The relationship between Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) and Botswana Premier League (BPL) officials is understood to have hit an all time low following the decision to move the much anticipated Gaborone derby involving Township Rollers and Gaborone United (GU) outside the capital city.
The match which has long been scheduled to be played at National Stadium on March 19 was shifted to the Molepolole Sports Complex at the eleventh hour and this did not go down well with football lovers.
According to information reaching this publication, BNSC cancelled the derby booking because they wanted to prepare for the Hall of Fame event which was scheduled for March 20 at the National Stadium. The event was officiated by Minister of Sports Shaw Kgathi.
“They claimed that they want to erect the tent in time for the event. I personally feel that could have been done on Thursday to allow the derby to go on. We thought the re-opening of the National Stadium would help but it seems we were wrong,” said a source.
Those close to the developments say that the change might have soured the relationship between BNSC chief executive officer Thato Kgosimore and Bennett Mamelodi, his counterpart at BPL.
When quizzed about late changes to the venue, Mamelodi said that they were informed 48 hours before the game that there was an important event taking place at the National Stadium hence the late cancellation of their booking.
“Remember that BNSC are the custodians of the National Stadium and we had no choice but to move the game elsewhere. As much as we’re not happy at the decision our hands were tied,” said the BPL chief.
Mamelodi was slammed by football supporters for moving the game of that magnitude to Molepolole in midweek but he said that he had no choice. “People can attack me but they forget that we don’t own the stadiums. I fail to understand why the Sports Council confirmed our booking,” a disappointed Mamelodi added.
In response, acting BNSC chief executive officer, Thato Kgosimore, did not find anything wrong with moving the fixture.
He said what people need to understand is that the National Stadium is not only for football but caters for other events.
“This is nothing personal because there was a pre-scheduled event. It is as simple as that. I want people to understand that we cannot refuse with the National Stadium because we make money when there are games here,” said Kgosimore.
Township Rollers publicity officer, Bafana Pheto, said that the change of venue affected them in terms of attendance.
He pointed out that it was disappointing that games can be moved at the eleventh hour without considering the other stakeholders.
“Such last-minute changes make life even difficult for the teams involved to do marketing. It also confuses the fans because today you tell them that the game is at the National Stadium the next thing it is in Molepolole,” said Pheto.
The soft-spoken official challenged those in control of football to put their house in order.
GU head of communications, Herbert Letsebe, said that the derby could have attracted a better attendance if it was played at the National Stadium as per the initial schedule.
Letsebe added that he still failed to understand the reasons which forced the BNSC to cancel the booking.
“I want to believe that BNSC had long known about the event which was to take place the following day. I think if this game was penciled for the National Stadium it has to be played there unless someone tells me that football is inferior,” said Letsebe.
GU officials further called on all the stakeholders who usually use the National Stadium to convene a meeting to afford such last- minute disappointments.
“It all boils to negotiations and it is very important for the Sports Council and BPL to sit around the table to map the way forward in terms of National Stadium usage,” he said.
Sources confirmed that Minister Kgathi intervened on Wednesday morning by ordering that the game be played at the National Stadium.
“BPL were given the stadium back by the minister but it proved to be late. I think this is something which could have been avoided if the Sports Council and Premier League office had a good working relationship,” said a source.