A year ago, Jwaneng Galaxy seemed on its way to be the new super club in the local football landscape.
With a hotshot chief executive officer, some of the best paid best players in the country, a financial backing from the Debswana Jwaneng mine and competing in the continental games, Galaxy had it all and more.
After a couple of years battling sister club Orapa United and perennial title contenders Township Rollers for top honours, it seemed only a matter of time before the Jwaneng side wrestled control.
But as they say, all that glitters is not gold … or in Galaxy’s case, not a diamond. A year on, the Galaxy diamond crusted cookie is seemingly crumbling.
Over the past few months, the team has witnessed an exodus of personnel akin to that of the son of Israelites fleeing slavery at the hands of the Pharaoh in ancient Egypt.
First out of the door, only to return, albeit for a short time, was the club’s CEO Bennett Mamelodi. Then followed the team’s star footballers, among them national team players Ezekiel Morake and Thero Setsile, just to name two.
Speaking to this publication a couple of weeks ago, the team’s public relations officer (PRO) Tankiso Morake was quoted as saying some players are leaving as the club seeks to enforce salary cuts.
While it is not so uncommon for players’ salaries to be cut, more especially in this coronavirus era, Galaxy’s deterioration has brought back the debate over the unsustainability of high salaries in Botswana’s elite football league.
With the seemingly bottomless financial backing of the Debswana mine, Galaxy, as with sister club Orapa United had until recently, not known the financial burden as other teams in the local elite league.
As such, the two sister clubs had not had a problem paying top pula for players, be it in signing on fees or the monthly salaries. This allowed them to attract the country’s best talent to their ranks.
But with such ambitions comes a lot of expenditure, and when the same ambition is not tampered with, it brings with it a huge financial liability.
And in a country where sponsors are at a premium for individual teams and even at national league level, there is belief that Galaxy spent beyond what is sustainable.
“What we have come to know is that most players at Galaxy allegedly earned way more than P10 000 a month. We understand that the team was trying to reduce the monthly salaries of some of the team’s star players to at least P10 000. This is what led to the exodus from the club,” football journalist Kagiso Kgaogano says.
The salary cuts, it seems, did not go down well with the athletes and now they are keen to try greener pastures elsewhere in the belief they can get better than what they are being offered.
But even if they get the salaries they seek elsewhere, this may mean those clubs will have to dig deep to keep tabs over their spending and may even spend beyond what they make.
Kgaogano says this is not sustainable and there is a need for introducing salary structures and caps to ensure teams live within means.
“It is high time that the Botswana Football Association (BFA), Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) and the Premier league sit down together and draft a payment structure for professional players in the country,” he advices.
His sentiments are shared by football administrator Bathusi Rathari, who says the current system where there are no set payment structures is prohibitive to growth and sustainability.
He says as far as 2015, he has been trying to advocate for regulation of salaries in the local game to allow for competitiveness in competition as well as financial sustainability.
“My argument back then, was that if the intention is to create football as another economic hub/sector, we need to come up with protectionism laws to allow for fair and equitable growth of an infant industry,” he recalls.
Rathari says at the time he made this argument, it was when Rollers was signing Dirang Moloi and had allegedly offered to pay him P50 000 a month.
“I said this is not sustainable and should be discouraged. I still maintain that position,” he says.
He says if it is indeed true that Galaxy is cutting salaries and intends to cap them at a maximum of P10 000 a month, then they are doing what is right.
“We won’t grow if we do not take the Galaxy route. It’s the only route to nurture an infant sector. Open economies are for blue chips,” he argues.
Like Kgaogano, Rathari says the BFA needs to ‘regulate remuneration of footballers until we fully professionalise.’