The slashing of gate charges for Saturday’s Fisd Challenge Cup final by the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has attracted a wave of mixed reactions from the soccer fraternity.
A cup final gate fee for open stand has this year been pegged at not less K2,000 while a high profile Super League affair attracts a minimum charge of K1,000.
The 2017 Carlsberg cup final between Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers on 9 September had an open stand ticket going at K2,000 kwacha in advance sales, while on match day, the price rose to K3,000.
But as Moyale and Kamuzu Barracks prepare to face off in the finale for the K50 million kwacha cup at Civo stadium this Saturday, FAM has heavily reduced the gate charges.
Advance open stand ticket is selling at K500 kwacha while those buying on match day will part with K1,000 kwacha.
This according to FAM’s Marketing and Commercial Director is not undervaluing the final or disrespecting the teams involved, but to give football fans an early Christmas present.
“We have had a successful 2017 season, so we agreed with the sponsors to make the final a family event, by slashing the gate charges to allow all soccer loving Malawians a chance to watch it,” said Matola.
He added that: “As you know this is the farming season and people have school fees to take care of, so the sponsors decided to ease up the burden by setting a fee that all interested fans can afford. This is not an act of disrespect to the two teams,” said Matola.
But his explanation though detailed has been quashed by other football fans, who believe the decision borders on the two army teams’ following.
“FAM should spare us such cheap lies, let them admit it’s because the two sides don’t command a large following, so they are fearing for low patronage, hence the dropping of the charges. If either Bullets or Wanderers were in the final, there would have been nothing like a Christmas present as they claim,” said one fan on social media.
Another one on a similar platform wondered: “What is the idea behind the price reduction, filling up the stadium or charging what the event is worth?”
The sentiments were echoed by one fan who suggested: “I would opt to sell the ticket at its value. It’s better to realise a little from the few who accept the value of what they are buying than to fill up the stadium with people who don’t appreciate the cost of running the game.”
Other fans backed FAM, citing the unpopularity of the two finalists as reason enough to go down on the charges.
“Several factors determine gate charges including the fan base of the teams involved. So looking at Moyale and KB, it’s well thought by FAM to slash the charges,” said one fan.
Another supported that line by dwelling on the sponsors’ returns.
“The final offers an opportunity to the sponsors to enhance brand visibility. So the charges are reasonable and affordable considering the following of the two teams. No sponsors would celebrate a final of their competition patronised by a sizeable crowd in the name of maintaining the value of the game,” he chipped in.
Covered stand tickets for the Saturday final are going at K2,000 kwacha advance and K3,000 kwacha on match day while those keen on catching the action from the VIP stand will cough K5,000 kwacha in advance sales and K2,000 more on the day.
Commotion nearly broke out at Civo during this year’s quarterfinals of the same competition, between Blue Eagles and Nyasa Big Bullets, as angry fans protested against the K1,500 open stand gate fee.
FAM officials and other stakeholders swiftly resolved to drop the charges to K1,000 kwacha to calm the situation.
Furthermore, the Malawi vs Lesotho friendly at Bingu National Stadium last month witnessed the lowest patronage for an international match in recent years, largely because most football fans considered the K3,000 open stand fee way too high for their pockets.