As the TNM Super League first round draws to an end next weekend, clubs have asked exclusive rights holders FAM-owned Mpira TV for more coverage of matches in other regions apart from the Southern Region.
However, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) says the uneven distribution of matches broadcast on its TV is a result of high cost of producing matches at venues in the Northern and Central regions.
Statistics show that the television has covered 68 percent of matches in the Southern Region, 20 percent in the Central Region and six percent in the Northern Region.
Out of the 29 matches beamed on Mpira TV this far, 20 are from Southern Region while seven are from the Central Region venues.
The North has only seen two matches broadcast on Mpira TV involving MoyaleBarracks and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers and Ekwendeni and Tigers at Mzuzu Stadium.
Surprisingly, 90 percent of the 29 matches beamed on the TV involve at least one team from the Southern Region.
This means Southern Region teams: Red Lions, Nyasa Big Bullets, Wanderers, MightyWakawaka Tigers and Sable Farming have enjoyed massive coverage as opposed to the others.
This is despite Central Region having more teams—Silver Strikers, Civo, Blue Eagles, Kamuzu Barracks, Mafco and TN Stars —while the Northern Region has Karonga United, Rumphi United, Moyale Barracks and Ekwendeni Hammers.
Silver chief executive officer Thoko Chimbali said Mpira TV’s failure to broadcast matches from other regions is a big concern.
He said: “It’s wrong, it’s worrisome. As Silver, we raised the same concerns after noting the trend. Something must be done.”
Mpira TV is yet to cover matches at Karonga, Rumphi and Kasungu stadiums.
Rumphi United general secretary Jones Mockton bemoaned the continued side-lining of his team’s matches.
He said: “It’s something that we have been asking Sulom [Super League of Malawi] to clarify, but we don’t get any clear explanation why Mpira TV is only concentrating on Southern Region-based teams’ matches.”
His TN Stars counterpart Bester Ngwale also felt Mpira TV was interested in big teams’ matches only.
He said: “They have never been to our venue, Kasungu Stadium, yet this is one of the venues that attracts maximum patronage when it comes to Super League matches.
“Since the stadium cannot accommodate all our supporters, having our matches on Mpira TV could have helped in ensuring that our supporters have access to the games.
“I think Mpira TV is missing out on subscription since our supporters cannot subscribe to the TV if our matches are not being broadcast on it.”
Though proceeds from the TV rights will be shared equally among 16 TNM Supper League teams, football analyst Charles Nyirenda said denying the other teams’ match coverage reduces their chances of exposing their players to foreign markets.
He said: “In this era, players are exposed through television. Do not expect foreign clubs’ scouts to travel all the way to Malawi to watch a player. They rely on television footage to monitor players. In the absence of live coverage of matches, forget about teams exposing their talent to foreign clubs.”
But FAM broadcasting manager Tulipo Mwenelupembe attributed the uneven distribution of matches’ coverage to high cost of producing matches.
He said: “Our target was to produce at least two matches per week. But we have managed to do more than that. Sometimes we do have matches on Saturdays and Sundays as well as on Wednesdays. So, we have exceeded the target.
“But the only shortfall is that we have not been to as many matches as expected in Northern and Central regions. High cost of production is the main challenge.
“The cost is high due to fuel costs. We have to ferry a team of staff plus the OB [outside broadcast] van. The production of the matches is also done using generators because we can’t rely on electricity.
“So, it means these generators have to be running for over 10 hours which costs a lot in terms of fuel. While it is easier to produce matches [at about K1.7 million] in the Southern Region, it is expensive when we go outside Blantyre where it becomes double as much.
Mwenelupembe said they hope to improve the coverage of the matches in the second round.
He said: “In the first round, it was only the Super League, but in the second round it will be more matches since we will have FDH Bank Cup and Airtel Top 8. So we need to be prepared for that.
“We will intensify our marketing strategy so that we have more funds to cover games across the country.
“We will meet the clubs so that we explain to them how we have performed in the first round, the challenges we faced and how we intend to move forward.”
FAM last year unveiled Mpira TV football production and broadcasting deal worth K350 million per year with Mibawa Studios to produce content for the television which is on Zuku decoder’s channel 064.
Chimbali said FAM should bring in another content producer who can cater for Central and Northern regions.
He said: “Our opinion is that Mpira TV should have another content producer who has an OB van in Lilongwe to ease the pressure on Mibawa.