Township Rollers, by far the biggest sports brand in the country has recently undergone a painful trajectory caused by a protracted ownership battle. The brand is engulfed in a tug of war because the two owners of a company called Township Holdings don’t see eye to eye.
Township Holdings is a company owned 40% by Somerset Gobuiwang, the long-time club chief financier and 40% by Jagdish Shar, a multi-millionaire distribution mogul.
Somerset saved Rollers by taking them from first division to what is now a mega national brand that had begun to make waves in the region, this he did by making sure that he sold Rollers top players to the most lucrative league in Africa, the PSL.
He made a massive football network that no local has been able to create with club bosses in the lucrative football markets. His salesmanship managed to get Botswana recognition across the continent as former Rollers stars performed well at their new professional clubs and at the Zebras.
Today Somerset is accused of having run the club as a one man show, and not accounting to anyone. Let’s look at Shar, Shar has brought about change in the wage bills in the local football economy, making Rollers the most expensively built club that reportedly now affords to pay between P10,000 and P60, 000 a month, unprecedented! In June, Rollers declared that they were now making a profit and that they would be able to compete freely in future champions’ league without financial battles.
Shar is able to generate financial means and also bring a few sponsors on board. Shar is without doubt a man of means, he sits in power within BDP as Deputy Treasurer, and he has lots of businesses and can buy any player he wants.
It is how he wants to run football that irks me. I have been following football for 22 years, I know when a man needs help, and I know when a man in football is going to relegate a club. I have seen it at Moroka Swallows under Leon Prins. I saw it with Fidentia Rangers owned by a billionaire called Arthur J Brown now in jail.
I saw Amazulu relegate under a Scottish billionaire called Dave King in the 90s, now in tax fraud and today under another billionaire called Dr Sokhela having relegated. It is not just the money that keeps a club afloat, otherwise Platinum Stars owned by Africa’s wealthiest tribe Bafokeng, managed by Royal Bafokeng Holdings.
Bidvest Wits is owned by two billionaires Brian Joffe and Cyril Ramaphosa while Supersport United is owned by billionaire media magnate Koos Bekker and Naspers, these clubs would be winning all cups and tittles on offer because they are the wealthiest clubs in South Africa.
Swansea would be winning everything because it is also owned by a wealthy California family. It is how you as a club boss build a relationship between the club and all stake holders, sponsors, supporters, the media and the league itself.
Shar needs to keep quiet, whether Somerset goes or not. Somerset also needs to understand that it is important to accept that Rollers has gotten to a level where he alone would not be able to run Rollers.
But the truth is Shar has no experience in the football world. And can’t wish Somerset away. Scouting and selling is Somerset’s greatest ability. Somerset must also accept that he needs the financial prowess and the political gravitas of Shar, to run a massive institution called Rollers.
For the curious fan in Bobonong, Rollers must honor fixtures, Rollers must pay players, Rollers has existed before Somerset and Shar, and Rollers must survive. How, they just don’t care.
Athletics is one of the sporting activities that for many years has been consistently performing extremely well in international competitions. One of the reasons is the availability of qualified and experienced coaches, who have been working tirelessly on the ground to ensure that they scout talent and develop more athletes.
For the first time after eons, football clubs plying their trade in the elite league are walking in the shadow of the undefined with nothing concrete agreed and on sight before the commencement of the football season.