Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Club licensing: The big elephant in the room

Two weeks back, Botswana Football Association (BFA) Competitions Manager Olebile Sikwane left the country to attend a club licensing workshop in Cairo, Egypt.

The workshop was to drill and equip club licensing managers across Africa on various aspects of club licensing regulatory framework.

From what can be gathered, it seems new licensing requirements were put on the table during the Cairo workshop. For Botswana clubs, which are still struggling with current club licensing requirements, this may be bad news.

Since full implementation started in Botswana in March 2016, it is reported that clubs managed to meet club licensing requirements from the 2016/ 2017 season until 2018/ 2019. Post the 2019/2020 season however, clubs’ struggles to meet licensing requirements have become visible, according to Sikwane. He states that out of 16 premier league clubs only 8 met the requirements while other were given provisional license, with sanctions.

“During the 2020/2021 season, we licensed all the 40 Clubs at the National Level (Premier league and First Division) but only 28 Clubs met the requirements. Others were given provisional license with sanctions. During the 2021/2022 season, we licensed all the 16 Clubs at premier league level. Only 11 clubs met the requirements. Others were not compliant and were pardoned by the licensor citing COVID–19,” he explains.

One of the major stumbling blocks in the way of local clubs is the issue of finances. Devoid of sponsorships, clubs’ only sources of funds have come from merchandising and ticket sales which have also proved inadequate. This has resulted in the clubs incurring overdue payables to both the players and technical staff.

“The Clubs generally have no capacity and capital to run in a professional manner. The consequence thereof, is the tragic failure to submit audited finances,” Sikwane says.

This led to CAF sending a delegation into the country to look at the club licensing regulations. In its findings, the CAF delegation led by Kabelo Bosilong observed that ‘the club licensing regulation requirements did not speak to what is on the ground and were unrealistic.’ BFA was then requested to amend their regulations if necessary to cater for all clubs.

Asked about the changes in Club Licensing System, Sikwane says they have not been amended. He says the regulations have only been revised to cater for other aspects of football at both men and women’s top tiers for domestic licensing and inter-club participation.

Regarding what the BFA will be doing to help clubs find ways to meet the financial requisites for club licensing, Sikwane says there is little the association could do.

“The BFA does not have an obligation towards financial stability of the clubs. It can only guide and assist especially in improvement through resources such as training through both CAF and FIFA,” he explains.

All the BFA can do now is to encourage clubs to actively search for partners and sponsors as well as to tap into their support base to make money. This would ensure availability of funds to meet obligations such as salaries and other operational imperatives. Meanwhile, Sikwane says the BFA will continue ‘to carry out Club Licensing workshops at all regions prior to every licensing period.’ He says the BFA will also continue to hold awareness workshops and monitor implementation.


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