One of Malawi’s top mobile phone service providers, TNM — sponsors of Malawi’s Super League — have pulled out it partnership with the top flight football it has glamorously been associated with for the past 10 years on very controversial circumstances.
I need not go into the more details but it all boils down to one thing — we do not cherish good things that have come from way behind. I don’t want to dwell on who might have been wrong behind all this but all I can deduce is that we are a begging society and when a good-hearted comes we welcome them with open hands and talk honourable things about them. We don’t consider the conditions being set for the future.
That’s what we did with TNM. It came when football had lost confidence from the corporate world following spates of violence and the football world was desperate to secure a partner for the development of the beautiful game.
We appreciated what TNM did and it came with lots of glamour. Some of the innovations the sponsors came up with were new phenomenon and we really treasured it. I am one of the beneficiaries of the TNM Super League through what TNM maintained in awarding deserving sports journalist.
My career in journalism started way back in 1993 and all of it was mostly in sports. I have seen players rise from scratch to play for the national team and even be spotted by foreign clubs. I was proud to rub shoulders with the Flames’ heroes as well as visiting stars. I never took it for granted. I considered the status quo as my reward and not for a moment did I imagine that one day I shall be honoured with an award.
It happened in 2003 when, just out of the blues, I was called by an accountant the oil service company BP (now called PUMA) to say that there was a cheque for me which was a reward for what I had written in the paper two weeks before. I was dumbfounded to learn that what I had written in that article was considered worthy to be rewarded.
I had written after the re-launch of the BP Top 8 sponsorship, which pitted the top eight teams at the end of the Super League, that fans should heed the call of the sponsors to observe some of the sponsors’ principles — Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) and to desist from violence during matches.
I said: “this is what we should be doing in our beautiful game to maintain or even enhance its beauty. BP Top 8 should be the test for all of us. Who would love to see BP pull out because the HSSE was not followed?”
That heralded my work being recognised because ever since media awards were introduced in football, I was then the Sports Editor and was not doing most of the reporting on the ground for that was mostly the reporters’ responsibility. I only went to the games to gather materials for my comments for Sports Trends that was being published in The Daily Times.
My first award was the Super League Best Columnist in 2005 before TNM became the sponsors and when it did I followed through in the following season up to last 2014. Over the years I shared it with several other columnists. This award made us report the best of the TNM Super League and in the same vein we strove to provide the best coverage for every sponsor that came in football’s way.
TNM strove to offer awards to every outstanding player of the Super League. We all cherished all the good things that the sponsors initiated to bring some glamour to our football but somehow we did not know that there were some strings attached to the TNM sponsorship, which unfortunately the powers-that-be knew — that no other mobile phone competitor such as Airtel should participate in football.
The football governing body, Fam, knew about it all these years and at the outset — 10 years ago — patted TNM on the back for a job well done. But today, Airtel wants to come into football through the Top 8 and that Top 8 is from the TNM Super League. This is a direct conflict to the clause in the contract with the Super League which Fam well knows.
The Airtel Top 8 is Fam’s baby and since the local football governing body knew of the small print clause attached with the TNM Super League, it decided to involve the Fair Trade and Competitions Commission, which decided to revoke that clause. That must have incensed TNM to prompt it to pull out having seen that its efforts of 10 years have not been appreciated.
I say that TNM should not feel that way. It has done its part and honourably so. But the sad part of it is that everything was not done in a professional and amicably way. TNM has acted so emotionally in the whole matter.
We have been caught up in a corporate war and where there should have been proper channels for negotiations for the good of the common man out there has become a conflict that many fans out there cannot fathom.
The powers-that-be in football, including Fair Trade and Competitions Commission, should go back to its drawing board to make sure such kind of contracts never surface where small prints — in the guise of terms and conditions apply — should never be there. Everything should be black and white.
Unless the powers-that-be should explain that TNM was too adamant not to soften up or scrap that clause, I still feel we are a nation that is goes under the saying ‘beggars are not choosers’.
Otherwise, I doff my hat to TNM for the wonderful and glamorous 10 years of our beautiful game. Please, don’t be too remorseful — you are a Malawian company that did the best for our football.
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