Friday, December 3, 2021

Challenges await as football readies to return to play

According to the newly released Botswana Football Association (BFA) return to play guidelines, starting from tomorrow, Monday 14th June, the BFL teams can resume training.

They will then be followed by the national first division (NFD) teams and the regional football association teams and women football a fortnight later on June 28th.

However, as with everything covid-19 related, the teams will only be allowed back to start training ‘subject to their application to resume being approved by the BFA medical committee.’

This will however be the least of the worries for the premier league teams. Their main concern for now will be as to whether there will be enough monies to keep the game going.

When they last played in the 2019/20 season, the league did not have sponsors or prize monies, and the minimal monthly grants were not enough to cover their costs.

Now with the threat of covid-19 still looming large and the strictest requirements put in place to contain the spread of the disease, costs are expected to rise sharply.

With no supporters allowed, teams will be shorn off the gate takings they mostly rely on, while expected to part with large sums of monies if they are to adhere to the return to play requirements.

Teams will have to enhance security at matches to stop unwanted spectators, hire compliance officers, medical personnel and make sure they have all the medical and hygienic necessities as required for a match, just to mention but a few.

According to the guidelines, host teams will also be responsible for all logistics, which include disinfecting and fumigating of venues ahead of match day.

Talking to the issue of league sponsorships, BFL chief executive officer (CEO) Solomon Ramochotlhwane said ‘a lot of work was being done behind the scenes.’

The BFL CEO promised that before the league resumes later in August this year, ‘something will be in place.’

Ramochotlhwane further said they are still in talks with Botswana television with regards to the issue of broadcast rights.

Speaking to Sunday Standard sports, football commentator Kagiso Kgaogano said more sponsors will be needed to come on board to compensate for the loss of gate takings due to the absence of supporters.

Where others may see disadvantages, Kgaogano said the absence of supporters may actually provide new opportunities for local football.

“As supporters are not allowed at the stadiums, this opens new opportunities to provide live matches and commentary to supporters wherever they are in their homes,” he observed.

Kgaogano said as Btv will be too stretched to cover all games should it be given the broadcast rights, it will only be appropriate for some matches to be given to livestreaming companies.

“These companies will then be able to generate income through live match subscriptions and part of the income will go towards the BFL and trickle down to teams. These are some of the opportunities that the BFL need to look at as possible solutions to generate enough monies to sustain the league and the clubs,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kgaogano said clubs will have to make sure they really adhere to set protocols if football is to continue playing.

“If there is any lapse, any encroachment of supporters, any spike in infections or any violations of regulations, we will be back into the suspension again. This puts a lot of pressure on the BFA and individual teams to make sure they do not do anything that may trigger another suspension,” he concluded.

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