Blantyre United’s relegation from the TNM Super League at the weekend underlined the struggles newly-promoted teams face in the top-flight league.
They became the second team to be relegated this season after fellow rookies Chitipa United, whose fate was sealed last week.
For over five years now, at least two newly-promoted teams fail to stand the heat and are relegated to the second-tier regional leagues.
Some officials from the relegated teams and an analyst have said the newcomers struggle to stay put because the playing field is not level, citing the gulf in finances, quality of players and purported biased officiation.
Blantyre United general secretary Malekano Chisoma yesterday said financial hurdles were too hot to handle in the elite league.
“Our financial muscle was too weak to effectively fight relegation as we were unable to buy the required quality and experienced players that could stand the Super League heat,” he said.
“It is also expensive to fulfil away fixtures. For instance, transport, accommodation, food and players’ allowances for two away games in Lilongwe cost almost K1 million; a sum which is not easy to find for an unsponsored team like ours.”
His Chitipa counterpart, Marshal Mwenechanya said it is tough for newly-promoted teams to effectively compete in a league with the odds stacked heavily against them in terms of officiation and financial struggles.
“Newly-promoted teams are looked down upon as non-entities in the elite league by most match officials who often favour the so-called big teams,” he said.
“Lack of sound financial backing also affects minnows as they cannot effectively motivate players and buy quality players to match the other teams. In addition, it has always been tough for Northern Region rookies in terms of the distance when playing away.”
Soccer analyst George Kaudza Masina said lack of financial muscle disadvantages newly-promoted Super League clubs from beefing up their teams.
He, therefore, suggested the need for the elite league to embrace the play-offs system whereby log-table anchors face straight demotion but at least two teams in the relegation zone compete for slots against lower league champions.
“It is high time we embraced the play-offs system, as is the case with the Premier Soccer League in South Africa or even the English Premiership system. Otherwise, this trend will continue,” he said.
Blantyre United faced the chop after losing 1-3 to Civil Sporting Club last weekend. They are currently on position 15 in the 16-team log-table with 21 points from 28 games and they cannot get out of the three-team relegation zone even if they win their two remaining games. With their maximum points being 27, they cannot displace 13th placed Masters Security, who have 28 points and have five games to play.
Chitipa anchor the log-table with 16 points from 28 games and their maximum points tally is 22.