Tough times lie ahead for Nico United FC as fears that the club may soon collapse grow thick. Weekend Sport has learnt that the club is on slippery ground following its main sponsor, BCL being shut down. As it is, the club started the year (2016) on a negative balance sheet as even before the provisional liquidation, BCL already had financial problems and cut off their assistance to the club.
“Since the beginning of this year BCL has not being doing well hence we have not being receiving our sponsorship accordingly, thus we had troubles with paying our players and settling hospitality bills, but it was better, but now the liquidation has completely paralyzed us because we no longer have a free bus from the company, our utility bills at the offices and training grounds are on us to settle,’’ revealed Coach Blue Same, a technical mentor at Nico United.
According to Same, the club now only makes do with grants from Botswana Premier League which are not enough. The club also survives on individual contributions from good Samaritans and well wishers. The club’s board which usually saved the team also comprises BCL employees who have since lost their jobs. “When I say the liquidation has hit us hard I mean this: our board comprises of former BCL employees, most of them managers and superintendents, this gentlemen have been helping with money from their pockets but now they are unemployed and some are already out of town scouting for greener pastures elsewhere, we are in big trouble,” he said .
According to the coach, the mine’s closure has lead to an exodus of the bulk of the team board members, further revealing his fears that this could be the end of his team. The board chairman is allegedly tipped for a new lucrative job at Lucara Karowe mine. According to sources at Majombolo, players have not been receiving their monthly payments and will be going for Christmas holidays empty handed “These are children, young men and boys who play for the team whole heartedly, it is unfortunate that the club cannot pay them accordingly for the simple reason that there is no money,” explained a source.
However, Same confirmed to this publication that Selibe Phikwe based business magnate, China Mading has however been coming to the club’s rescue a number of times with transport. “We no longer have any funds to finance our logistics, just last week Former Satmos mentor China Mading came to our rescue at the 11th hour and provided his minibus freely for the club to honour the fixtures,” Same said.
Information gathered by Weekend Sport three weeks ago revealed that Majombolo is also wooing Mading for a more commanding spot in the dressing room. Nico United Communications & Marketing Manager Mogomotsi Orapeleng told this publication that the assistance of the former goalkeeper and now local football icon has done the club good thus far. “Yes he has been and is continuing to help us with transport and logistics as well as other administrative matters,” he said.
Apart from the helping hand of their former legendary goal keeper Nico united has been relying on contributions from their Gaborone based supporters and Phikwe originals under the coordination of Vusa Ziga ,a local shrewd football analyst and sport administrator who extend an administrative helping hand to the club from time to time. “Sometime when we reach a dead end with hotel bookings for our games down south, our Gaborone based supporters and members come to the rescue with contributions and connections with hospitality service providers that side,” revealed a source.
Information gathered by this publication also revealed that a Gaborone based investor had expressed interest in injecting capital into the club, but members rejected him as he wanted to relocate the team to Gaborone. “Our financial troubles makes us vulnerable to vultures who want to take advantage of us, the investor wanted to use us for a status in the lucrative multi Million pula BTC Premier league ,but our members, being the registered fans rejected him,” added the source who preferred anonymity.
CLUB WANTS TO MEET SPEDU & LINAH MHOHLO According to Same they have taken a resolution to find ways to Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) for assistance. Same also told Weekend Sport that they are in the process of requesting Phikwe Economic Revitalization Strategy coordinator Linah Mohohlo‘s audience. “Sport and football presents tourism in the first place, and then small business flourishes under football events, thus we want SPEDU and Linah Mhohlo to use us to keep the town alive.”
A source from Nico United administrative corridors also told this publication that SPEDU can even assist them with finances since they sponsored a golf tournament to a tune of P100 000 earlier this year. “We feel SPEDU can come to our rescue, we will engage them as soon as January next year , if they can’t help us financially then one way or the other they have the acumen to assist us, we want them to organize us a meeting with Linah Mhohlo,” a Nico United administrator revealed. “We are of the view that Sports and football can complement Phikwe rebirth efforts through events tourism and keeping the town alive while economic resuscitation is in process.”
Established in 1969 Nico United is an association sporting club formed by BCL Miners, The team rejoined the Botswana Premier League for the 2004-05 season after spending the 2003-04 season playing in the second level, First Division-North, and has since then maintained their stay in the Premier league. The club launched a new technical sponsor in Pedigree Sportswear to dress the team amid financial crises. Nico United sits at position 9 in the BTC Premier league with 15 points and last week suffered a 3 nil defeat against Security Systems.
The government of Botswana has reportedly approved the dream of hosting African Cup of Nations in 2027 with Namibia as co-host, following a proposal to cabinet by Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare.
WeekendSport learns that the organizing committee dreaming to host the tournament is preparing to hand their hefty book to Confederation of African Football (CAF) when bidding stage comes into open. Botswana Football Association (BFA) has, to this date, managed to win the confidence of the government, and all thoughts around the African football prestigious tournament are given serious attention with acceleration of construction of 10 mini stadia across the country, sources have said.
Furthermore, reports in Namibia state that the Botswana government has approached them with a proposal to co -host the 2027 edition of African tournament. “I can confirm that the minister of sport in Botswana has written to our minister but these are still early days and no decision has been made yet,” Audrin Mathe, an executive director in the Ministry of Sport was quoted by Namibia Sun this week. Meanwhile, Rakgare has said: “It is still an internal issues but yes, we are interested in hosting with Namibia.”
All the while, BFA president who also sits in CAF national executive committee is expected to embody a more emotive promise about the ability of African Cup in Botswana and how it can benefit the citizenry and by extension, the Southern region. With Zimbabwe having come out clean about their intentions to bid for 2034 World Cup, there has been a growing feeling that Botswana should try her luck, and therefore Botswana delegation will be hopeful to walk a fine line.
Although, the commercial potential of a Botswana AFCON Cup is a compelling factor in their favour, following the relative uncertainty of many African countries ( due to political instability, extent of corona virus ) and state of insecurity, BFA is minded not make that their thrust of the case. Hence the concentration on providing a home from home for all teams among Botswana’s diverse population and the opportunity to use the proceeds to advance legacy projects around Africa. The feeling on the ground is that the move might be bold, and some association influential players believe that it will be a matter of upgrading Maun stadium, Masunga and Serowe stadium.
An idea is also harbored that another stadium will be built in around Gaborone to boost the existing National Stadium with the Lobatse and Francistown stadia also expected to play pivotal role. All the while, a more than P20 million operational budget is said to be needed to travel the African countries in convincing them that Botswana is more suitable to host with its security and economy very much stable.
Botswana passes the mark when it comes to transportation, accommodation and hotel facilities. The fact that CAF normally want a country that has hosted youth tournaments before enables Botswana to score points in that it has hosted before. The only problem that might mark Botswana down is road infrastructure. BFA will consider roping in an experienced sport person and the high profile of former players like Diphetogo Selolwane is anticipated to appear for the thoughts building around the bid, and his name will be seen as watershed moment.
The southern region, however, might be dealt a devastating blow following the catastrophe that hit Angola when they hosted the 2010 edition. The Togo team was shot by rebels and panic erupted. However, the field is open and the ever shifting sands of CAF internal politics make the race hard to call and feed fears of horse trading and backroom deals.
A delegation from FIFA, the world football governing body, has left heads rolling after concluding what some call ‘early findings’ that Botswana Football Association (BFA) secretariat has not misused FIFA funds contrary to widespread reports and criticism. This comes to the fore against the much peddled P8.8 million which disappeared within the coffers of the association.
However, FIFA delegation led by David Fani, a former BFA boss himself, finds out that the funds have been used to projects they were not initially meant for. The delegation cited money for covid-19 which was meant to cushion clubs from distress due to lack of playing and was used to pay BFA employees. However, the findings by FIFA are said to have left the world of football divided on the way forward. They are those who are skeptical about the manner in which investigations were carried out but are afraid to voice out for fear of being victimized or being relieved of their duties.
While FIFA is adamant that the funds were misallocated, BFA finds itself at pains to answer a difficult question where some staff members at the finance department were sacked. More complicating the already strained situation is the decision to suspend the Chief Executive Officer, Goabaone Taylor and threatening to expel her while she had an over-riding duty to prioritize BFA funds when corona had ravaged the administration and operational wing of the association.
It might be that the National Executive Committee was building a case for her and would now want to look as if they were saving face when they sidelined her. “During the four day visit, the delegation carried out its assessment and interviewed BFA staff and former employees. At the end of the investigation, the delegation briefed the NEC on initial findings. The delegation informed the NEC that it found no evidence of misappropriation or embezzlement of funds,” reads part of BFA statement.
BFA has claimed that its brand has been “deeply tarnished” and that its “ability to use its resources for positive actions throughout the country, and to meet its mission of supporting and enhancing the game of football” has been “impaired” as a consequence of the actions of the football officials and some sports administrators under their watch. “We are not out of the woods yet, we had made good strides in earning FIFA’s trust; we will wait to see what the remedial action will be. However, we will be tightening our gabs and ensuring that we regain the financial confidence we worked so hard for,” BFA president Maclean Letshwiti said.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place owing to the ever burning issue of mischievous spending at operational level.
While the association coffers have suddenly dried up, with some staff members getting the boot, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development has threatened to place the Maclean Letshwiti led association under strict funding for unspecified period of time.
WeekendSport learns that the sport ministry is not happy about the financial status of the association and will want to act before everything get messy.
At the close of last year, the Ministry had to intervene for the Women National Football Team to travel to Ethiopia as BFA had no penny to cover for the travelling costs.
As if that was not enough, the BFA December wages were covered from the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) purse, an abnormality that BFA is at pains to explain.
All these incidents, however, coincide with a time when the Sport ministry is putting in place a new revised modeling for funding. The model requests national sports associations to explain in details the why they will need funding for their calendar of events.
Moreover, the Ministry is eager to prioritize funding basing on the performance of the sport code on a yearly basis.
“Things have changed, we are not going to splash money like we used to do, and we want a code to explain fully how they are going to spend the money,” a source shared.
Moreover, we will be funding looking at the overall performance of the code, we are not going to fund just because it is football and it is loved by many people.”
At worst, the ministry will want the association to account and should BFA fail to balance their books, the National Executive Committee(NEC) is likely to be dissolved by the ministry.
Sources further state that the Ministry’s patience has actually wilted away concerning codes that abuse funds. In the case of BFA, sources point out that they are likely to get half subvention until everything goes back to normalcy.
On a good year, BFA subvention reaches P 5.4million annually. Should the ministry persists, BFA will start operations of the year on a budget of about P 2.7 million. It will not be for the first time the association finds itself bearing the brunt.
Sometimes in 2018 when Tshekedi Khama was the Minister, the association’s subvention were cut down to pay an old standing debt that amounted to P3 million.
However, high ranking officials at the association believe funds can still be accounted for and refuses to accept that they have been reckless when it comes to spending. The official who does not want be named is of the view that the association had to halt FIFA projects and concentrate on incidental expenses brought by COVID -19.
According to BFA expenditure, the CEO gets the higher chunk and that’s where most of the money went. A national trip to South Africa by senior national team has also seen the association spending close to a million.
Moreover, the communication department of the association is bleeding more money after a certain PR agency was appointed nearly two years ago.