It was almost inevitably coming. The Botswana Premier League (BPL) chief executive officer, Thabo ‘Stiles’ Ntshinogang’s stay at the helm has come to a heartbreaking end.
Roped in following the controversial departure of Bennett Mamelodi, Ntshinogang has not had an easy stay as the BPL as CEO and his departure comes as no surprise.
When the plot to oust the then BPL chairman Jagdish Shah and his vice Solomon Mantswe was underway as early as the beginning of this year, there were rumours that Ntshinogang will also be forced out.
It was alleged back then that the BPL CEO’s close relationship with Shah was a reason for his departure, with one BPL chairman even going as far as remarking that ‘nonyane e ngatelwa le setlhare’ (loosely translated ‘you have to hit a tree to kill/hit a bird.’)
While the departure of Ntshinogang has so far been kept under wraps, sources say the BPL staff has already been notified of his departure.
Where the former BPL CEO would have just been a sacrificial lamb in the plot to ouster Shah, things are however said to have changed as the BPL shuttled from one crisis to another during the course of his reign.
The breaking point however is alleged to have come in week 23 of the BPL season when Miscellaneous failed to honour a game against Township Rollers following fixture changes.
In the aftermath of Miscellaneous’ failure to honour the game, a task team was formed by the Botswana Football Association (BFA) to look into the matter.
In its findings, the committee concluded the fixtures were not procedurally rescheduled as they were allegedly unilaterally changed by Ntshinogang and ordered a replay.
The decision blew in the face of the premier league as title challengers Jwaneng Galaxy protested the rescheduling, putting the league into disarray.
Speaking to Sunday Standard, one BFA insider said ‘while Ntshinogang is a likable character,’ he should have long been recalled from his position at the BPL.
“I do not blame the powers that be for recalling him from the BPL. It is actually surprising that he has stayed for so long in that position,” the BFA insider confided.
Asked what could have prompted the recall of Ntshinogang, the BFA insider said he had lost the confidence of the sponsors, thus rendering his position untenable.
He went to allege that the league sponsors have made it known they no longer has confidence on the BPL CEO.
Another issue, according to the insider, is the financial crisis that continues to engulf the BPL, something which he said Ntshinogang did not deal with accordingly.
“One of the most bizarre decisions he agreed to was for the BPL office to pay for stadiums for teams to use freely. This was an ill advised plan and it has plunged the league in financial crisis. The BPL now owes the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC). As the BPL CEO, he should have not agreed to such an arrangement,” said the insider.
“Just this past week, the BFA had to fork out thousands to pay the referees for the league to start as the BPL Office still owed them monies from the just ended season,” he explained.
Reached for comment, Ntshinogang confirmed he had been recalled from his position, adding he waits to start duties at the BFA any time soon.
“I have been informed that I have been redeployed,” Ntshinogang said. “I have however not been furnished with reasons for my redeployment and I still do not know why I was recalled,” he said.
Asked about the allegations that the sponsors had lost confidence in him, Ntshinogang said this could not be the case.
“I have never heard or read anywhere the sponsosrs saying they have lost confidence in me. All I know is that they were not happy with the BPL ticketing system as well as television broadcast. These had nothing to do with me,” he said.
He went to explain that as it is, the BPL has no control on Botswana Television’s programming and therefore have little or nothing to do if the broadcast partner does not broadcast as many games as agreed.
“When it comes to ticketing, you have to remember that it was the BPL board resolution that teams should produce their own tickets. As a result, some teams ended up using piece of papers or previous tickets for game tickets and we had little or no control over the matter,” he explained.
On the issue of BPL paying for stadiums, Ntshinogang said this also was a board resolution and not his own.
“The BPL board resolved that the league should pay for the costs of stadiums for teams to use freely. This would then have enabled teams to take 100% of gate takings and not pay anything to the BNSC,” he explained.
As such, Ntshinogang said the BPL office had embarked on the process of sourcing funds to pay for the stadiums and the administration of the league when Shah and Mantswe left their positions.
“When we started negotiating with ABSA, the intention was to use the monies to pay for the stadiums as well as for the BPL secretariat administration, which would have included paying for the referees,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ntshinogang said he does not hold any grudges and will work as diligently when he starts his new job at the association.
“I have learnt to accept any situation as calmly as I possibly can,” he concluded.