Tuesday, November 28, 2023

BPL, BNSC stalemate threatens next season’s league

Concerns that the next season of the Premier League may be under threat are mounting as the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) is under pressure to ensure compliance with the findings of the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) regarding its breach of standard financial procedures.

This is further compounded by the BPL’s non-committal position regarding expectations that they should deliver on their undertaking to make a once off payment for use of Commission’s stadia.

The Sunday Standard can state with authority that there is a cold war between the BPL and the BNSC, with a potential to result in yet another closure of the facilities, this time for real.

As per the contract signed between the BNSC and the Botswana Premier League prior to the 2018/19 season, the commission was entitled to a 25% commission in proportion to the overall charges from the gate takings.

Under this arrangement, the different teams and clubs sold tickets to own members after which they then each deducted and relayed what they considered due to the BNSC.

It was observed however, by the Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, that: “In some instances control sheets were not submitted to the commission by the teams involved or the agencies hired for the collections.”

She lamented that this made it difficult to validate the income the commission was entitled to and therefore flaws in records and financial management.

To that, the BNSC management replied by telling Letebele through a response letter that measures were being taken to address the discrepancy.

Among some of the solutions; an agreement with BPL on a once off payment came into the picture. Mention was also made of the fact that the two parties would determine what the annual charge of the facilities, based on historical costs with a compound interest formula  would be applied annually.

Once agreed, the charge would then be paid bi-annually at the beginning of the Premier League season and at the beginning of the second half of the season.

This would help mitigate the problem of accounting as the figures would be centralized. Added to this was the engagement of an E-Ticketing technology which as well was to make a remarkable effect in terms of verification.

Falcon Sedimo, chief executive officer (CEO) of the BNSC explained the status thus: “We have been collecting gate takings for many years from various users. It became evident over the years that there was need to improve the way funds were collected.”

“When the BPL approached us and undertook to make a once off payment we thought now we had reached the end of our woes. Unfortunately that undertaking never materialized until we acceded to off the cuff arrangement upon Minister Tshekedi Khama’s intervention, where they paid about P300 000, after we shut our gates into our facilities,” BNSC Chief added.

One other way to improve the situation was through e-ticketing which kind of helped address the concern raised by the auditors.

“This only worked for a while and was stopped by those who had employed the technology without involving the commission. It is still a concern and we are working with stakeholders to reinstate it,” Sedimo lamented.

When asked to say if they had reneged on their undertaking to relieve BNSC from the auditors’ pressure, Thabo Ntshinogang, chief executive officer of the BPL, had this to say: “We are not refusing to keep our promise. We have already paid part of the money owed to BNSC.”

The BPL acknowledged as the League they had engaged the E-ticketing company but had to cut or terminate their contract with the Company when Member Clubs decided that control and management of tickets should be handled by clubs.

To make matters worse, BNSC indicated that they have no correspondence from BPL as to how they planned to meet their part of the agreement. Ntshinogang would not categorically tell Sunday Standard how they planned to proceed, safe to say: “We have been exchanging correspondence with BNSC regarding this matter.”

On whether the services provided by the E-Ticketing were no longer relevant the League’s CEO posited that in the course of the 2018/2019 season, member clubs took over the control and management of match tickets.

We asked for the League’s attitude towards the problem stated by the Auditors concerning the need for a more verifiable transaction than where teams do sell their tickets or collections done abruptly and separately.

Ntshinogang replied, “The League has always been in support of complete E-ticketing system but we were somehow let down by the fact that all the facilities managed by BNSC and our clubs do not have turnstiles. With turnstiles, each and every ticket will be instantly verified and counted.”

At the just ended General Assembly, member Clubs have agreed that the control and management of ticketing should go back to the League office. So, we will be embarking on searching for solutions that improve our ticketing system!

There was also the question concerning the terms of the agreement between BPL and BNSC as well as the Minister of Sports upon resolving the closure of facilities which resulted in BPL paying a small portion of the money, and reasons for stopping the e-ticketing without informing BNSC.

Ntshinogang stated all that was confidential information between BPL and BNSC.

“I can assure you we certainly will do what is right to prove our commitment to comply with the findings of the Auditor General, regardless,” concluded BNSC spokesperson.


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