Silver Strikers takes FAM, SULOM to task over contentious TV rights deal and contract management

Silver Strikers Company Limited, owners of Silver Strikers FC, is demanding full disclosure of the detailed contents of the newly-signed TV rights deal that Football Association of Malawi (FAM), Super League of Malawi (SULOM) and its affiliates — the football clubs.

In a letter issued on Monday, December 13, Silver Strikers contends that “commercial audiovisual broadcasting rights belong to Super League clubs — who are SULOM members and a primary actor in the domestic game”.

“The expected standard norm therefore is that the clubs would cede rights to SULOM to come up with a proposal under a collective rights sales system,” says the statement. “What this implies is that when SULOM has options on the table the proposals are submitted to the clubs so they can unanimously agree on an option to be pursued for implementation.

FAM President Walter Nyamilandu

“In the same vein, it is our expectation that SULOM comes up with a proposal on a distribution model of revenue from audiovisual broadcasting rights, which the clubs have to unanimously agree on as well.”

When contacted, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said: “There is lots of misinformation [regarding TV rights process] which we intend to clarify after the Airtel Top 8 and once the matter has been concluded in Court.”

FAM was issued with a court injunction restraining the football governing body and its TV host and content producer, Mibawa Studios from broadcasting Airtel Top 8 matches on the weekend of November 13.

A few days later, November 18, after hearing some arguments from the defendant FAM, High Court Judge Dingiswayo Madise issued an order that varied that granted FAM and Mibawa temporary relief to broadcast the remaining Airtel Top-8 matches until the court hears more arguments in order to rule on the next course of action.

The next hearing in the High Court as an ex-parte order issued to MBC, FAM, and Mibawa Studios as an interested party is set for December 20 to discharge or vary or provide further directions on the injunction.

In its statement, Silver Strikers said they also “followed with interest the contestations and dispute that ensued following the designation of Mibawa Studios by FAM as the content producer and the subsequent granting of the rights to Malawi Broadcasting Cooperation (MBC) to produce content in this TV rights deal after the intervention of the court”.

As a background to the sequence of events, Silver Strikers put on record that on October 17, 2020, FAM and SULOM convened a meeting in Salima with an objective of consulting the Super League clubs on the Football Pay TV broadcasting rights and E-ticketing and for the delegates to outline modalities to follow in managing TV Rights and Ticketing.

“What followed was a briefing from Super League of Malawi, Malawi Digital Broadcasting Network Limited (MBDNL) and Nitel,” says the club. “The brief outlined a number of benefits that would come with the new set up which included a minimum of MK14 million to all Super League teams.

“Consequently, on 11th February 2021, FAM and MDBNL signed an MOU at a colorful ceremony held at Crossroads Hotel in Blantyre. To our surprise, before we even saw the fruits of the Pay TV Broadcasting rights deal with MBDNL, on 5th November 2021, FAM signed another deal with Mibawa Studios, Simbanet and Zuku Television at Amaryllis Hotel in Blantyre.

“The new deal maintained Mibawa as content producer for the Mpira Television to be broadcast on Zuku Television.”

Silver Strikers FC say they expect that the two proposals they have highlighted have to be tabled with the club and that further to that they “also expect payment schedules starting with the initial contract (MoU) — between FAM and MBDNL — indicating how much was realized, remitted to FAM/SULOM and how much would be channelled towards the prime beneficiaries, the clubs”.

“We also demand accountability and transparency of the initial deal where money was made through advertisements (as seen on TV) and FAM/SULOM should remit the Silver Strikers FC cut to us.”

The club says it feels “such critical cooperative governance aspects were flouted and sidestepped by the two football governing bodies [and] demand full disclosure of the detailed contents — which includes distribution model of the same and the guaranteed minimum revenue for each as is the standard globally — of the newly signed TV rights deal and how it would benefit the football clubs”.

“We also demand that the clubs have to be presented with a minimum of three proposals and the clubs as owners of commercial audiovisual rights should deliberate and unanimously agree on the proposal to be adopted by FAM/SULOM,” said the statement.

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