Football in crisis

07 Jul 2019

BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE & DUNCAN KGANGKENNA

After months of uncertainty, the Botswana Telecommunication Corporation (BTC) has allegedly finally terminated its sponsorship of the Botswana Premier League (BPL).

The decision means the league will now have to hunt for a new sponsor ahead of the new season which starts in August.

In 2017 the BTC sponsored the elite league to the tune of P39 million for three years. BTC officials when launching the sponsorship described the partnership as fruitful and promising for better things to come for both partners.

However, things have since soured between the one time partners as the BTC allegedly wrote countless letters to the league complaining of what they alleged was ‘breach of contract.’

With the BPL not responding accordingly, the BTC then informed the Botswana Football Association (BFA) of its intention to terminate sponsorship of the league a season before it could elapse.

In the subsequent negotiations that followed, the company allegedly gave BFA an ultimatum, either they accepted a reduced P5 million sponsorship for the last season or the BTC terminates.

The BTC proposal for a reduced sponsorship will allegedly come in the form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative but with the company getting all the league rights as a sponsor.

A fortnight ago the BTC was conspicuously absent during the league awards which many termed press conference. There was no glamour during the wards.   The absence of the BTC officials at the awards was clear sign that they are not happy with the way the league has run.

It is said the league sponsor was not happy because of negativity from the media. Also the fact that BTV failed to broadcast 60 live matches as it is stipulated in the contract irked the BTC.

The league problems will be compounded further by the fact that the coming season they won’t be any money from TV rights, what commonly called “cashless deal” within the BFA and BPL circles.

According to sources who attended the BPL former chairperson, accused the Botswana Football association (BFA) leadership for wanting to control the BPL league and also controlling the league sponsors.

“One of the reasons why BTC terminated the league it is because it was dealing directly with the BFA and the BFA did not want the league to deal with them to come up with innovate strategies that will be beneficiary to the league and BTC” said the source.

“BFA leadership wanted glory in everything and where they could have asked for assistance they did not inquire from the league but went sole hence the failure”

According to the source the BFA had written to some of the potential sponsors to deal directly with them and not to involve the league.

The BFA is also accused for failing to tap in on broadcasting revenue accrued from televised games/matches despite the fact that the BFA has full rights to the broadcasting.

“If the BFA leadership knew what they were doing they could not allow money to slip their hands from advertising during the live matches of the league. They failed to tap in and get their dues from companies that advertise during the games be it at the studios or from perimeter advertising” observed the source.

The person further explained that the BFA had full rights and opportunities were at their disposal to make through TV rights. The architects of what people call cashless deal had vision and wanted to further scope and diversify ways of getting money or raising funds for the league and the teams towards making the sustainable.

The league from the previous season was operating from deficit budget and the coming season without sponsor it is expected to be worse unless Good Samaritan comes to the league rescue.

… Is Debswana next out the BFA door?

  • Mining giant not renewing first division league sponsorship
  • First division likely to start the season without sponsor

A dark cloud of uncertainty is hanging over the First Division league as sponsors Debswana is alleged to have quit following the elapse of their three year sponsorship contract.

While the Botswana Football Association is mum on the matter, sources say as things stand, the league is likely to have no sponsor when the new season resumes.

“It is a tough situation for us as the first division,” a source informed the Sunday Standard. “Considering how difficult it was for first division teams to make ends even with Debswana on board, things are going to get even more difficult,” the source said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said given the vast distances first division teams have to traverse to honour fixtures, having no sponsorship will cause chaos.

“What is even more surprising is that the BFA has kept quiet on the matter and have not communicated to us to explain,” said the source.

While it is not yet clear why Debswana would not be keen to renew the sponsorship, the Sunday Standard has been reliably informed that it would not come as a surprise if they refused to sponsor again.

“When the sponsorship was negotiated back in 2016, Debswana was reluctant to sponsor and it took a concerted effort by Asinamona, led by Buti Lerefolo, and the BFA, led by Kitso Kemoeng to convince them,” a source said.

It is said that among their grievances at the time, the mining company was concerned that its name was being tarnished by constant bickering with regards to the first division.

The company allegedly informed the BFA back then that it had shifted focus and was only keen on women development.

“They informed the BFA that had they come with the proposal for them to sponsor women football, they would have easily acceded to such,” said the source.

“During the sponsorship negotiations, Debswana was promised a clean product but subsequent events have proven otherwise. Right now, the BFA and Asimona are now in an acrimonious war over the sponsorship at the courts as the latter seeks to be paid for negotiating the sponsorship. This could have played in the minds of Debswana,” a source said.

Another sticking point, according to sources, may be the issue of return on investment as Debswana is said to not know the value it has derived from its sponsorship.

It is alleged that when Debswana was reluctant to sponsor back in 2016, the negotiating team presented to the company an impact assessment report.

Prior to the elapse of the sponsorship back then, the Botswana Premier League (BPL) under the then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bennett Mamelodi had Debswana branded boards in its perimeters during matches, something which allegedly increased the visibility of the sponsor.

It is alleged it was the assessment from this exposure at premier league matches which was also used in the valuation of the sponsorship.

However, it is said following that first assessment and valuation, Debswana had not had any such, something which has not gone well with the company as it cannot quantify its return on investment.

Reached for comment, Lerefolo of Asinamona said while he is not privy to what could have transpired he would not be surprised if Debswana had pulled out of the sponsorship.

He said given how Debswana was not keen on sponsoring the first division back then, any deviation or breach of the contractual obligation would have caused them to quit.

“What I learnt during my short working relationship with the BFA was that there were a couple of people to whom honouring a contract was a problem. I would not be surprised if they have not honoured the contractual obligations with Debswana,” he said.

Lerefolo however would not delve much into the details of the sponsorship contract protesting they are a private matter.

Attempts to get a comment from the BFA on the matter have since proved futile as the association had not responded to a questionnaire sent despite the association’s public relations office having promised to respond.