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Ref fees shameful

We all know that Footballers in top leagues are paid way over the top in weekly and monthly wages but the referees officiating across various leagues are paid in peanuts compared to footballers.

In Botswana referees are pegged at embarrassingly low scales that could make one tinge with fear after the Global Competitiveness Report lifted corruption to spot number five as one of the most problematic factors for doing business in the country – mind you, football is a business.  

Just last week, the BTC Premiership Sponsorship for the Botswana Football Association (BFA) was renewed and signed. Telling announcements were pronounced at the occasion such as increase in the prizes to be awarded to champions and Man of the Match awards. A BTC Premiership Man of the Match will walk away with P2500 and an airtime voucher of P250. The perception from the referee community is that they are always forgotten at when issues are being thrashed at the table.

Nothing was announced in the direction of referees, their assessors and assistant referees. During the Bennet Mamelodi era, premiership referees’ fees were increased from P400 to P800 following acquisition of the League sponsorship, albeit this was the Botswana Premier League just going out of the way to recognize the men and women in the middle of the pitch, the BFA National Executive Committee is in fact responsible for their welfare at policy and strategy level.

Premier league referees still earn P800 per match today. Compared to their colleagues in the Southern African region, the figure is simply “embarrassing” says one of the local referees who preferred anonymity. He makes it clear that referees’ mistakes during match officiating should not even be mentioned when referees make a case for better allowances, “the two issues need separate platforms,” he says.  “Mind you a match can go on without a man of the match but it comes to a halt when there is no referee,” he adds.  

In Zimbabwe, a country whose economy is almost on its knees, Premier match referees are paid $180 per match or P1800 (roughly) while assistant referees are paid $160 or (P1600). In 2011 South African Premiership referees earned R4 250 per match before tax, while the PSL assistant referees pocketed R3 312, also before tax. In the same year First Division referees received R3 312 before tax, while their assistants will earn R2 187,50. And as of 2016 the new match fee for Premiership referees in South Africa is now R4887.50 before tax, which represents a 15% increase, while their assistants will now pocket R3809.38. The fees are applicable to league and cup competitions. Their National First Division counterparts also received a 15% increase.

The referees in South Africa's second tier now earn R3809.38, while their assistants will get R2515.63 per game. Match commissioners in the Premier League are now rewarded R4056.25 per match and those handling First Division matches will get R3987.50.
To make matters worse Botswana referees are expected to buy their own uniform which collectively (shorts, t-shirts, socks and boots) will require around P1500. Only five local referees are listed with FIFA and they are the only ones who enjoy free clothing from the world football governing body.

Eatametse Olopeng, the man at the helm of Botswana referees through the Referees Association reacts: “We have recently tabled a proposal before the BFA NEC as to how the conditions of service of referees could be improved. We are hopeful that the matter would be considered favorably. But we must be cognizant of the environment that we operate within. Some of the Leagues do not have sponsors and it is difficult to argue for remuneration of referees accordingly.”   Olopeng admits that local referees are underpaid but he says the lack of sponsorships makes it difficult for the Referees Association to protect and speak for its members. “We are aware that some of the Leagues have no money at all hence it is almost impossible to pitch a proposal with the structures.”

He says the situation is better at National Leagues (premier league and First Division) because there are sponsors. He explains that in the lower divisions, Regions have to find means of paying the referees somehow. A referee in the lower league is paid P100 per match in Botswana. Regions get an annual budget of P30 000 from the BFA to use towards paying referees’ fees, Olopeng says. To demonstrate the dire financial strain, the Referees’ Committee has streamlined roles in the First Division, an assessor working in that league is compelled to act the roles of match commissioner and fourth official all at a go.

“We want to improve the conditions of work for referees, and companies must come on board and support sport. Sport creates jobs,” he says. On other issues, the chairman of the Referees Committee indicates that they want to shape refereeing in the direction of a career hence they have engaged BISA and BOPSSA to identify school going children who are interested in refereeing, “so that we train them young and image the profession in the them,” he adds. Furthermore a recent meeting of the Referees Committee agreed to introduce a subcommittee for Women Referees to motivate for more participation of women referees in football.  

In the past clubs used to be asked to raise funds towards payment of referees and many found the arrangement untidy because it could encourage corruption. Olopeng stresses that “poorly paid referees could be a catalyst for match fixing.” Today a lot of teams are struggling to stay afloat hence they are not in a position to pay referees.
The concerns of the clubs are that they are operating without sponsorship and this is not good for the welfare of the referees.

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Sport

Inside incentive package for national teams

12th May 2021
Montsho & Makwala

Amid the heightened public back lash and low lying protests from athletes concerning welfare and unfair treatment at global stages, it comes to light that sport performance in the country can reach greater heights if the incentive package document seen by WeekendSport is anything to go by.

In March of 2012, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development liaised with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to work out and approve a budget for incentive packages for national team players.

The step was a necessary milestone that aided the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to erect a long standing policy that dictates the best possible ways of rewarding athletes in various codes.The approved package sees a total of 29 sporting codes listed under 3 categories with different athletes getting varying amounts while on preparatory camps.

In Category 1, the approved package list football and volleyball as the two codes whose preparations can expand over a long period of time. It comes into the open that the monthly allowances per football player is P 1.500 while volleyball players get P 3.500 each. Moreover, all the players under these two codes are entitled to a benefit of a government-funded insurance premium cover of up to P 100 000 in medical expenses.

Furthermore, athletes enjoy death cover of up P 100 000 while a gratuity at 25% of total earnings is payable every four years.Category 2 lists netball, karate, softball, athletics, boxing and rugby. Of these six codes, each athlete receives P2000 for every match appearance.

These athletes also enjoy the same benefits of injury and death cover as codes listed in Category 1.A total of 21 sporting codes are listed in the last category. These include amongst others, chess, badminton, table tennis, motorsport, cricket, squash and swimming. For all these codes, the incentive package states that each player will get P 1.500 per cap. Again, the athletes of these codes retain the same benefits as those in category 1 and 2.

The incentive package document further lists down rewards set aside for athletes performing in regional, continental and world competitions.Individual performers partaking in regional competitions gets P 1 500 if they bring a bronze medal home. P 2000 is for silver medal while athlete is sure of P 2.500 for scooping a gold medal. The same amounts also apply to a group code.

The ante is upped a little high at continental games. The document states that individual athletes bringing home a gold medal will get P 25 000. Furthermore, an athlete winning a silver medal receives P 15 000 while P 10 000 is for a bronze category.

Rewards for performance at the world stage is that an athlete get P 100 000 for scooping a gold medal, P75 000 for silver and P50 000 for bringing a bronze medal home. Furthermore, an athlete is given P 10 000 for finishing within the top 4 places while an added P 5 000 is for those who complete the top 8 category. This is for both individual athletes and group codes.

The document further states in the last paragraph that rewards for setting or breaking competition records is available. If athletes break a regional record, they will be given P 10 000. A continental record set and broken will see an athlete winning P 20 000.

In the Commonwealth stage, a local athlete will be given P 30 000 while P 100 000 is for those who break and set new records both at Olympic Games and World competitions. Coaches are also rewarded and get 10% of what an athlete receives at various competition levels.

However, there are misgivings that the document is static and needs to be revised to match it with today’s standard practice. Calls are overwhelming that rewards must be improved especially for codes-like Athletics- who bring optimum results at global stage.

The document should also clearly state break downs of budget for preparatory competitions and rewards for each stage especially in a group code. When giving clarity, the acting Chief Executive Officer of BNSC, Tuelo Serufho, said that it is necessary to understand the document but is eager to go back to the boardroom and effect changes if need be.

“We must be careful when we compare codes, a lot of emphasis is needed to get to the conclusion of who is performing and is who is failing, but for all purposes of fairness, rewards are meant for everyone and can be triggered,” he said.

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Sport

Task Force assesses BNSC proposal

11th May 2021
Hockey

COVID-19 Task Force is said to be studying the proposition of Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) to re-open sport activities in a phased manner before the end of this month.

The Task Force is said to be operating under immense pressure to build and maintain the equilibrium of sport alongside the impact of corona virus in the country. The team is working behind closed doors following recommendations from BNSC and the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development that the relevant importance of sport together with its socio-economic value in Botswana’s circumstances can no longer be ignored.

This is also propagated by the recent scintillating performance by 4 x400 man national relay team. The quartet led by veteran Isaac Makwala scooped the bronze medal at the World Athletics Championship held in Poland last week. This feat was achieved despite the current lockdown imposed on sport.

Sources say the general recommendation from these sport organs is that sport activities must come back immediately but proper adherence to COVID -19 protocols must also be the number one priority. Furthermore, the sport organizations are believed to have recommended that there must be a phased approach to uplifting the suspension of the games.

Foremost, the Ministry argues that non-contact sports must return in the first phase. This includes among others, long tennis, table tennis, volley ball, athletics and chess. The second stage is to allow contact sport to come back to life where football is largely missed.

It is said the ministry has also attached the matrix involving all 40 sporting codes in the country that all give life to the proposed return to play guidelines. The matrix indicates that all 40 codes need to return to the field as soon as it is safe. Of these 40 codes, 22 of them have an urgent need to return to competition and this includes football.

BNSC argues in their position paper that the level of risk assessed and detected has seen only 10 sporting codes that are not in danger of spreading the virus. These are athletics, badminton, bowling, bridge, golf, motorsport, Paralympics, squash, and traditional sports games.

Football, wrestling, rugby, handball and hockey form part of the codes that act as catalysts in spreading the virus and a proper and strict adherence of protocols is needed.Meanwhile, it is said that football has met with BNSC high ranking officials to present their own case. The football association argues that industry has suffered a lot and there is an urgent need to return.

They say their venue across the value chain in Botswana is about P 55 million, employing approximately 3 000 people directly. About 9 000 jobs are created when the game is up and running, they said.

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Sport

The race for BFL CEO Post

5th May 2021
BPL CEO race

Newly formed Botswana Football League (BFL) has shortlisted Olebile Sikwane and Solomon Ramochotlhwane for the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) post, with the duo having been interviewed this week and now awaiting their fate.

Information passed to WeekendSport indicates that BFL has engaged a certain Human Resource firm to screen the best possible candidate.

It is further mentioned that there was a third candidate, Harry Koata, who had to withdraw primarily on issues bordering on principle and conflict of interest.

Koata is an employee of Masitaoka FC of Molepolole, occupying the post of General Manager (GM) and his boss Aryl Ralobala has been elevated as the Chairman of the board where Masitaoka are bonafide members.

However, sources say the two administrators showed great command of corporate language and managed to put together a compelling football argument.

It is further stated that the football league board will have a hard time in choosing the right candidate given the stiffness of the competition between the two.

With a number of blunders and past failures at the hands of the CEOs at Lekidi, the panel is said to have made a tremendous recruitment exercises and thorough screening.

With that said, adjudicators argued that they did not want to start trying out old combinations and a decision to recommend two names is seen to be in the interest of dousing flames from the eyes of the public around how BFA and its structures manage its affairs.

However, a careful perusal of Ramochotlhwane‘s credentials speak about a football administrator who is well versed on either side of the game. While it is quick to remember that the newly voted Green Lovers Chairman, a Serowe based outfit, is a relatively higher influencer on the political landscape of Botswana football, Ramochotlhwane is said to be commanding respect wherever he goes without ever demanding it.

He stands as an administrator with acumen of coaching and a CEO Guru. His technical and administrative version of the game springs out, and if chosen, he will, not disappoint.

Many are believed to retain admiration for him largely because he is not corrupted by the football politics. He stood for BFA elections last year for the post of Vice Presidency. He however was not successful at the poll.

While this is a plus for him, the other advantage in choosing
Ramochotlhwane- who also holds Masters in finance- is that he has vast experience in leadership and has a proven record of giving a push to a new company.

Often times, the CEO of the league faces a stubborn board of governors when making crucial decisions. Can he manage? The question lingers on.

Solly however holds the same vision with that of the President of the association, Mac Lean Letswiti, in turning football into a business. Should premier league genuinely buy the idea, there are no misgivings nor any denials that the man will not disappoint.

Over a period of 12 years (2007-2019), Solly attended courses under the association and he arose best as both a technical and administrative expert. He will need minimum supervision.

On the other hand, Olebile Sikwane is also seen as a corporate leader in financial industry with vast experience in media and sports. Sikwane has applied for the job and is hoping to get the position to implement the board vision.

“I have ambitions, I am young and competent. I have most of the attributes but let’s respect the process. I have faith in the process and the people doing the recruitment,” he said.

Sikwane has worked for several international media houses and leading sports firms in South Africa. He is a well-known Agent and publisher. Upon return to Botswana, he briefly worked as General Manager at Gaborone United and turned around the fortunes of the club.

Last year, he won the position of the Vice Chairman position at Mochudi Centre Chiefs. He is therefore part of the crew tasked with transforming the once popular club bringing it back to its glory days.

Whether he will be chosen as the best candidate is open for debate, but his proficiency remains crucial as BFL is faced with a taxing and tricky situation of re-negotiating with sponsors to re-start the league post corona scare.

 

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