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.
Major David Bright is set to be announced as the new coach of Premier league rookies, Sua Flamingos, who parted ways with their coach, Raizor Tsatselebe, last week after a fall out over players’ welfare.
Bright, who is currently coaching first division south outfit, Holy Ghost was interviewed for the job this week with three other coaches and is said to have agreed to a contract in principle. Sua Flamingos Chairman, Tirelo Thebe was mum on the issue insisting that the deal will be announced at the right time when both parties have put to pen everything.
“What I can tell you is that next month we will announce our coach and he will have time to prepare our team as we aim to not just be at the top league for one season but we want to compete as we are a team that aspire to be one of the top teams in Botswana and one day compete in international CAF games.
Yes Bright is one of the people we are considering so you need to understand that negotiations are private and can break at any time but we hope for the best,” the team Chairman said in a telephone interview.
Bright is also one of the decorated local coaches having coached premier league sides such as Gaborone United, Township Rollers, BDF Xl, and in South Africa where he coached Cape Town Santos, Bay United and Black Leopards.
Bright has also coached the Zebras before they roped in Algerian coach, Adel Ambrouche who is the current Zebras coach. It is to be seen as to whether the management of Sua Flamingos will be able to work smoothly with David Bright who is a man who does not tolerate interference with his squad.
“It’s surprising that the team fired Raizor as he was seen to be more on the side of players and now they are bringing in a coach who doesn’t even tolerate interference from management and very strict on both management and players.
I mean if they have a problem with strict coaches why bring another strict coach? They could have brought in a coach who can listen to them more as management because they want to be in control of the team and everything,” said a source at the club.
“The delay is said to be because Bright has asked for him to be given chance to rope in his preferred assistant coach and management asked to be given time to consider his request as they are not comfortable with the issue,” continued the source.
Sua Flamingo Santos have returned to training and are led by care taker coach, Kopano Computer Phakedi.
Botswana Premiership League outfit, Gaborone United (GU) were the first to open a new chapter in the history books of Botswana football, when they were crowned the inaugural 2008/09 beMobile Premiership champions.
The success came after almost two decades without winning the league title. In a title decider played at Molepolole Stadium, Moyagoleele defeated the defending champions, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, by a solitary goal courtesy of Wellington Maposa.
That was the last time the money machine was crowned the league champions. Just nearly 10 years after breaking a curse of going two decades without tasting league victory, The Reds have regrouped in a bit to return to their former glory days.
GU is currently the busiest club in the transfer market as they are bolstering their squad ahead of 2020/2021 football season.
The Money Machine have secured the signatures of Mothusi Johnson and Karabo Phiri from the Debswana-sponsored giants; Orapa United and Jwaneng Galaxy respectively.
WeekendSport has since established that both players have signed three-year contracts with the Reds. The club is now under the guidance of business mogul Nicholas Zakhem who is their chief financier.
Moyagoleele’s prodigal son, Phiri, returns to Old Naledi after spending two seasons with the current 2019/2020 BTC Premiership Champions Jwaneng Galaxy.
Phiri was signed by former Jwaneng Galaxy coach Miguel Da Costa during 2018/2019 season where he became their regular player. Phiri has also won the 2019 Mascom Top 8 champions with Jwaneng Galaxy.
Since then, 25 year old has earned himself several national team calls.
Another player who returns home is none other than the ever impressive defender Mothusi Johnson. The 23 year old Zebras defender joined Orapa United from the Money Machine during 2018/2019 season.
However, prior to the elapse of his two year deal with the Ostriches, it was reported that he previously turned down two offers from Orapa United arguing that they did not represent his worth.
Another reason why Johnson turned down two offers from Orapa United was because he wanted to move abroad but later realised that it was going to be difficult for him find a team after the COVID-19 outbreak.
The 23 year-old Johnson made a name for himself on the field of play after he was nurtured by Argentinian coach Rudolf Zapata while at GU. Orapa United Spokesperson, Kabo William confirmed with this publication that Mothusi Johnson will be a Gaborone United player.
“Yes, Mothusi bid us a farewell saying he’s joining Gaborone United. His contract had expired. So we are just waiting for GU to make a request for his clearance,’’ William said.
Former Motlakase Power Dynamos and also Mochudi Centre Chiefs defender, Thato Kebue has left Jwaneng Galaxy after the end of his contract and it has been reported that he signed a pre-contract with the Money machine according to impeccable sources.
The 23 year-old defender joins Galaxy from Magosi during the 2017/2018 season and just like his former teammate Phiri helped his former side win the League and also the Top 8 tournament.
Gaborone United are reportedly keen on signing Jwaneng Galaxy defensive midfielder Lebogang Ditsile. The Reds want to compete for top honours next season and they feel Ditsile can bring the competitive edge they need in the middle of the park.
Meanwhile reports coming from Moyagoleele is that the club is planning to take their caretaker coach to complete CAF A coaching licensing before offering him a new three-year deal.
Moloi made headlines beginning of this year when teams questioned why Botswana Football Association (BFA) allowed him be the head coach for GU while he is holding a B license coaching qualification which only enables him to sit on the GU technical bench as an assistant coach.
The Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, has expressed its underlying desire to reawaken and improve sport policy.
This is also in line with the declaration made by President Mokgweetsi Masisi in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) this week about the need to improve sport performance in the country. The sport policy was first enacted in 2001 when the Department of Sport and Recreation was under the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs.
The review of this policy is expected to commence soon and strive to address all socio-economic problems bedevilling sport. The examination will start from the elements that speak to the direct processes of national dialogue of sport and come up with recommendations for improvement.
As things stand, the Sport Ministry has coordinated a task force to deal with the taxing issue of school sports where teachers have downed tools demanding special kind of payment for partaking in extracurricular activities. The government through various means has been made aware that sport forms an integral part of the country’s vision.
If the policy is finally revised, the country and other stakeholders will eventually achieve national development, unity and continued economic growth. “The national Sport Commission Act is also being reviewed to facilitate sport to contribute to the economy through commercialization and professionalism, as well as to improve the welfare and the rights to our sportspersons,” Masisi said in his address.
The review will once again take a long route of extensive consultative processes where critical factors were initially identified as continuous constraint to sport development. There is a wide ranging view that sport is solely for recreation. This anomaly is fast becoming a matter of yesteryears as more athletes are making a living out of sport.
In October of 1997, a discussion paper on sport policy development was prepared. At the time, the workshop brought together policy and decision makers. The discussions precisely centred on issues of sport participation and development. Participants included among others, Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC), Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) and National Sports Associations.
There was the discovery of limited funding in sport and poor sporting facilities in the country. This has negatively impacted on the performance of national sports associations, particularly on the global stage. As a measure to this problem, the government has decided to build 10 mini stadia to up participation and performance.
In 2001 when the policy was formulated, there was an agreement that the national guiding principles of democracy, development, unity, self-reliance and botho are cardinal to the development strategy of socio-economic development planning. The Ministry believes that sport and recreation in Botswana have a close relationship with all these national principles.
When speaking to this publication, the Chief Executive Officer of BNSC, Tuelo Serufho said there is indeed an overwhelming appetite to improve sport performance and participation in the country. “Yes we need to engage both BNSC and BNOC to improve and review the sport policy more because it has been overtaken by time…it needs to be aligned with modern sports trends,” Serufho briefly shared.