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.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is running without a substantive Technical Director since parting ways with South African native, Serame Letsoaka, who jumped ship midway through his contract in 2019.
This glaring revelation has left the Technical Department of the association hamstrung to fully operate by the book hence a plethora of problems protruding on the very nose of it.
This is the reason it took long for the association to take stern action against Zebras gaffer, Adel Amrouche. His departure was sanctioned at the eleventh hour when players’ patience had long wilted, threatening to leave the camp.
Pundits will therefore observe that it is the absence of a Technical Director that has caused all hell to break loose at Lekidi Football Centre.Since the departure of Letsoaka, the TD position has been more or less vacant as it has been manned by unqualified and somewhat incompetent administrators to date.
The TD position requires a CAF A-License qualification as well as a Diploma in Secondary Education as minimum qualifications. Among the specific duties of TD is; training and development of coaches, including design and updating of coaches manuals, facilitating licensing courses, developing a coaches Code of Conduct, arranging for expert and specialist coaches to deliver training clinics, education on rules of the game and creating and maintaining a library of resources including books, videos and articles for coaches to access.
The responsibility also include establishing and delivering a comprehensive and nationwide Grassroots programme at both the community level, in schools, and in the schools through clubs through strategic partnerships within the communities and with various government ministries and agencies.
TD also advices BFA on all matters related to the effective development of football in Botswana and is accountable for the development of a strategy and policy for the performance of football programmes.
Other duties include working with Youth National teams and coaches through development programmes in order to enable BFA to attain its goals within CAF and FIFA, including putting in place clear systems and processes for identifying and developing talented players.
After Letsoaka left, BFA reached out to Wire Kaelo, a Gaborone United legend currently holding the position of assistant coach at Security System FC, but eventually he was not appointed to the post.
Despite rumours to the effect that BFA had agreed terms with Kaelo to this day, the Association has not come out as to what happened to the alleged marriage.
BFA subsequently appointed one Dr Carolin Braun, on secondment from the German Olympic organisation, a move that left the association rooted in abrasive factionalism.
In particular, local coaches and the general football fanatics have always cried foul claiming that Dr Braun is not fit to hold the position of TD especially in a growing football environment like Botswana.
There is growing concern that Dr Braun does not have the pre-requisite credentials to be appointed for this plum post as she has never held any significant position within the football fraternity, not even at amateur level.
“It was a first in the history of Botswana football to see a TD doubling up as assistant coach to the senior national team and there has been no tangible coaching courses since the departure of Serame Letsoaka and this has been attributable to the vacant position of TD,” a source remarked.
BFA is currently failing to communicate CAF’s decision that the ill-fated CAF “B” and “C” courses held during Serame’s last days were not sanctioned and therefore attendants will not be certificated.
Over 50 local coaches participated in the courses and last year, most of those coaching in the Premier League had to be given waivers by the BFA Technical Committee before they could be accredited.
CAF has since indicated that the issue of waivers by national associations will not be entertained, something which might throw local games into disarray.BFA is still failing to come up with a coaching philosophy despite Serame having started groundwork before his departure.
Other countries such as Zambia have since resumed CAF coaching courses whilst in Botswana is still business as usual despite the impending challenges caused by indiscretion and lack of foresight.
Despite BFA having advertised the position of TD and subsequently holding interviews where recommendations were done by the Technical and Development Committee, the BFA NEC has refused to endorse the recommendation for reasons only best known to them.
Yet, there is a lingering fact that the NEC is clueless when it comes to technical matters. There is not even a single individual in the NEC who holds any coaching qualification including the Chairman of the member responsible for technical and development matters, Masego Ntshingane.
When asked about the position of the TD, Ntshingane said the association is well aware of the matter and will son fill the post. “Yes, it is true the association has not appointed a TD after Letsoaka’s departure, but we are working around the clock to hire capable people,” he said.
However, local coaches believe that it’s a travesty of justice to expect non-technical people to make meaningful contributions on technical matters to the extent that they can veto recommendations from a committee of renowned technical experts.
It is not business as usual in the operations manual of African football. Ever since the ascendency of Dr. Patrice Motsepe to the CAF plum post, the African football governing body is ringing changes to satisfy the demands and governance standards of the modern game.
However, it appears that what is coming out from the high offices of the game is a bitter pill to swallow for local clubs, some of which are touted to be the best in the land.
Connectedly, CAF has issued a circular to the effect that only coaches holding the CAF “A” education license will be permitted to sit on the technical dugout during the upcoming inter club competitions. This communication has been sent to all 54 CAF member associations in May 2021.
However, it seems local clubs have not been appraised on this development even though both Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United have shown desire to represent the country in the CAF competitions.
It comes to the fore now that the two clubs can successfully represent the country if they engage coaches with the pre-requisite qualifications which is now an insurmountable task due to the COVID-19 impact on club finances.
Both clubs have hired coaches who attended the ill-fated BFA conducted CAF “B” and “A” coaching courses which were held in Lobatse almost two years ago.
To date the coaches await the completion of the courses and certificates while CAF has made it clear that the courses were not sanctioned as they were held during the era that coaching licenses were suspended, a situation that BFA was well aware of and has since accepted the consequences.
The BFA is still at sixes and sevens on how to break the issue to the affected coaches as it is likely to cause a huge public embarrassment and backlash from the coaching fraternity.
“We all know about the problem, BFA is promising to come to the bottom of the matter as we continue to engage them,” says Botswana Football Coaches Association (BFCA) interim President, Daniel Nare.
CAF has also made it clear that this time there will be no waiver for coaches without the pre-requisite qualification because the Confederation has been too lenient in the past. During the last CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup, both Galaxy and Orapa United coaches were given a reprieve by CAF Technical Department as they did not even have the CAF “B” license.
When approached for clarity, the Spokesperson for Galaxy, Tankiso Morake said they are playing a waiting game when it comes to CAF issues especially that BFA is yet to reply to their letter. “Honestly, there is nothing concrete I can share because no one is certain about anything. We are waiting to be replied by the association so that we can finalize everything,” he said.
While United was not available for comment, it is clear that both clubs will need to hire coaches with the needed qualifications otherwise playing in this year’s edition of African football mirrors a tomorrow that may never come.
A recent study shows that Township Rollers is not only popular within the perimeters of Botswana, but has also made significant steps within the digital football platforms in Africa.
Out of the 70 African football clubs ranked on the African football digital benchmark, Township Rollers comes on the 35th position backed by a massive social media following. The club website records more than 399 000 followers and is seen as the most interactive in the local game.
This is consistent with the recent study conducted by FIFA- world football governing body- that Rollers is the only team locally that makes use of its digital platforms.
Notably, it comes out that the gap between Township Rollers and the rest of the 15 Premier League clubs is abysmal, this therefore works against creating a strong BPL brand value.
Rollers is the only club with more than 50 000 followers on Facebook, more than 20 000 followers on Twitter while its Instagram platform stands strong at 27 800 followers.
However, it is found out that much of the BPL brand value is killed by some social Facebook football fan accounts. They have stood long and have thus attracted more followers than the official accounts. Pages like Killers Pass and Botswana Football have consequently seen more than 100 000 following. Both of the accounts give 24 hour on-going updates of football’s latest news, transfers, results, video and live updates.
FIFA has therefore come to a conclusion that the two social media pages have grown interactive since they incite followers to answer and present their impressions about local football.
It comes into the open that 70 percent of domestic premier league clubs do not have official websites. This according to FIFA, kills the brand and visibility of clubs hence failure to attract lucrative sponsors by the clubs. FIFA also found out that the remaining 30 percent of clubs with websites are lacklustre and found wanting when it comes to their online presence. But in this regard, Rollers is on pole position.