Incessant fights that have plagued local football are hitting teams where it hurts most ÔÇô in their pockets.
Botswana Premier League (BPL) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thabo Ntshinogang says the internal strife currently tearing football teams apart was to blame for the decline in the number of spectators at premier league matches.
Despite cash injections from sponsors into the BPL, the numbers of spectators in the elite league has continued to dwindle as supporters shun the games.
Although Mascom Top 8 had at one point been resilient as supporters thronged stadiums against the growing trend, the tournament seems to have finally succumbed to the poisoned atmosphere.
While some football pundits have put the blame squarely at the doorstep of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and BPL, Ntshinogang holds a contrary view.
Speaking in an interview, Ntshinogang said the power struggle which is the bane of local clubs has damaged the image of football in the country.
Gaborone United, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, Gilport Lions, Township Rollers are some of the clubs that are embroiled in internal power struggles.
‘’We do have some challenges as the BPL which in some way has affected the local game but we should not turn a blind eye on matters affecting our clubs,” the BPL CEO said.
“As an example, Centre Chiefs has been one of the teams with massive following in the past few seasons but things have changed. Their supporters used to throng stadiums in large numbers but this season they hardly come to the stadiums. This is due to a dark cloud hovering over the team. The club’s internal wrangling is chasing supporters away as they also affect the team’s performance,” Ntshinogang explained.
He said in the near future they will engage with club representatives to plot a way to lure back supporters to the grounds.
“Very soon, we will address clubs on ways to assist them to attract supporters back to the grounds. It is a challenge but our clubs need to be aggressive in building relationships with supporters,” he said.
“It is a fact that clubs such as Gilport Lions and Police XI are struggling with supporters but they should have a membership drive that will entice supporters in their recruitment drive,” the BPL CEO added.
As part of the initiative, Ntshinogang said the BPL is looking to introduce a royalty programme for supporters to lure them back to the stadiums.
“A royalty programme is in the pipeline as we believe supporters are key to the growth of football. We believe the programme will assist to have more numbers at the stadium,” he said.
Under the initiative, Ntshinogang said lucky spectators at football matches will win vouchers as a token of appreciation for their role as important as stakeholders.
He however said despite this initiative by the BPL, the onus will also be on clubs to come up with their own initiatives to lure supporters back to the football fields.
“We do not want to take over these initiatives from clubs as we believe some should be executed by clubs. I understand Extension Gunners has assured that all their registered members have the courtesy to sit at the Grand Stand for their home games and enjoy some goodies in selected matches which is a step in the right direction to lure supporters at the games,” the BPL CEO concluded.