Thursday, October 28, 2021

BFA caught up in Mascom/BTCL rivalries

A stakeholder relations failure by the Botswana Football Association (BFA) top brass is alleged to be behind the current branding furore that has literally ‘shut out’ the Botswana Premier League (BPL) from using the national stadium for BTC Premiership league matches.

Ever since the Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers match in late October, no premiership league match has been hosted at the National Stadium as Mascom Wireless is alleged to be ‘refusing to let their branding at the venue to be covered without proper compensation.’

“At this moment, we cannot give much information as negotiations are ongoing. We are however not sure when the issue will be resolved. Pending that resolution, the stadium will continue to be out of bounds for all BTC Premiership matches,” BPL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thabo Ntshinogang told Sunday Standard in an interview at the time.

While Mascom says it is not refusing to let anyone use the National Stadium provided they pay up to compensate for covering their branding, close sources say the company’s perception that the BFA hierarchy is siding with rivals Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) at their expense has hardened their position.

“The problem goes back to when the current BFA hierarchy took reigns at Lekidi. When Maclean Letshwiti and his committee took over, negotiations were simultaneously ongoing between the BFA/BPL and the two sponsors, Mascom and BTC to renew their Top 8 and BTC Premiership sponsorships respectively,” the source revealed.

According to sources, during the negotiations, BTC had demanded that the duration of the Mascom Top 8 tournament be reduced as they felt it was ‘competing with BTC Premiership for space’ and that ‘they be afforded clean stadiums (free of competitors’ advertising)’ during their games.

While BTC agreed to extend their relations with the BFA, the company however refused to approve the BPL fixtures, resulting in a delay in the start of the league while Mascom continued to drag their feet in negotiations.

Under pressure to get the league going, the then BFA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kitso Kemoeng and his BPL counterpart Ntshinogang convened a meeting with the BTC hierarchy on 3rd October 2016 to try to get them to approve the league fixtures.

The two CEOs however are said to have ‘refused to agree to the BTC demands.’ With the negotiations having reached a stalemate, BTC then allegedly reached out to the BFA NEC.
It is said in the afternoon of the same day of 3rd October, Letshwiti and his two vice presidents, Segolame Ramotlhwa and Marshlow Motlogelwa convened a meeting with BTC’s Pilot Yane and Tiro Kganela, where they agreed with the BTC hierarchy to shorten the duration of the Top 8 and apologised for ‘this unfortunate situation.’

The source’s assertions are vindicated by a letter allegedly written to the BTCL by the BFA NEC a day after the meeting. The letter was allegedly written by Letshwiti, in his capacity as BFA president and signed by Ramotlhwa.

In the said letter, which is dated 4 October 2016, the BFA conceded that ‘the concern of BTCL as regards the fixtures for the Top 8 tournament cup was justified in as far as such fixtures being spread throughout the season contrary to internationally accepted best practice standards for such tournaments.’

In the letter, the BFA pointed an accusing finger at the association’s previous regimes for approving ‘the rather offensive fixtures’ and promised ‘to engage the sponsor of the Top 8 cup’ on the matter. 
“… the BFA will do all within its power to pursue the stated objective … without creating a situation that could further undermine and/or drag the good name of BTCL in the mud,” so reads the letter. 

“In view of the foregoing, BFA humbly requests for the sympathetic consideration, understanding and support of BTCL by way of approving the 2016/2017 BTCL Premiership fixtures as presented in the spirit of our discussions and this letter to allow the season to kick-off this Friday 7 October 2016 …,” the letter concludes.

As negotiations were also undergoing with Mascom for the Top 8 tournament, the company is said to have then got wind of the demands of their rivals but had no tangible proof. They however relented when the BFA told Mascom that ‘it was against international best practice to host a tournament over a long period.’

“During the negotiations for the renewal of the Top 8 sponsorship, the BFA had also requested that Mascom increase the amount. However, Mascom turned down the BFA’s requests,” the source revealed.

“Mascom were aware that the BFA was siding with BTC and when BFA requested that they launch their tournament before the BTC Premiership, they refused. They knew that the BTC wanted to top their Top 8 winners’ prize monies and they stalled,” the source revealed.

While BTC finally upped their prize money to P1.2 million for league winners, matching that of the Top 8 winners, Mascom, who had refused to launch would then go on to bump theirs from P1.2 million to P1.3 million to keep their prize monies still top of the league sponsors. 
The source added that Mascom’s refusal to agree and announce their Top 8 sponsorship deal before that of the BTC premiership was a ‘shot across the bow not only to the BFA but also to the BTC that they had got wind of their negotiations,’ but the BFA failed to take note.
“Right now, Mascom cannot relent to having their branding covered without payment unlike in the past when they did it in the spirit of sportsmanship. They have the BFA and BTCL in a corner and the BFA will not be able to guarantee BTCL a clean stadium without paying either Mascom or Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) for their losses,” the source continued.
Reached for comment, Mascom Wireless Chief Communications and Public Relations Officer Tebogo LebotseSebego refused to shed light on issues relating to their sponsorship contract with BFA.

“First let me hasten to state that Mascom Top 8 negotiations leading to the conclusion of the contract with the BFA are confidential to both parties and as such we are limited to divulge the details of the contract negotiation outside to what has been communicated by both parties officially,” LebotseSebego said when answering Sunday Standard sports questionnaire over the matter.
The Mascom Wireless Chief Communications and Public Relations Officer was also elusive on the stadium branding issues.

“With regards to Mascom branding at the Botswana National Stadium, we wish to point out that this is a confidential contract with the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC). National stadia branding is an important component of our branding initiatives targeting audiences which access that national stadium. These are both football audiences and other audiences accessing the National Stadium for many other events of national interest,” she said.

“We can confirm that the current contact with the BNSC allows any entity to have no Mascom branding at the National Stadium, however, there is a provision for compensation to Mascom for the opportunity cost,” she concluded.

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