Botswana Premier League (BPL) board of governors is in yet another contract lockdown just a few weeks before the expected commencement date of the league. WeekendSport has learnt that the premier league has since engaged the state owned Botswana television (Btv) to re-negotiate new terms ahead of the 2017-18 season.
The Botswana Football Association (BFA), as the football mother body has also been dragged in what appears to be protracted talks of beaming the local games with teams benefitting from the overall production. Insiders from Lekidi football centre say Btv has entered into a difficult agreement with the premier league, as the contract has many loopholes. Sources with access to the contract reveal that BPL, sometime in 2014 negotiated with Btv where financial benefits decreased with each passing year. It is said the two parties inked down a 5 year long deal.
According to sources, in the first year Btv was popping out P9 million while an amount of P7 million came out on the second year. On the third year, Btv had agreed to spend P5 million for the whole intention of benefiting the elite teams. On Wednesday this week, some high ranking members of the premier league board together with some associates of the federation were seen and pictured at the Btv boardroom-possibly to deliberate on the matter. It is anticipated that Btv will heed the premier league’s cry. To an extent, BTC, who are the headline sponsors of the league are said to be monitoring the situation with abated breath.
In the expiring contract, the two parties had agreed to broadcast a maximum of 70 games scheduled for both midweek and weekends. It was seen by those who drive the domestic game towards commercialization as the right and timely decision that, in all respects, answers the long standing demands of the sponsors, BTC. The sponsors always wanted that a maximum of 60 games be aired as per the agreement and terms of the contract. Reports say the number of games is an important aspect in the contract because more games bring more spectators while failure always breeds unnecessary tension.
When BFA and BTV considered the deal years back, it was said that a review was to be made as to whether more television cameras were to be added. In the current contract, it was agreed that a total of 8 cameras will be used per premier league game. It was also reported that the Btv operational body would contemplate mounting touch screens to make half time and full time match analysis interesting and more approachable. This is the scenario currently witnessed with world class broadcast channels in the mould of SuperSport.
The two parties had discussed extensively the operation costs that the state owned television was expected to incur. Btv has been paying the association lump sums in the region of 6 million pula as part of costs and benefits to premier league teams, but it is said this is coming to a crushing end. However, Thabo Ntshinogang who is the acting premier league Chief Executive Officer (CEO) declined to comment, saying “meetings are yet to be held to discuss the matter.”
Outcome of the Wednesday meeting
Sources speaking with WeekendSport reveal that there was no clear head way in manoeuvring over the last two years of the contract. However, it is said Btv showed signs of willingness to adopt whatever proposal BPL might present. Informants say the state-owned broadcast channel management has requested the local football federation to furnish them with any suggestion they feel comfortable with. The sources further suggested that the premier league might now consider partnering with another television production company- a procedure that will eventually see Btv buying the production feed. This is motivated by the fact that BTV, often times, complains of lack of capacity particularly when dealing with midweek fixtures.
BTV, according to those close to developments, is ready for whatever decisions BPL takes. Their inability to broadcast a maximum of 60 games as per the contract between BPL and headline sponsors, inadvertently forces them to accept a third party. The production quality has been a subject of discussion for a long time. In the past, the premier league engaged one South African based company called RP production to work with BTV. SuperSport is another broadcaster that is highly considered in dealing with the issue of capacity. Whatever the decision, sources are adamant that an amicable understanding will finally be reached.
The negotiations involving Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) over elite league sponsorship have suffered a setback as the local brewer this week took what it termed a ‘difficult’ decision to shut down operations.
This effectively means that football sponsorship is back in its dark corner as all efforts to go back to the field take another nasty twist in the midst of ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is regrettable that this latest total ban on alcohol sales has resulted in the suspension of KBL operations, which will remain in place for as long as the alcohol ban persists. KBL continues its efforts to engage government on this critical issue, which is having an enormous impact on the industry and its extensive value chain,” the company explained.
Although not proudly maintained at Lekidi Football Centre, the company is said to have abandoned talks on explanations revolving around ‘lack of funds.’In the initial agreement, sources say that it was settled that KBL would sponsor the Botswana Football League at a tune of P30million for a period of three years.
It is maintained that the deal was to be relooked and redefined to fit the sponsorship modalities of today’s game.Highly placed sources speaking with this publication however state that BFA is assisting BFL to cajole other companies to come on board as football is about to return to the field.
Top of the list is ABSA Bank who have remained afloat despite the impacts of the virus. The bank is said to be committed to football but sources say it will take a considerable amount of persuasion to see the bank increasing sponsorship.
KBL, in the first phase, were willing to commit without much difficulties but after the storm of COVID-19, the company was to take a back seat and played a waiting game. They reasoned that the continuous lockdown the country has gone under has left them with little income than expected.
But according to sources, KBL is still expressing pleasure to engage with the association again and will further illustrate their willingness to come on board as soon as the corona virus situation subsides.It is said KBL has requested further information regarding sponsorship value from the association and once satisfied, negotiations will resume.
However, some administrators within the National Executive Committee believe KBL’s parting message does not inspire confidence. “KBL‘s phase is over, they gave us hope but it is difficult to keep track of them, COVID-19 has affected every plan,” one member shared.
At the close last season, way before the corona virus impacted the country negatively; BFA revealed that it had long compiled its situation analysis of sponsorship value for the local game. It was understood that the property that is the Premier League could be purchased at a value P 15 million over 43 premier league games.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) President, Maclean Letshwiti.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) is engaged in protracted talks to stage a mini-league as lee-way to ascend into a proper football season by August this year.
The idea is to keep players fit and all football structures functioning as time pressure mounts.Informants say the idea is discussed at the competition office and will soon be forwarded to the National Executive Committee (NEC) for further deliberations.
This therefore means that all leagues across the country will be played for only one round until August where a new full football season will resume. Football has never returned to the field for almost 10 months now due to the corona virus.
The situation on the ground looks gloomy as COVID-19 cases continue to rise with each passing day. Football clubs are also feeling the pinch with Sua Flamingos becoming the latest victims. The club has been forced to suspend operations as players and members of the technical team test positive for the deadly virus.
While playing a mini-league is a last resort, it is mentioned that no team will be promoted or relegated after the completion of the games.Sources say it is better than folding arms when teams are continuing to pay players without kicking the ball.
The idea of the mini-league therefore means that there will be no prize money but teams will likely survive with grants from identifiable sponsors. Already, the Botswana Football League (BFL) has secured a P 5 million television deal for over three years.
The BFL think tanks contemplate to augment the television deal with sponsorship grants from ABSA bank. According to information, this will keep the league and its secretariat running until everything gets back to normalcy.
“It is true we are thinking to stage a mini league looking at what we have but this is still an infant idea, we are discussing and we will engage NEC going forward,” a member of the association shared.BFA leadership finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place as the motion to kick start the league in February was shot down by the assembly in October of last year.
The movers of the motion argued that high temperatures usually recorded in the South of Sahara desert negatively affects player performance and their overall health conditions. However, there were intentions to commence the league at the earliest possible time but the task force together with the Ministry of Sport wanted players to be tested and football fields be fumigated regularly to avoid spreading the virus.
Early this week, the BFL leadership engaged the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) to give an update on how football will return. However, this publication cannot adequately establish the detailed plan of the league.
Boteti based side, Orapa United were quick to snatch back Zebras left-back, Lesenya Ramoraka, tying him with a two-year deal after he was released this week by TS Galaxy.
The 26 year-old defender left The Ostriches in 2018 to join Highlands Park who later sold their status last year to renowned football agent Tim Sukazi of TS Galaxy. Ramoraka’s contract was to end this year July.
At the time of the sale, the team then opted not to register him for another season hoping to register him in the January transfer but his injury kept him out for longer than anticipated, forcing TS Galaxy to release him as he was free to start to negotiate with any team that may be interested in him.
“We have signed Ramoraka after assessing his injury and he is in Orapa as we speak doing his rehab.The injury is not bad and we expect him to resume light training anytime from mid- February,” said Kabo William, the club spokesperson.
Ramoraka left an impressive mark at Highlands Park where he played 29 games in all competitions and netting only once. Lee, as he is known in football circles, is one of the most trusted left backs in the country and has been a vital part of the Zebras with his absence felt at the national team.
“The team had wanted to keep him but they were just concerned that his injury was taking long to heal and they opted to release him as you cannot have a player out for too long more especially who is a foreigner,” said a source.
“He had survived the changes at the team and you have to also note that the coach who brought him, Owen Da Gama also just joined TS Galaxy and he is one of the players that he trusted and used so it is not a matter of performance but they couldn’t afford to have him on the side-lines for too long.”
Orapa United have also announced the signing of other players that include; Thabiso Boti formerly with Notwane, Kutlo Kolagano from City Eagles, Galagwe Moyana who was released by Township Rollers, Kagisano Mungu from TAFIC and the team promoted Phemelo Pushudi from their development side.
The Ostriches have released goalkeeper Bophelo Kealeboga who has signed a 2 year deal with Sua Flamingos, Mothusi Johnson who retraced his steps back to Gaborone United, Baboloki Makhura and Abdullah Hamisi.