Is this the beginning of the end of ‘Friends of Football?’ The regime that drives Botswana football has been in power for almost two years, and there is some insistency, however faint that another term is ahead. But calls are beginning to take centre stage that the regime must step down.
In the cavernous Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC), at the elections, the BFA President Tebogo Sebego was having the time of his life.
It was July 2012 and the BFA Congress has just commenced. Sebego may as well be on a throne as delegates’ line-up to fawn over him. When a profit of thousands of Pula is announced for the previous year, BFA’s then Vice President (finance) Gabriel Ngele makes his way to the podium to eulogise BFA’s ‘miraculous’ financial results.
Then it’s the turn of Sebego, who announces a one-off payment to each of the16 assembled regions. “Are the regions happy?” exclaims Sebego, who is greeted by applause and delegates taking pictures on smartphones. Friends of Football, indeed, embraced one another.
Sebego, then in his 10th year at BFA – a career path that started as a chairman of Disciplinary Committee in 2004, then legal adviser in 2006, then, from 2012, president – has seen everything at the summit of local football. Since he joined FIFA in earlier 2000, the self-proclaimed lawyer has made the game richer, more powerful, and more widely watched than any sport in the country. As its leader, Sebego has become one of the most recognisable young men in this country.
Yet with fame came notoriety, and BFA together with Friends of Football, has suffered massive scandals. In 2012, Sebego’s campaign team was accused of paying bribes when he beat the low-lying David Fani to the BFA presidency. At the end of 2012, some of Friends of Football appeared to acknowledge that vote-buying had taken place but vehemently rejected any suggestion that the president was involved.
BFA and Friends of Football’s trusted foot soldier, Tariq Babitseng was thought to have been in ecstasy but later collapsed, leaving huge debts and a trail of allegations of corrupt practices linked to BFA officials. In the process it almost bankrupted the local football’s governing body. Lurid stories of ticket rackets from Premier League, vote-rigging and corruption proliferated.
Members of BFA Executive Committee (ExCo) seem to be typified by Babitseng, who seemed to be a close ally of the president. He has faced numerous investigations into his financial dealings but has always been cleared of any wrong doing.
Yet nothing would have prepared Sebego and Friends of Football for what was to follow at this year‘s congress when Tariq was voted his deputy in administration wing of the association, again curiously beating the most experienced man of the game, Segolame Ramotlhwa. He and his regime may now reflect that July 2012, with the realisation of his personal dream of an African Cup in Botswana, represented the pinnacle of his career; a period of calm. But sadly since then there has been a churning maelstrom of scandals.
The beginning of an end? How do you solve a problem like BFA? Part of the problem is that under Sebego it has assumed the self-importance of a nation state, with his presidency carrying all the hallmarks of a head of state, not just leader of a sport’s governing body.
Yet if you distil it, BFA’s purpose is simple: the same as it was under Sebego’s predecessors Phillip Makgalemele and David Fani: an administrator of the game’s laws, the organiser of heavily subsidised development tournaments like the defunct Coca-Cola Cup. Perhaps what it needs most is to strip itself of its baggage.
Its biggest problem remains at its summit. Because he personifies the organisation no matter what good it does, or however much it changes, it remains – rightly or wrongly – tied up in president’s public image. It matters not if the caricature belies reality; Sebego is probably the most gifted and astute political operator in global sport. But his continued support of Babitseng, where he once elevated him to the plum post of CEO, has handed him many enemies.
Yes Friends of Football's tactics appear to have worked. Much of the heat is off and the media focus has moved on. Some shrug their shoulders and say some progress is better than none.
Sebego's incremental, tortuously slow process has delivered a little progress. Meanwhile, more plausible individuals have replaced those forced out, some of whom say the right things about wanting more accountability and transparency.
However, the reform process is still hitting the buffers. The regime when campaigning promised to fight corruption that derailed Fani’s boat. Setete Phuthego was one of the long standing football administrators expelled over alleged money-laundering accusations. But how the knife dodged Babitseng even before he won the seat of the VP was one sharp question giving Friends of Football sleepless nights. Until his suspension, he was, too, a black sheep of the regime.
Newly formed Botswana Football League (BFL) has shortlisted Olebile Sikwane and Solomon Ramochotlhwane for the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) post, with the duo having been interviewed this week and now awaiting their fate.
Information passed to WeekendSport indicates that BFL has engaged a certain Human Resource firm to screen the best possible candidate.
It is further mentioned that there was a third candidate, Harry Koata, who had to withdraw primarily on issues bordering on principle and conflict of interest.
Koata is an employee of Masitaoka FC of Molepolole, occupying the post of General Manager (GM) and his boss Aryl Ralobala has been elevated as the Chairman of the board where Masitaoka are bonafide members.
However, sources say the two administrators showed great command of corporate language and managed to put together a compelling football argument.
It is further stated that the football league board will have a hard time in choosing the right candidate given the stiffness of the competition between the two.
With a number of blunders and past failures at the hands of the CEOs at Lekidi, the panel is said to have made a tremendous recruitment exercises and thorough screening.
With that said, adjudicators argued that they did not want to start trying out old combinations and a decision to recommend two names is seen to be in the interest of dousing flames from the eyes of the public around how BFA and its structures manage its affairs.
However, a careful perusal of Ramochotlhwane‘s credentials speak about a football administrator who is well versed on either side of the game. While it is quick to remember that the newly voted Green Lovers Chairman, a Serowe based outfit, is a relatively higher influencer on the political landscape of Botswana football, Ramochotlhwane is said to be commanding respect wherever he goes without ever demanding it.
He stands as an administrator with acumen of coaching and a CEO Guru. His technical and administrative version of the game springs out, and if chosen, he will, not disappoint.
Many are believed to retain admiration for him largely because he is not corrupted by the football politics. He stood for BFA elections last year for the post of Vice Presidency. He however was not successful at the poll.
While this is a plus for him, the other advantage in choosing Ramochotlhwane- who also holds Masters in finance- is that he has vast experience in leadership and has a proven record of giving a push to a new company.
Often times, the CEO of the league faces a stubborn board of governors when making crucial decisions. Can he manage? The question lingers on.
Solly however holds the same vision with that of the President of the association, Mac Lean Letswiti, in turning football into a business. Should premier league genuinely buy the idea, there are no misgivings nor any denials that the man will not disappoint.
Over a period of 12 years (2007-2019), Solly attended courses under the association and he arose best as both a technical and administrative expert. He will need minimum supervision.
On the other hand, Olebile Sikwane is also seen as a corporate leader in financial industry with vast experience in media and sports. Sikwane has applied for the job and is hoping to get the position to implement the board vision.
“I have ambitions, I am young and competent. I have most of the attributes but let’s respect the process. I have faith in the process and the people doing the recruitment,” he said.
Sikwane has worked for several international media houses and leading sports firms in South Africa. He is a well-known Agent and publisher. Upon return to Botswana, he briefly worked as General Manager at Gaborone United and turned around the fortunes of the club.
Last year, he won the position of the Vice Chairman position at Mochudi Centre Chiefs. He is therefore part of the crew tasked with transforming the once popular club bringing it back to its glory days.
Whether he will be chosen as the best candidate is open for debate, but his proficiency remains crucial as BFL is faced with a taxing and tricky situation of re-negotiating with sponsors to re-start the league post corona scare.
A long-winded case between the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and one branding and marketing company, Fresh Brands, has finally come to a crushing end with the former winning a legal battle following the court’s pronouncement that there was glaring lack of proof and evidence from the company involved.
Fresh Brands had sought legal redress, claiming that they played a crucial role in negotiating with Orange in 2018, on behalf of BFA, for the network giants to sponsor the famous FA Cup at a value P 12 000 000.
This is the action in which the company claimed an amount of P 1 200 000 from BFA, who are the apex body responsible for administering local football. Fresh Brands, from the court papers, argued that they are entitled to 10% commission. However, it came to the fore that the claim was based on an oral agreement between the two parties and nothing more.
In arguing their case, Fresh Brands called two witnesses, one a former employee of Orange Botswana and the other being their former employee. Moreover, Fresh Brands, had intended on calling two other firm witnesses being the Chief Executive Officer of Orange and another person who seemed to be involved in football affairs but not formally employed by any of the parties.
All the while, the court found out that on June 6th, 2017, both BFA and Fresh Brands entered into a written agreement where the company was to provide certain services to the association. Amongst the services expected was Brand Development, Management Services, Marketing Communications, Event Management, Public Relations Management, Sponsorship and Corporate Social Responsibility programs.
In terms of the agreement, Fresh Brands were to be paid a monthly retainer fee of P 20 000 including VAT. Furthermore, the complainant was to be paid 8-10% commission on the self-initiated sponsorship deals that have been approved by the association.
For all purposes of record keeping, the contract was to run for a period of 36 months. It has also come to the fore that in terms of schedule thereto, the commencement date was 23rd of February 2017 and the expiry date being the 23rd of February 2020. This is despite the fact that the agreement itself was signed on the 6th of June 2017.
However, the court established that during the course of the agreement, Fresh Brands became engaged in soliciting sponsorship for the association. Of particular importance was the sponsorship for the FA Cup which was being negotiated from Orange Botswana. The court records that certain meetings pursuant to the same sponsorship as well as presentations were held between Fresh Brands and Orange Botswana.
Later, it would appear that there was a back and forth between Orange Botswana and Fresh Brands and when a certain official of Orange by the name of Sandra Moreau left for her home country France, the whole sponsorship process was stalled. Court records that Moreau was the main driver of the entire process, representing Orange Botswana.
However, it turns out that the association sent a communiqué to Fresh Brands in August of 2017, giving them a 30 day notice to terminate the agreement aforesaid. The association argued that the termination was on account of financial constraint.
Moreover, the association promised to engage with Fresh Brands on need-be basis and details of such agreement were to be further discussed. BFA further bind themselves that they will settle the outstanding payment due to Fresh Brands. Of paramount importance, the court found out that at the time of termination, the Orange Sponsorship negotiations were not concluded but stalled.
It also does not appear anywhere that payments from the association to Fresh Brands were made regarding the efforts made in respect of securing the sponsorship. However, the company was paid all that was due to it, including the retainer fee of P 20 000 per month.
The company had argued that they were rather stunned by the turn of events when BFA and Orange entered into a sponsorship agreement and whose massive launch was conducted and announced in 2018. The companies cried foul that they were cheated along the way and strongly argued that they entered into oral agreement with the association after the termination was done.
In determining the case, the court had to rely on the fact of the existence of an oral agreement as alleged by Fresh Brands. It came to one conclusion; Fresh Brands failed to provide enough proof with regards to the oral agreement.
What in fact happened is that Fresh Brands felt entitled that they did a lot of work towards securing sponsorship before the termination of the contract was done.
The court states that Fresh Brands should have found a way within the terminated agreement of getting rewarded in respect of the work done to pursue the Orange sponsorship, but the company chose to allege an oral agreement.
Furthermore, the court said that the company failed to pursue the attendance of Orange CEO Dr. Benon and one Fobby Radipotsane who could corroborate his allegation of an oral agreement. The court said that was flimsy on the side of Fresh Brands in view of the fact that the same witnesses had been subpoenaed.
Fresh Brands was therefore forced to agree that without its witnesses, the case automatically falls off and consequently dismissed with costs.
Spot checks conducted by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) authorities have altogether dismissed Botswana Football Association (BFA) club licensing regulatory frame work after striking awareness that demands and obligations carried were much higher than the standards and expectations of the Botswana game.
The decision by CAF effectively means that the local federation is compelled to invalidate the licenses given to elite clubs and start again from square one.
Coming at the invitation of the association two weeks ago, WeekendSport learned that CAF authorities have raised eyebrows over the position paper BFA possessed about its licensing structure.
The CAF officials were first surprised by the composition and make-up of the two bodies assembled to run and administer the terms of the license. The licensor- which is BFA- was requested to establish two bodies which were to aid in speeding and simplifying the processes of club licensing.
The first group is known as First Instance Body (FIB), specifically established to take binding decision and produce score cards in relation to the performance of the club. The second structure is called Appeals Board where clubs are expected to query their marks as given by the FIB. The two bodies were however encouraged to work independent from each other to produce uncompromised and optimum results.
However, CAF officials recommended that the two Botswana bodies be dissolved and a new establishment built on the premise of relevant qualifications. It said that CAF frowned upon the qualities of the people who made the composition of the bodies.
Moreover, CAF advised that clubs must be engaged when the association drafts club licensing regulations. The authorities explained that the expectation must meet the reality of the Botswana game and not over pass it and run the risk of raising the bar like it is the case now.
It comes to pass that some clubs were heavily red marked for failing to identify stadia as their property. This cannot be allowed to pass as all Botswana clubs do not own stadiums.
Moreover, some clubs were disqualified on the grounds that their coaches lacked required qualification to coach at the elite league. CAF argued that this needs to be re-looked into after it was realized that some of the coaching courses that were conducted in Botswana were not valid.
Newly appointed Chairperson of the Botswana Football League (BFL), Aryl Ralobala of Masitaoka FC confirms that the completed licensing requirement be invalidated and it should be restarted. He says their decision springs to life after careful consideration brought by the CAF body.
“Indeed the club licensing requirement must start afresh, some things were not done properly and it is only fair to work fairly with the clubs,” he said.
It therefore means that the Botswana processes were done and executed in bad faith and hence observers express misgivings about BFA’s blatant disregard of laid down procedures.
Clubs aspiring to play football at the highest level must fulfil aspects in 5 areas; legal, sporting, financial, infrastructure and administration.The global objectives of the Club Licensing Procedure were defined by FIFA, the world football governing body, during its Congress which was held in Munich in 2006.
The FIFA Executive Committee adopted the FIFA Club Licensing Regulations on the 29th October 2007 and it came into force on the 1st of January 2008.However, the CAF Club Licensing Regulations were approved on 19th January 2012, and came into force effective 1st March 2012.
A period of introduction and soft implementation started immediately after the CAF Club Licensing regulations came into force and the Club Licensing Procedure entered into full implementation phase for the first time during the 2017 CAF Inter-clubs Competitions Season. The implementation of the Club Licensing Procedure must be respected by all CAF Member Associations, CAF has advised.
BFA started to implement some of the regulations late in 2017-18 but some decisions began to attract media and public backlash. Some clubs like Notwane, Sharps Shooting Stars and Extension Gunners were docked points as a form of soft punishment.