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.â€¨The concerns of the clubs are that they are operating without sponsorship and this is not good for the welfare of the referees.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, is eager to lead crunch talks that will consequently see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) becoming one authoritative sport entity.
The appointment of one Tuelo Serufho to the plum position of BNSC Chief Executive Officer two week ago has further catalysed the intention to merge the sports bodies to avoid the long standing complaints of duplication of roles by the two.
Serufho was replacing Falcom Sedimo whose contract was not renewed.Serufho, ironically is the longest serving CEO of BNOC and also a board member of BNSC.“One of our aims is to form a robust sport body to centralize and improve decision making processes and maybe the time to resuscitate BNSC/BNOC merger is now,” Rakgare briefly shared.
The impending move is highly meant to improve effective functioning, governance and performance of sports in the country both locally and globally.Should this see the light of day, Botswana would have done itself a favour and it would start sending a handful of athletes to international competitions.
The amalgamation of BNSC/BNOC talks have been in the pipelines but discussions were aborted two years ago without clear reasons. The creation of this all-encompassing sport institution is overdue according to the minister.
“It is in fact our mandate to make sure this happens, it is overdue and by next year we hope to have finalised our position paper,” Rakgare added.The creation of the looming body is borne out of lessons learnt from various sports governance models around the world.
In South Africa, the sports ministry facilitated discussions to merge National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the South African Sports Commission. Their authoritative sports body is now called South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
With the South African model well in place, Botswana is urged to bench mark and create a sport body as a civic society-based organisation as required by the statutes of international sports bodies.The name of the local sport body is mooted and the minister refused to give a hint. But he is optimistic that the body will be the vanguard organization of sport in the country.
He emphasized that the sports organisation should be a purposeful guardian for governance and management of sports and be the required defining figure of the role of sports in Botswana’s communities.Talks to revamp and rebuild these sports bodies come at a time when BNSC is restructuring.
When Sedimo was still at the helm, he wanted to phase out some positions which he felt were unnecessary.BNSC receive close to 53 million Pula as grants from the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports development and Culture empowerment while BNOC takes a figure a closer to that.
Township Rollers is anticipated to spent around P 50 000 to expatriate their foreign based players amid ravaging corona virus threats. The club, in collaboration with the Football Union of Botswana (FUB) tested Francis Afriyie, Fabian Assagou Guy and Kamogelo Matsabu before they can head to their native countries.
The trio are awaiting the results which are all expected to come out negative, following which they will immediately board planes to their various destinations. Afriyie was a Rollers striker from Ghana.
Matsabu, regarded the darling of the club is heading back to South Africa while Guy signed by the club but has never impressed, will board a plane back to Ivory Coast.It is likely that both Matsabu and Guy will return as they are still contracted to Rollers. However, Afriyie will not return after failing Rollers litmus test.
The striker failed to break into the starting 11 of head coach Frank Nuttall for the season and it appeared that frustration got to him. And when it finally knocked him down, the striker in a rough and unexpected remonstration stormed out of the bench while a Rollers game was on.
The former Gho Maria striker penned a two year deal in January and it is rumoured that his contract was heavily incentivized, catapulting him to being one of the highest paid players at Rollers.His end of season departure will now put a serious question mark over Rollers’ recruitment policy.
He becomes the fourth foreign striker to fail the club examinations and released while on contract. Before him was, Mthokosize Msomi from South Africa, Terrence Mandawa from Tanzania and Fabian Mbowa from Ivory Coast. Msomi and Mandawa’s release were sanctioned by former coach Nikola Kavazovic. Mbowa is loaned to Police XI to create space and playing opportunity for the now departing Afriyie.
Releasing Afriyie will now mean that the club’s striking woes continue. Rollers management complained at times last season at the lack of productivity from their strikers but they hoped that striker Tumisang Orebonye and other targeted signings, aided perhaps by Edwin Moalosi who remains on the books, could fire an upturn.
However, it was never meant to be as they finished the season second behind league winners, Jwaneng Galaxy.
Black Leopards head coach, Joel Masutha, is reported to have orchestrated a move that could see mid fielder-cum-striker, Mogakolodi Tsotso Ngele, being dropped by Leopards.
WeekendSport has learnt that the coach summoned the Zebras former captain to a one-on-one meeting a month ago to relay the bad news. It is reported that Masutha told the player that he is surplus to requirement and therefore he will not be selected for any game unless he opts to leave.
Reports further state that Tsotso was not encouraged to fight for his position but instead was told that there are better players to be tasked with scoring responsibilities and helping the club to dodge the dreaded relegation axe.Ngele therefore is waiting for his contract to expire before plotting his next move. He is said to be torn between playing for one more year in South Africa and coming to Botswana to play for high paying Township Rollers.
The Rollers decision will once again hinge on his private business which he would love to monitor closely. He owns a sports clothing label where he already signed a two year deal with Notwane FC.Ngele’s career at Leopards blew hot and cold. He only enjoyed his stay when his former coach Calvin Johnson was at the helm.
He played in crucial matches and his stunning free kick against log leaders Kaizer Chiefs is still remembered by his followers.However, there have been many other factors at play.It is said Ngele’s future at Thohoyandou- a location where Black Leopards is based- encountered problems of many kinds. His future is believed to have been dulled by injuries and a confidence that strangely refused to bloom.
The player is also said to have broken ranks with Leopards management where he shocked them when playing for the senior national team last year albeit claiming to be suffering from a thigh injury. Ngele had signed a two year deal, but as things stand, the left footed midfielder is heading out as his contract staggers to an end. He is believed to be earning close to R80 000 after tax deductions.
The lifestyle and living conditions at Thohoyandou are also seen as factors that further complicate Ngele’s situation hence the sudden collapse of concentration in football.Ngele is said to be represented by Tim Sukazi who still hopes that the player’s breakthrough career is worth fighting for.
When signed by high spending Mamelodi Sundowns almost 5 years ago, he was represented by Mike Makaab, also a renowned football agent in South Africa.It is growing precarious for Ngele who was chained for longer spells at Sundowns.
But when a move to Leopards was announced, there was a high expectation that the player was nearing his revolutionary season.