There is a shared sentiment among local football followers that the Botswana Premier League should be declared a crisis.
Just three years ago, the BPL was one of the ‘best leagues’ in Africa and boasted good sponsorship. Today, the league has fallen in both prestige and quality as sponsors bolted.
With teams expecting no prize monies at the end of the league season, it is therefore of no little wonder that even football analysts share the supporters’ sentiments that the league should be declared a crisis.
According to the analysts, drastic action should be taken to bring the top league to normal status.
Jimmy George, a football commentator, said there is need for the Botswana Football Association National Executive Committee (BFA NEC) and the BPL leadership ‘to own up to the mess resign in masse as an acceptance that both have failed the league and football.’
“Signs have been there that the league is going into crisis and the leadership did not take any action to intervene in resolving the league crisis,” George observed.
“The league sponsor and the BPL management failed to come out clear to appreciate that things are not normal. They all waited for the catastrophe to happen and start saying they are facing challenges that problems that have been log been documented in media” he continued.
He observed that despite caution from the media that the league is dying the BFA leadership failed to intervene, “they failed to take deliberate input to address the situation at its infancy stage” he observed.
On the league sponsorship money reduction from P13 million a season to P5 million a season George said the shows that league has regressed.
“The league has gone back by ten years. In 2008 the league was sponsored to the tune of P5 million. We cannot move on as if nothing bad has happened. The sponsorship money was reduced because the league failed the sponsor not the sponsor facing stiff competition from competitors” he observed.
George further observed that it is difficult to know who is running the league between the BFA and the BPL secretariat.
Another analyst, Aupa Mokotedi, described the league as a disaster. “It is quite unfortunate that the league which not so long ago was striving for autonomy has degenerated to this level. This is a business certainly headed for disaster” he explained.
To him the problems the league is facing emanate from the quest for commercialisation without due considerations for factors such as the teams and league’s ability to generate sustainable incomes.
“If teams struggle to pay match day bills, how would you really expect them to keep professional players who are paid salaries every month. I doubt. The problem was compounded by careless leadership both at the BFA and BPL. The poor management of the league, in my opinion caused and worsened the bankruptcy of the league and its members” narrated Mokotedi.
“The attitude of the league to BTC as the league’s title sponsor is one of the reasons that led to reduction of the sponsorship money. With Mascom Top 8, BPL is almost running a parallel league of 8 clubs, always allocated prime time on month end weekends at the expense of BTC sponsored League and over half of its member clubs” observed Mokotedi.
According to him this in turn affected over 50% of the clubs financially because they are made to play mid week with few spectators. Gate takings remain the main source of revenue for the clubs. If now the league and its mother body insist on CAF Club Licensing, the situation proves too much for the clubs.
On Club licensing Mokotedi said it will never be a solution to the prevailing crisis.
“No matter how much you beat an ailing donkey, it will not reach the destination you want it to arrive at, if it does not have sufficient energy. It can only collapse due to exhaustion and pain and eventually die. We are talking about teams struggling under huge baggage of liabilities running into millions. The question should be how we get them out of the red, before we whip them to the standards which not lighten the loads. How will club licensing benefit the teams? Will it help them travel to games, pay salaries, service debts or improve infrastructure. No it will not. Then is useless under the circumstances” he observed.
On the issue of the BPL position of General Manager or Chief Executive Officer Mokotedi and George differed. George is of the view that the problems at the BPL secretariat are due to leadership vacuum hence problems besieging the league.
Mokotedi said he does not think the crisis bedeviling the league currently to lack of the substantive occupant of the post. The problems originate from long way back and they are structural.
“It has been years the league running parallel completions. Mascom top 8 running alongside the premiership. This competition featuring at most 8 clubs is played on home and ways basis throughout the duration of the football season. It is always scheduled on month end prime time weekends and this is a problem as it takes the limelight away from the league. Officials may not see it that way; it is hitting clubs at the bank,” he observed.
On the issue of the league having no CEO, Mokotedi had this to say; “Having a CEO will not necessarily solve these problems. Let’s review the very architecture this league and its members are operating on.”