sponsorship.”
Salima Sugar company secretary Charles Thupi confirmed the sponsorship package in an interview on Saturday.
He said: “During the conference, it was mentioned that one of the key challenges affecting sport is lack of sponsorship and when we asked the minister how we could help and he chose netball.”
Salima Sugar also sponsor TNM Super League side Dedza Dynamos to the tune of K48 million. Previously, they were part sponsoring Mighty Mukuru Wanderers.
Thupi said the next step will be to discuss with Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) yo agree on the logistics of the tournament, including format, prize money and administration fee.
In her reaction, NAM president Abigail Shariff said the sponsorship will change the landscape of the sport and improve the performance of the Malawi Queens.
She said: “One of my targets when I was ushered into office was to establish a national league and we are grateful to the minister for securing the sponsorship for us and we are grateful to Salima Sugar, we do not take their support for granted, especially coming at a time when we are going through economic hardships.
“This is historic as it is the first time we will have a national netball league. That said, we’ll have to come up with the logistics of the tournament that will suit the teams, especially the format as most of them do not have sponsorship.”
Malawi Queens and Kukoma Diamonds captain Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira said the sponsorship could not have come at a better time.
She said: “This is good news because we have never had a national league. The introduction of a national league will improve the level of competition as all the top teams will be battling for the ultimate prize unlike now when we only have regional leagues in which only about two to three teams really compete.
“The other thing is that there is no league is the Centre and North due to lack of sponsorship, a situation that denies both upcoming and established players a chance for a exposure so that they can be considered for the national team.”
Northern Region Netball Committee general secretary Ken Phiri said the importance of the prospective sponsorship from Salima Sugar cannot be overemphasised as teams will not have something to fight for.
He said: “We have had no sponsorship here in the North for a long time and it is going to cause a buzz of excitement among teams and players in particular.
“Hopefully, the sponsorship will indeed materialise and that it will be jelously guarded. There should be transparency and accountability, otherwise this is the way to go.”
But netball analyst Wesley Namasala said in an interview that the focus should have been on establishing junior leagues.
He said: “The Queens’ current crop is facing away. It was the oldest squad at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and as such, the priority should be investing in youth development.
“There is urgent need to identify tall and talented players to manage the transition smoothly and that will be hard to achieve if we do not pay meaningful attention to the junior leagues.”
Salima Sugar Company is a joint venture between Malawi Government which holds 40 percent and Aum Sugar Company Limited of India with a 60 percent stake