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.
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.