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Is it poor sport marketing or unattractive league?


Botswana football has experienced transformation in the last few years with the league being able to attract significant sponsorship deals. Despite the league attracting lucrative sponsorship deals, the same cannot be said about the clubs, as they continue to face severe financial difficulties season after another. Staff Writer ALFRED MASOKOLA offers insights on how Botswana football fraternity can make a huge leap in creating new sources of revenues.


Botswana’s economy is classified as middle upper economy and has performed significantly well since the country gained independence. Between 1980 and 1990 Botswana had one of the fastest growing economies in the world with growth averaging over 10 percent per year.

Today, Botswana still has a stable economy, but surprisingly some neighbouring countries with inferior economy have managed to attract sponsors from the corporate world to pour money into their football fraternity, which has helped to surge the standard football and players’ welfare.


TV rights deal
The world over, TV rights have taken centre stage as one of the largest source of revenue in football and other sporting activities. In today’s world no matter the good attendance, gate takings cannot cover the cost associated with running football clubs.

There was an attempt to construct a meaningful TV deal with both Botswana Television (Btv) and Super Sport but ultimately, the deal brought nothing substantive forward.  Btv is a television owned by state, which should be an easier partner to convince to splash money on local football.

Currently Btv pays BPL P6 million as television rights to broadcast the league games. Since 2008, government has spent over P100million in constituency football, a handsome amount but hardly with visible gains on the ground.

Assuming that such amount was spent on professional football since 2008,  huge progress would have been observed. Botswana Premier League can astutely convince government through Btv to purchase TV rights at a lucrative price, say, P40 million per season.

Like in the English Premier League, the amount will then be distributed in a strategic manner; P20 million being shared equally by the 16 clubs, while the other P20 million is divided based on merit, thus each team’s position on the log in the preceding season.

This will not only improve the standard of the league, or benefit the football players alone-it will also be a plus for the government since it will create new jobs in clubs’ office administrations. The BPL will then have to introduce mandatory development leagues for all 16 league teams.    


Sponsorship
 The biggest sponsorship in local league history was a P15 million deal with network giant beMobile in 2008. The deal was later extended on improved terms in 2011, and 2014 with the sponsor splashing P24 million and P30 million respectively. So far, the beMobile deal has a worth of P69 million over a period of 9 years.

This is a good development for the league, however the same cannot be said about individual clubs. Very few have managed to secure sponsorship, and most of the time the deals are not lucrative. Township Rollers has secured a deal with Capital Bank for an undisclosed fee, similarly with Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Vega while Gaborone United has had a deal with Old Mutual since 2013. 

While other teams have struggled to secure sponsorship deals from local companies, the big three; Rollers, Chiefs and GU are backed by the ownership arrangement as they have signed with wealthy individuals in the past few years, an olive branch which has eluded most of the teams in the league.


Improved league standard
The problem might be how our football fraternity conducts its sport marketing since it is not a matter of an entirely unattractive league. Botswana’s football standard has improved in the last decades and local players have gone to look for greener pastures outside and performed well. 

Home grown players like Mogogi Gabonamong, Joel Mogorosi, Modiri Marumo, Tsotso Ngele to mention but a few have had impressive stints in the neighbouring South Africa Premier Soccer Leauge (PSL), a sure sign that our league is competitive enough. Other foreign players like Terrence Mandanza, and Tendai Ndoro, who had stints in BPL before looking else are also a reference to the quality of the league.


Opportunities
Why is it that the league teams are being eluded by lucrative local deals? There are many companies operating in Botswana which are multinational and are known to be associated with football or sport sponsorship in other countries. Barclays Bank has the most lucrative deal in the world with English Premier League worth £120 million (P1.8 billion) in three seasons. They were previous reports that Barclays will take over as the new BPL sponsor last season, but nothing has materialised. 

Standard Charted, one of the first foreign banks in Botswana sponsors Premier League giants Liverpool which was initially launched in 2010 and has since been extended with a further three years. In 2010 the agreement was worth £60 million (p915million) over three seasons.

Other corporate giants operating in Botswana with sports or football deals in other countries include Hollard (not main sponsor) which sponsors Kaizer Chiefs, AON, which sponsored Manchester United previous seasons. Others include Engine, SAMSUNG, and Nokia just to mention a few. In Botswana this corporate entities have been reluctant to sponsor football, despite their still being dominant players in the market.


Government policy intervention
In other countries, governments offer tax incentives to corporate entities that significantly support sport with lucrative deals. Botswana should do the same. The football fraternity should influence government policies in such a way that it would greatly improve football in Botswana, especially in monetary terms. For instance, companies like Barclays, FNB e.t.c that pay taxes of over P300 million annually, may be enticed with introduction of tax incentives for sponsoring sporting activities in Botswana.

For instance, a sponsorship worth P10 million per year may be set up as a minimum threshold to qualify for government tax incentives. This would change the fortunes of football in Botswana and lead to transformations that will greatly inspire growth in the sporting fraternity, including creation of jobs for the benefit of the government.

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