Sunday, July 25, 2021

Coronavirus lays bare the ‘nakedness’ of local sport

For a long time now, local sport has mostly relied on the government, or most specifically on yearly grants from the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to survive.

While the grants were mostly to be used to finance sports development programs, they have over the years been relied upon for competitions as various sporting codes over the years failed to attract sponsors.

The BNSC chief executive officer (CEO) Tuelo Serufho, holds that from the commission’s grants for sport, only 25 percent is portioned for competitions.

“The grants to National Sports Associations (NSAs) are divided four ways. 40% for development, 30% for administration, 25% for competitions and just 5% for equipment,” Serufho explains.

Now as the coronavirus rages and more funds are now diverted from non-life and death activities like sport to fighting the pandemic, local sport finds itself in a dilemma. 

With its lifeblood, the annual grants from the government through the BNSC at a premium, sport is on a deathbed.

In just a whim, coronavirus, like a pack of vultures on a carcass of an animal, has stripped the flesh of local sport to its bare white bones, one piece at a time.

It therefore came as no surprise when there was an outcry from sporting codes this past week following the BNSC’s announcement that not all sporting activities will be financed.

Serufho says while the commission understands the NSAs outcry for grants, their cries call for a more proactive approach to sport sponsorship, more especially at elite level.

“Ideally, elite sport competition should be supported by the private sector and should also generate funds for the NSAs,” he says.

The BNSC CEO says this is achieved through having title sponsors and selling television rights, with event tickets adding to that.

“As the BNSC, our intention going forward is to help the NSAs build capacity so that they can eventually rely less on the government and BNSC for funding,” he says.

While Serufho opted to be diplomatic on the matter, Yarona FM Sports anchor Kagiso Phatsimo believes the pandemic has uncovered the nakedness of the NSAs and opened them to more scrutiny.

“One would like to believe that sporting codes should not be solely relying on the government or BNSC grants for elite sport competitions,” he says.

Phatsimo says the BNSC grants to NSAs should be used for sports development, which is the core mandate of the commission.

“Now when NSAs cry that they cannot proceed with elite competitions because of the suspension of grants, you have to know that something is seriously wrong,” Phatsimo says.

The Yarona FM sports anchor says the advent of the coronavirus pandemic has exposed which administrators are proactive.

“Take Botswana Table Tennis Association (BTTA) as an example. They have found themselves sponsors for all their competitions and the national teams,” he explains.

Phatsimo says because of this proactive approach, even if the BNSC could stop its grants for competitions, the BTTA would still continue to organise and play competitions.

“Looking at BTTA and other sporting codes like it, other administrators should question themselves as to what exactly they intended to do when they campaigned to lead NSAs if they fail to get even a single sponsor for elite competitions,” he says.

He concludes that while the pandemic has been bad for sport, there is a positive it has also exposed local sports administration and its sole reliance on government for elite sports.

Phatsimo says this will force the NSAs and administrators to take stock of themselves and to find ways to reduce overreliance on the BNSC for financing.

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