Yes, beggars are not choosers because they choose to be ensnared in this spirit. The Malawian sport fraternity chose to become beggars and thus whenever they lose sponsorship, they are dictated to change their name to suit that of their new partners.
This week, Under-20 First Capital Bank football cup defending champions have changed the name they trended with, Sanwecka to Bicco Opticals FC after the name of their new sponsors. Sanwecka is the name of their previous sponsors.
Owner and founder of the team, Benjamin Thole told the media they were managing the club without any sponsorship and yet managed to become national champions of the Under-20 First Capital Bank Cup. He was on cloud nine that the partnership with Bicco Opticals is a morale booster for the players to work hard and defend the championship this season in order not disappoint the sponsor.
Last month, netball heavyweights Thunder Queens secured a K9 million 1-year sponsorship deal with Intelligent Monitoring Systems (Imosys) and were also forced to changes innovative name of Thunder Queens to Imosys. The Rainbow Paints Blantyre District Netball League side were formerly known as Tropical Queens.
Malawi football industry, as well as all sports disciplines, have been operating on amateur status — mostly after being formed as corporate companies’ social teams.
Teams that made a mark in the country’s football fraternity but died a natural death when their founding sponsors decided to cut their ties include Hardware Stars, MDC United, B&C FC, MBC Radiomen, MHC FC, BP&P FC and many others
Government statutory company, ADMARC, cut ties with ADMARC Tigers FC and though they have been struggling financially they have been surviving in the top flight TNM Super League — avoiding relegation and currently are 12th with three games to wrap up the season.
They have 31 points, two ahead of 13th placed Blue Eagles (29 points); five ahead of 14th Chitipa United (26); away from 15th Ntopwa FC (21) and 13 away from 16th Mzuzu Warriors (18).
The point is, it takes good management, team dedication and perseverance to survive the odds that Tigers FC have faced since cutting ties with ADMARC some two decades now.
Silver Strikers is one team that has enjoyed constant and stable sponsorship from the Reserve Bank of Malawi, which invested heavily in the Lilongwe giants by constructing a stadium and an income generating Club House. Before, they were sponsored by Capital City Development Company (CCDC).
If the Reserve Bank would decide to let go of the team, for it to stand alone, the team’s management should negotiate with the Central Bank — that as a parting gift — they should maintain their full name. In the event they secure sponsorship from another corporate, they should make sure the name is not tampered with to add to it the name of the new partner.
I say this in reference to Mighty Wanderers FC, which is now a subsidiary of the Wanderers Football Club 2021 Limited, a newly incorporated company limited that is geared to attract multiple sponsors. The limited company will not be branded by a particular corporate sponsor as was the case in the past when the team trended as Rovers United to Portuguese Wanderers; Yamaha Wanderers; Limbe Leaf Wanderers; MTL Wanderers and finally to Be Forward Wanderers.
When he was being unveiled as the company’s president, business mogul Thom Mpinganjira said they shall set up multiple money-making ventures that will shall be sustainable for the continuity of the team.
TNM Super League defending champions Nyasa Big Bullets were first sponsored by BATA Shoe Company and thus trended as Bata Bullets for a long time. In fact, even today, the older generation still call it Bata Bullets though they have changed names to Big Bullets; then Total Big Bullets; Bakili Muluzi Big Bullets and finally the ownership been taken over by Nyasa Manufacturing Company (NMC).
Nyasa Big Bullets have also gone commercial and strives to entice other sponsors to come aboard but not necessarily to have their names added to the team’s. The sponsors’ brand names shall only be allowed on advertising apparel around the pitch perimeter on TV coverage and/or on team jerseys.
Elsewhere, corporates bid to partner with glamorous sporting clubs. The clubs’ management choose the best and sign a contract with, which when expired, is re-advertised for fresh bids. If the incumbent sponsor’s bid fails to beat other bidders, the team is open to opt for one that is set to serve their best interest.
But like I said, that’s elsewhere — where sports is taken very seriously. Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea in England; Barcelona, Real Madrid in Spain; Bayern Munich in Germany; Juventus and Lazio in Italy, just to mention a few, have maintained their names ever since their formation.
The sponsors enjoy marketing visibility through TV coverage, pitch perimeter advertising billboards of their products and services and brand visibility on the teams’ jerseys — which as enhanced through replicas that fans buy.
This is where Malawian football fraternity— and the whole sports industry — should consider taking because the sponsors that come always take cautious steps by dictating contracts so that they can find an easy way out if their businesses are not doing well.
They come in an animal called corporate social responsibility (CSR), when in fact they have spotted a potential to market their brands and services. They see from afar a potential in sports glamour that its fraternity has not noticed and take advantage of it.
Once their objective has been achieved they take advantage of a poor spell of performance to justify their withdrawal — as if when one, as a customer of goods and services the corporates enticed through the sponsorship, will also dwindle just because the team they support financially is doing badly in the league.
The managers of the sporting clubs should see the bigger picture and come up with draft contracts that suit their best interest which can be presented to prospective sponsors. If the corporates try to dictate, stand your ground by choosing not to be beggars.
Something that caught my eye as the best way forward for Mighty Wanderers FC 2021 Limited is that it is enticing the team supporters committee to mobilize 5 million fans nationwide who shall be registered into paying a yearly agreed subscription fee to the company to demonstrate their ownership.
This is contained in the memorandum of agreement which the company has with the team’s executive, the supporters committee and the Board of directors to help improve the financial standing and sustainability of the Club.
Upon attaining the 5 million registered and fully paid members, the limited company shall reserve at least 15% of the shareholding in the Wanderers Football Club Limited and it shall be expected to grow the numbers from 2021/22 with support from the Board.
The supporters committee shall continue to determine their own operational terms of reference and shall be assisted to register as a company limited by guarantee.
In the same breath, the committee shall be responsible for the good conduct and discipline of all registered supporters.
This way potential sponsors will be dictated as to what is needed as business partners. Let’s preserve the rich football history that we have so that our teams can even have the potential to partner with foreign companies when they participate in Confederation of African Football (CAF) continental championships — the Champions League and Confederation Cup.