SULOM affiliates fault Somba-Banda’s grading of himself on progress achieved in his tenure as president

Following the announcement that Fleetwood Haiya intends to contest for the post of president of Super League of Malawi (SULOM), the incumbent, Tia Somba-Banda has released a list of what he grades him as successful in his tenure of office from 2019.

But several affiliate club members, who are owners of SULOM, have criticized the grading — faulting it as trying to leverage himself ahead of the polls on February 25 — saying Somba-Banda “seems to be grading himself on his 2019 election promises but in essence, he has failed to deliver”.

This was observed by an affiliate voter, who declined to be mentioned, saying much as he is neutral on whom to vote for in the two-horse race, it feels like “an insult” that “Tia has over glorified himself” and his team in the past four years.

Haiya (left) announced his candidature last Tuesday

“For example, he is promising the same pledges made four years ago on ‘maximising revenue for Super League clubs’,” said the source. “This is far from the truth — we have seen elite club matches glossing a meagre K30,000 a match.”

He provided a screenshot of a match between TN Stars and Karonga United at Kasungu Stadium on November 13, 2022, that grossed K26,000 but expenses were at K24,000 — with the police receiving K10,000; stewards K7,200 and St. John’s Ambulance K5,000.

“Teams spend huge sums of money to fulfill their fixtures,” said our source. “Karonga United travelled all the way from base only to return home with nothing. What has SULOM done to maximize revenue for such clubs?”

In an earlier interview, Somba-Banda, emphasized that all that were promised have been fulfilled except the support towards Super League champions participation in Confederation of African Football (CAF) competitions — stressing that this will roll out this year.

In his grading of himself, the incumbent says he has already lobbied with Football Association of Malawi (FAM) for a K100 million sponsorship subvention which will also cater for a starter pack for CAF Interclube competitions participation.

But another affiliate member, who also chose not to be mentioned, questioned why it has taken that long, saying bringing it now “after all these years is just a campaign gimmick”.

The source also said on optimising accountability and governance is something to scoff at, saying “SULOM secretariat has been operating like a different organisation — leaving out clubs in decision making on crucial matters and poor communication”.

He added that SULOM’s “governance structure doesn’t even reflect approaches of modern football management” and that “clubs are being asked to comply with club licencing protocols while SULOM secretariat is still using an archaic structures — with no full time secretariat staff”.

“So, in essence, Tia believes he has delivered most of his election promises but what is on the ground is not that rosy as he paints it. The status quo of our top flight league is pathetic,” said our source.

In the earlier interview, which he now highlights on social media, Somba-Banda claims that his tenure of office laid strong foundation of football professionalism.

He highly lauded as “landmark” revenues in TV broadcasting rights from K18 million to K116 million and that his administration opened up additional revenue streams for teams in terms of kit sponsorship.

He also singled out a medical insurance contract with Medical Aid Society of Malawi (MASM) and that he also rolled out an automated Super League Competition Management System (CMS) in line with CAF and world football governing body FIFA standards.

Going forward, Somba-Banda said: “Clubs will now be receiving a minimum of K5 million annual grant from SULOM and will no longer be required to pay their club licensing surety.”

Meanwhile, Haiya — who is Nyasa Big Bullets Vice-president and is lauded for the management success of the TNM Super League champions over the recent years — promised to present his detailed vision and manifesto later.

But when announcing his candidature last week, Haiya said his bid is premised on five pillars;

1. Serving clubs, in the best interest of the clubs;

2. Setting up a professional and effective SULOM secretariat

3. Initiating and implementing SULOM strategic plan;

4. Realizing the full potential of Malawi elite football through commercialization; and

5. Helping Super League clubs to achieve financial independence.

He had said: “As you are aware, our elite football has been characterized with numerous challenges which have consequently derailed its growth from an amateur to a professional league.

“It is evident that our league is devoid of effective organization and sound administration, lacks a clear roadmap, efficiency and commercial acumen.

“As a result, clubs — who are owners of SULOM and meant to be the main beneficiaries — have not reaped the fruits of their efforts for the past decades.”

He stressed that clubs continue to be “financially and economically unstable to an extent that they can hardly operate as viable sporting and business entities”.

“While these challenges are an open secret, it is sad to note that little has been done to address this predicament,” he said.

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