The battles of sponsors for the soul of Botswana sport are nothing new. For a while now, sponsors have been able to dictate terms of their sponsorships while sport has bowed and accepted like beggars, not the package providers they are purported to be. At times the battles have led to near collisions between sporting mother bodies themselves and even clubs against the codes they are affiliated to. This has been more evident in the people’s game, football.
For local football, the wars became evident in 2007 when local football giants Township Rollers announced they had agreed a sponsorship deal with wireless phone providers Orange. The deal was vehemently opposed by the then Botswana Football Association (BFA) executive who had thrashed a deal with Orange Botswana’s then sole competitor, Mascom Wireless to sponsor the Botswana Premier League. As a result, Rollers lost the sponsorship which was then valued at around P150 000. While major flash points on sponsor war issues have been largely avoided or at least played off the public eye since then, recent developments have unearthed the simmering tensions between the sponsors. The tensions reared their ugly head again recently as issues concerning the Mascom branding at the National Stadium during the Orange sponsored national team (the Zebras)’s games came to the fore.
At the same time, these adverts by Mascom at the National Stadium have been covered every time a beMobile Premier League game is played at the venue as a measure to avoid bust up with their league sponsors, who are a direct competitor with Mascom Wireless. While the issue is muted, it is alleged that for league games to be played at the National Stadium, a compensation fee was paid to Mascom for their branding to be covered and this was said to be driving a wedge between the BFA, BPL and the BNSC. The issue of sponsor’ wars have led to the Botswana Football Association (BFA) President Tebogo Sebego, raising a concern with the BNSC during the council’s recent Ordinary General Meeting (OGM). Commenting on the Chairman’s report at the OGM, Sebego implored the BNSC to look into the issue of branding at the National Stadium, as ‘the BFA is about to lose a P20 million sponsorship over the issue.’
As a result of this concern by the BFA, the local football controlling body, together with the Botswana Premier League (BPL) and the BNSC have been locked in discussions to find a solution, the first of which was held a day before Easter Friday. Reached for comment, both the BNSC Chairperson Solly Reikeletseng and Sebego confirmed that the meeting had taken place and a ‘common ground has been reached on the issue.’ “I can inform you that the issue has been resolved and we have come up with a draft policy to deal with the issues of sponsorships. As the BNSC Chairperson, I am happy with the resolution we have come up with as it will ensure that all sponsors can use the National Stadium and also enjoy the benefits and the mileage of advertising there and at any other venue,” Reikeletseng explained.
Though no further details have been availed as to the contents of the draft policy, the BNSC Chairperson said the new policy will guide sporting codes when negotiating sponsorship deals. He said contrary to the belief that sponsors were holding Botswana sport at ransom, the blame was rather on local sport as they had ‘not had policies and everyone negotiated his or her terms differently.’ “We should have had these policies from the onset.
We did not have clear policies on these issues and sponsors were working with what they had,” Reikeletseng said. The BNSC President conceded that the issue is unique to Botswana as in other countries sponsors can co-exist, but said this was a result of sport having no common policy to guide them. For his part, Sebego expressed happiness at the way the BNSC has responded to their concern, saying that he is happy that lasting solutions to the issue have been found. “We have resolved that for sport to go forward, we have to act as a team. As sport, we needed a joint position on which we can negotiate sponsorships and I believe we have found solutions,” the BFA President explained.
He said when they raised the issue at the BNSC OGM, ‘there were concerns that as the situation stood, the BFA could end up in breach of sponsorship deals.’ “This policy will help us deal with branding issues when negotiating as we now have a common stand point from which to negotiate. The reason why we had problems was that both the BFA and BNSC were pulling in different directions and I believe this has now been resolved,” he said. On whether sponsors are holding sport to ransom, Sebego reiterated Reikeletseng’s stance that it was sport that is to blame. “I wouldn’t say sponsors are holding us to ransom or compromising our growth. As sport, we are product owners and we have to let sponsors negotiate with us from a certain position, not the other way round. With this new policy that has been drafted, we will be in a position to negotiate better,” he concluded.