Sponsorship woes

Shock was the prevalent emotion for the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and clubs after  Castel Malawi announced the withdrawal of Carlsberg Cup sponsorship.

 Castel yesterday announced the cancellation of the annual sponsorship citing “financial constraints the company is facing” as the reasons.

 The company’s senior brands manager (alcoholics) Widdey Nsona confirmed yesterday of the withdrawal.

Last year’s Carlsberg Cup ambassador Gerald Phiri Jnr (3rdL) accompanied by Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers carries the cup to Kamuzu Stadium

 In a statement dated July 10 2019 and signed by Castel group legal counsel and company secretary Chipiliro Luhanga-Kauka, the company said: “Due to the financial constraints the company is facing, we have decided to cancel the Carlsberg Cup sponsorship until further notice. Kindly note that 2019 has been a challenging year and this has forced the company to operate on a leaner budget.

“Therefore, the company will not be renewing the Carlsberg Cup contract with FAM this year.

“However, this does not mean the company has abandoned its commitment and involvement in supporting professional football in Malawi. The company will provide further details on the way forward at a later stage.”

The development has left Malawi football with Fisd Challenge Cup and Airtel Top 8, whose future is yet to be determined at the end of three-year sponsorship, as the only reliable cup competitions besides the TNM Super League.

The 2019 edition of the K40million Carlsberg Cup, contested by both elite and lower league teams, was scheduled to be unveiled on April 23, but failed to take place as the company said there were issues that needed to be sorted out first with FAM.

This is the second time for the cup to be withdrawn

The company also pulled out in 2003 due to violence at soccer matches only to come back in 2012.

FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said it is disappointing that the news is coming at a time the football fraternity was waiting for the competition’s kick-off.

Since its introduction in 2000, there have been 11 editions.

“The Carlsberg Cup was one of the biggest platforms for football development. It was a rare platform that gave the lower league sides a chance to compete pound by pound with the big boys from the elite league,” he said.

“A number of players from lower leagues made their break-through through this competition and they are now big names in top-flight league clubs. I am short of words to explain how saddened we are with this development.”

Nyamilandu, however, acknowledged that while the development will affect the country’s football development agenda, FAM appreciates the reasons behind the Castel’s decision.

“We know if all were rosy, today they would instead be announcing the hiking of the sponsorship. We will always cherish the working relationship we had with Castel Malawi,” he said.

The reigning Carlsberg Cup champions Masters Security coach Abbas Makawa, whose side beat Be Forward Wanderers on post-match penalties in last year’s final, said they would have loved to have a chance for a title defence this year.

 Wanderers chairperson Gift Mkandawire, Nyasa Big Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga and Silver Strikers general secretary Lawrence Yobe agreed with Makawa that the pullout is a shocker and a sad development.

 “In fact, most of the clubs struggle financially and the Carlsberg Cup provides a solace through its prizes and gate revenue,” Chigoga said.

 The Carlsberg Cup provided biggest upsets in domestic football.

History was made in 2014 when the now-defunct Zomba United, a team in the Southern Region Football League (SRFL) beat three top league sides to become the first team in second tier league to reach the final. They lost 2-0 to Nyasa Big Bullets in 2014.

Last year, another lower league outfit Hangover FC beat two Super League teams to reach the semi-finals, where they lost to Wanderers.

 Wanderers and Bullets have the  won Carlsberg Cup  four times  apiece.

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