BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE
In the chaotic world of the Botswana Premier League (BPL), one man, Thabo Ntshinogang stands accused of failing to manage the league.
Not without cause though. As the BPL chief executive officer, (CEO) and the head of the league secretariat, the buck at the BPL ‘stops’ with him.
In an ideal world of administration, this would hold water, but in the Botswana football scene, blaming Ntshinogang would seem harsh.
As the newly amended BPL fixtures cropped up again last week and for the umpteenth time this past two months, the BPL CEO is singled out for criticism.
A look at the chopping and changing of the fixtures points to a collective failure of the entire football fraternity. The Botswana Football Association (BFA) and the BPL board of directors are not spared.
Most of the time, ‘Stiles,’ as Ntshinogang is affectionately known, finds himself under pressures to please his often hard to please ‘masters’ at the BPL Board and the BFA, whilst also having to extend the same to the sponsors.
Just a couple of weeks ago after re-fixing the much touted Gaborone derby between favourites Township Rollers and Gaborone United, allegedly at the request of the sponsor. Ntshinogang was left with an egg on his face as the BPL Board rescheduled the fixtures.
In the aftermath, the game was played this past Wednesday in a low note affair at the Lobatse Sports Complex.
Commenting on the matter, veteran football administrator Gabriel Ngele said the failure points to a collective failure from individual team owners to the BPL board and the BFA.
“This boils down to planning or lack of,” Ngele opined. “When the season starts, we are all aware of all the FIFA and CAF calendars. We are aware of all the local events we intend to play. With this, you then plan around them whilst also taking into consideration the days where you will not have to play like holidays, which are a constant in the calendar,” he explained.
“If we work with all this in mind, we will not have to have a point where the league finds itself having to squeeze in some fixtures midway through the season,” Ngele said.
Ngele said the current mess is also due to the BPL board’s constant refusal to let the League Management Committee to run the league on its behalf.
“We need a collective body, which should be the League management committee to run the league. This committee will be representative of the interests of the collective, being the BPL Board as well as the BFA and sponsors,” he said.
He said under the obtaining arrangement where the BPL Board is deeply involved in running the league, they at times find their role overarching into the everyday work of the BPL secretariat.
Ngele said as it is now, the board from time to time will find itself fighting due to individuals trying to impose their own interests ahead of the collective.
His sentiments were echoed by the BPL CEO Ntshinogang, who said there is a need for a collective body to oversee the running of the league and the interests of the board as a collective.
“Our constitution allows for the election of a structure known as the League Management Committee which should be working with the BPL Secretariat to run the league on behalf of the BPL Board. However, at the moment, this structure is not operational,” he said.
Ntshinogang said in the absence of such a structure, the BPL Secretariat often times finds itself having to assume the duties of the management committee.
“This is the failure of the collective,” the BPL CEO opined. “There is absolutely no way I can out of nowhere change the fixtures, there has to be a reason,” he said.
“If you remember well, we had to squeeze the FA Cup fixtures as well as some other fixtures which come along sometimes during the middle of the season and this meant redrafting our schedule. We also have to look at the interest of our sponsors and this in a way affects the schedule of our games,” he said.
He however said with the FA Cup, the BFA cannot be entirely blamed as negotiations finished very late while the season had already started. Given the difficulties of finding sponsors and how long local football had gone without the FA Cup, Ntshinogang said there was no other way but to grab the opportunity and squeeze the FA Cup in the fixtures.
Going forward, the BPL CEO said there is a need for all concerned to sit together and put forward their calendar of the year to allow for proper fixturing.
Asked to comment on the going allegations that the recent change of the mess was due to one or few individuals, the BPL CEO said anything agreed by the board is a decision of the collective.
Meanwhile, football writer Kagisano Kgaogano said the failures come as people in power look out for their interests and interest of who they represent more than they do for the BPL product.
“When the board meets, we have to take into consideration that each and everyone is there on behalf of their team, and they therefore represent the interest of their own teams,” he observed.
He said as such, it is important to have a league management committee in place to represent the interest of the collective as it is very difficult for club representatives in the board to ‘set aside their interests.’
On fixtures, Kgaogano said one wonders whether the BPL board even looks at the fixtures before approving them.
“If you look at leagues like the ABSA Premier League, big fixtures, the ones we refer as Category A here, are noted and scheduled accordingly to accommodate given their importance in advertising the league product. With us here, we seem oblivious to the importance of such fixtures and this is why we end up having to reschedule them to accommodate sponsors. Now we are left to wonder if the BPL Board had looked at such before approving any fixture,” he lamented.
He said going forward, all stakeholders, including the BFA should be consulted before the fixtures are approved to ensure that the association interests and fixtures are included to avoid constant changes.