Sunday, October 25, 2020

COVID-19 and sports: Masitaoka shows the way

Botswana Premier league teams can learn a thing or two from some First Division clubs when it comes to the welfare of their players.  There are reports that some BPL teams are heads under water as they have not yet paid players their salaries. However, Debswana First Division South Club(DFDS) Masitaoka staff and club’s  players  continue  to receive  hundred  percent of their  salary  despite  tough  economic times  brought  by COVID-19 pandemic. Masitaoka Public Relations Officer (PRO) Godfrey Ratlhaga says they managed to pay the players because the months were within the financial year. 

This he says is despite the fact that the lockdown has affected their merchandise sales. Masitaoka had just introduced a new range of products, V90 top, bucket hats, cups, which were in high demand when the season came to an abrupt stop. “Administratively, we are not selling the product “Masitaoka” (we pull large crowds) and its merchandises,” he explains. While not sure how far the team can sustain player salaries if the state of emergency is prolonged, Ratlhaga is however optimistic that should the country open the economy for the next coming month, they will continue to pay the players. “I do not know what Masitaoka has put in place to manage the situation.

However, I suspect it has a lot to do with ownership structure in place,” local football analyst Olebile Sikwane opines. Sikwane goes on to say what Masitaoka has is ‘a leader whose vision is to run a viable and sustainable project which should never rely on gate takings.’  “Gate takings have never made any team rich or sustainable. What is critical is a sustainable plan in place which guarantees investment into the club by way of sponsorship or merchandise sales,” he explains Sikwane then continues; “Orlando Pirates has very little match attendances and have not won a cup or league in ages, but they are R400mil net profit turn over company! How? I think after the lockdown, we must find out how.”  

He says it is regrettable that the so-called big brands in local football have to look up to minnows such as Masitaoka as inspiration.  “The local football community must reflect candidly and progressively as a united front, and we need government to intervene with serious laws regarding social corporate responsibility in view of the contribution by our largely foreign owned private sector, and also see how our minuscule economy can assist sports in general,” he concludes. Sport journalist Kagiso Phatsimo says the current crisis is a warning to clubs to live within their means for sustainability. He says a club’s budget should be equivalent to what they can generate, ‘because if not, it is a setup for failure.’ He points out that the emergence of COVID-19 shows ‘teams cannot rely on gate takings. “The club should generate through sponsorship deals, endorsement deals, selling merchandises and membership fees to generate funds equal to their expenses,” he explains. 

Phatsimo goes on to say clubs should ‘change into companies that can be attractive to sponsors and partners from a professional perspective to sustain the club.’ “BPL clubs should do things professional to account for every action. Most clubs are failing to tap into their fan base, to mobilise and have a strong base so that they generate revenue. Administratively and financially, clubs should not give false hope of payment when signing players,” he adds.

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