Lobatse based premier league outfit, Extension Gunners, will, from the next coming season, use the National Stadium as its home ground. Renowned for its close affiliation with its roots, more especially Peleng, Gunners have now finally decided to play most of its games in Gaborone as the team continues to leak monies at the gate. While the decision to take the team from its roots in Lobatse will rob the city of high profile premier league games, the decision has been welcomed by some of the club supporters who feel the decision was made with the interest of the team at heart.
Speaking in an interview, Extension Gunners Gaborone branch Chairperson, Collin Mokgwathi, said while the decision is regrettable, it was in the best interest of the club that they move base. “While we would have loved the team to continue using the Lobatse Stadium, it is common knowledge that the team was losing a lot of money. For people who watch the team’s games at the Lobatse, it would look like the team is making a lot of money at the gates considering the large number of spectators at each of our games played there.
However, the truth is most of the people who fill the stands gain free entrance into the stadium as they jump over the walls, costing the team the much needed gate revenues,” Mokgwathi said.
He said for a team like Gunners, which is still struggling to attract sponsors, it was a no brainer that the team management protect the little sources of revenue available, hence the decision. He said after realising that the Gaborone games were making much money as compared to the games played at home in Lobatse, it was only logical that the team moves its base to Gaborone.
Mokgwathi said until the Lobatse Stadium is repaired to prevent people from jumping over its walls, the team will have to do with playing most of their home games in Gaborone. “Considering the large numbers of spectators who attended our home games, we should not have been seating at eighth position in the revenue generation status, we should have been among the top four money generating enterprises,” the Gaborone supporters branch Chairperson said. On whether the move will not demoralise a number of the team’s support base, Mokgwathi said the contrary may happen.
“This team has a countrywide support base and coming to Gaborone may be the best move right now. in fact, coming to Gaborone may as well ensure that other teams’ supporters, most of whom would have not considered going to watch Gunners in Lobatse will also come to our games and help boost our gate taking revenues,” Mokgwathi concluded.
The Gaborone Branch Chairperson’s words were echoed by the Vice Chairperson of the team’s Selibe Phikwe Supporters Branch, Japi Kgaodi. Speaking in an interview, Kgaodi said as the branch leaders, the issue was discussed with the team management at their last meeting.
“The management put statistics before us and they (statistics) show we are losing a lot of revenue playing in Lobatse Stadium. It was apparent to us that we made more money in our games played in Gaborone as compared to the ones played at Lobatse,” he explained. He said considering that the team is always struggling to pay players, it is only right that most of the team’s home games be played in Gaborone. “Until we as a team find a sponsor to complement what we get from sponsors such as All Kasi as well as the gate takings, or until the Lobatse Stadium has been brought to a standard where people cannot easily jump over the walls to watch matches for free, there is no other way but to play our games at the National Stadium,” he said.
For his part, the team’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Koorapetse Kgasa, said while this decision has been taken, the management will do its best to ensure the team does not lose its close affiliation to the town of Lobatse. “We will do our best to ensure that the people of Lobatse, who are the base of our supporters, do not miss their team. As such, we have taken a deliberate decision that some of our home games will be played in Lobatse,” the Extension Gunners PRO explained. On whether the team will not lose most of its support base in the process, Kgasa said the team has a loyal base of supporters who have the best interest of the team at heart.
He said the reason that Gaborone, which is in close proximity to Lobatse was selected, was also to ensure that supporters from Lobatse can easily access the games. “They are also aware that Gunners is a big team with a broad following across the country. This move will not only ensure we make this team accessible to a lot of our supporters across the country, but will also pave a way for us as the management in our endeavor to take this team to the people,” the Gunners PRO said.
On how the management will ensure the costs of using the national stadium do not take most of the gate revenue, Kgasa said they will be embarking on a mobilisation campaign to resurrect their support base. “While taking the games to people across the country is in the cards, we will also come up with initiatives to attract more supporters to the club and also keep most of our support base. Some of these initiatives will include coming up with initiatives or products that will directly benefit our supporters,” Kgasa explained.