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 case involving the improper registration of Township Rollers left back, Onkarabile Ratanang which has been dragging for a long time since the beginning of this year was finally put to bed this week after Botswana Football League (BFL) Disciplinary Committee (DC) found Mapalastina guilty.
In what shocked many football fanatics this week, Popa Popa as they are affectionately known by their legion of fans were fined P15 000 for using a defaulter in some of their league matches. It must be noted that no team officially filed a formal protest against Rollers. In April this year, Botswana Football Association (BFA) Secretariat conducted investigations into registration of Ratanang and discovered that the player was registered outside the transfer registration period.
According to a statement from secretariat, it revealed that BFA registration period was from 13th July 2021 to the 30th September 2021 but Ratanang was registered on the 28th of October 2021 and this was done contrary to the rules and statutes of the BFA. After the investigations were conducted, two officials from Rollers and a former BFA employee Setete Phuthego who are alleged to have been implicated in the registration of Ratanang were suspended from all footballing activities.
The two Rollers officials were, General Manager Sydney Magagane and Team Manager Motshegetsi Mafa. However Mafa’s suspension was withdrawn on June 27 though there was no disciplinary hearing conducted. Rollers was represented by Bennett Mamelodi who is the CEO of the club together with Kgosietsile Ngaakagae and Martin Dingake in the Ratanang case. The Botswana Premier League (BFL) Prosecution team was led by Chalengwa Manyepedza, Bojosi and three other members.
When delivering the long awaited judgement on Thursday, Manyepedza who is the chairman of BFL Prosecution team said there were two mitigating factors in favour of Rollers with the most important aggravating factor being the seriousness of the offence. “To their benefit and it has not been violently contested to suggest otherwise, Rollers approached the BFA office for help (in their words) and curiously the BFA office that ought to be custodians of the system allowed the request and thereafter kept quiet about the matter,” reads part of the judgement.
“It is a matter of record that Township Rollers have maintained that the situation central to the case was facilitated and somewhat sanctioned by the named BFA officer who received the application albeit out of time as it has been established but still proceeded to procure the registration and clearance of the player and thereafter kept quiet about the matter.”
Furthermore Manyepedza indicated that there is a problem in the BFA office in terms of governance and adherence to controls judging from what allegedly happened. He further said whilst the BFA junior officer claimed that they were directed by a superior officer to assist the accused, “there has been nothing more placed before us to support the argument that Rollers were the only party with dirt on their hands in his case.”
He went on to emphasize that the committee finds that the appropriate sanction should also pronounce that the respective office of the BFA that facilitated the transgression was also remiss and complicit in their discharge of their functions. “As stated in the main judgement the player was a defaulter and the issue of his status did not arise from the protest or complaint or in any way as contemplated in the BFL Disciplinary code. It must be emphasized that the case would been different if all the issues had an aggrieved party or if any would have followed the set procedure in the BFL code,” he said.
Manyepedza said after taking all relevant factors into account including the demands of justice, the committee finds it fitting that the possible punishment in the matter to be prescribed above at clause 6.3 to be a fine of P15 000 and that the fine should be paid within 3 days of the judgement. In conclusion, he cautioned Rollers to refrain from any further acts of being negligent or clumsy in discharging their office functions to end up seeking favours from officials. Manyepedza also advised Rollers that they have 10 days to appeal the judgement.
Youthful coach Wame Mokoke has come out with guns blazing to the Extension Gunners official who he said recruited him back to the club after he dumped them for greener pastures at Jwaneng Galaxy but failed to deliver on their promises.
Pepe Zino, as he is otherwise known, then joined Galaxy on a 2 year deal to deputise head coach Morena Ramorebodi but 2 weeks later retraced his steps back to Mapantsula, a move he highly regrets. “That guy (name withheld as the issue is now before the courts of law) counteroffered what Galaxy had offered, promised to timely pay my salary from his company on behalf of Gunners and also promised me a 4 hectare piece of land at Dikgonnye, that is what really lured me back but he failed to deliver, ” Mokoke said in an interview with this publication.
After rejoining Gunners much to the allured charm that was dangled in front of him, Mokoke timely received his first month salary back in January but nothing thereafter as the unending stories began. “I could be far by now as Galaxy offered me an opportunity of a lifetime. They even promised to further my coaching badges but look at where I am now, “Mokoke disappointedly explained.
However, Mokoke said he has approached the labour courts for his defaulted payments and as for the piece of land, he registered the case with the High Court of Botswana and they are set to appear for a hearing on the 6th of August. He further added that he has proof of all the documents the official allegedly signed before his own laywers to authorise the land giveaway and the promise of monthly salary payments and furnished the judges with them.
A week ago Mokoke went back home as he was unveiled as the new First Division side Mahalapye Highlanders head coach on a 2 year deal and said he is excited about the new challenge that lies ahead of him as the management gave him attainable goals. “They simply asked me come and help them get promoted back to the premier league by building my own team and promised to avail the resources. I have also been given the authority over the establishment of our junior teams.
To try and achieve all these in a space of 2 years is a fair requirement,” he added. One of the projects Mokoke envisions is to try and unite the people of Mahalapye in terms of trying to get fully behind Highlanders including the supporters and the players in and around the Mahalapye area.
For starters, Mokoke said he wants to alter the tradition that has ingrained at Highlanders as majority of the players there were not from the team’s area of abode and he wants to give Mahalapye players a chance in order for them to don the blue and white of Highlanders with pride and sense of belonging and to steer the ship.
Furthermore, Mokoke is equally peturbed by the trend among the football fraternity of local coaches being undermined while their foreign counterparts enjoy prestigious welfare albeit being equally qualified as them. “Let us change the welfare of our local coaches who have oftentimes showed that they are equally qualified and capable like foreign coaches. Let us invest in our own and also empower them,” said Mokoke in a parting shot.
Botswana shall be sending a team of 34 athletes to represent the country at the biggest games of the 2022 calendar year, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, officially known as the XXII Commonwealth Games.
The Games are slated to take place between the 28th July and 8th August 2022 in Birmingham, England. According to BNSOC, Botswana has been accorded thirty-five (35) slots at the upcoming games and has been able to qualify outright one athlete from the Botswana Weightlifting Federation making the total team size thirty-six (34), the largest team to be fielded by less population country thus far.
In celebrating and lauding this feat by team Botswana, , the British High Commissioner to Botswana, Her Excellency Sian Price recently hosted an intimate reception for the team, at her residence. “Consider this little bit of the UK in Botswana the first stage on your journey to Birmingham. It’s not just me that is excited to have you here, the city of Birmingham is very excited to welcome you, and they are welcoming you and all other family members from across the commonwealth because we are a family of nations, and we enjoy these celebrations that introduce the coming together of family to play together, to celebrate together and to strive together for excellence,” said Price.
Price said this will be the most inclusive Commonwealth Games ever, with more para sports than ever before and for the first time in history this makes me excited; there will be more medal events for women than for men. When addressing the athletes, BNOC CEO Botho Bayendi reveals to ‘unveil’ the concept that is believed to be mastered seed that will grow and bear fruit as they go to Birmingham from today up to the day of departure in 2024.
“As BNOC we have partnered with BITC, and BNSC to conceive a concept called the first, the best and the number one. In this concept, we are trying to persuade the mindset of the people to say that sports is for sports for live, sports generate joy to us all and sports unite,” she said. Bayendi further explained that this is a concept where they will be approaching individuals and companies who in their line of business have been classified as the best of the best or the number one.
“We intend to leverage the national unity behind sports in relation to the ultimate sports excellence. We are saying that we want to create an atmosphere where everybody, every national of Botswana will relate positively with the sports excellence and will be contributing that excellence,” she said. “The Olympic Games are guided by the values of excellence, friendship, and respect. Therefore, we want to be selling these values and allowing everybody, the company, individual to relate with these values.”
For his part chairman of Botswana Olympic Association France Mabiletsa, a former Olympian, said athletes should dream big so that those who come after them will enjoy and benefit from their dreams. He advised them to just enjoy their sport. “Don’t take drugs, don’t dodge from the camps because the moment you start dodging, or you don’t come back you will be punished severely,” he said. Standard charted bank CEO Mpho Masupe said it is important that as athletes they look in the long term and see where they can excel so that they know whether they could make a good coach, teacher, or instructor, saying they should not limit themselves.