By Botlhale Koothupile
As the politicization of the Botswana Premier League (BPL) haunts the country’s elite league, questions are being asked whether or not the status qou at the BPL board should remain.
With the Botswana Football Association (BFA) elective General Assembly (GA) expected next year, signs are emerging that politicking has earnestly resumed within the BPL board.
In what is now becoming a ‘crazy normal’ situation for Botswana’s elite league, the politicization of the league is threatens to spill into the BPL Secretariat with feuding board members seeking to interfere in the day to day running of the league.
Leading to elections in the past, the interference has led to the sacking of staff members at the BPL Secretariat, with the BPL Chief Executive Officers (CEO) bearing the brunt of such actions.
The status quo has led to some administrators questioning whether or not the BPL board understands its mandate. With calls for the dissolution of the board growing louder and the BPL Secretariat under siege, even an attempt by the BPL CEO Thabo Ntshinogang to sanitize the existence of the board seems an exercise in futility.
“I personally believe we need a new board as the BPL. But the question should be whether we need to keep it as it is or change its composition,” the BPL CEO said when asked if there is still a need for the existence of the BPL board.
“Just the other day, I was presenting to the BPL Board on the issue as we discussed the issue of autonomy and we looked at the models used by other leagues and federations,” he said.
According to Ntshinogang, the country’s elite league can take a leaf from the National Soccer League (NSL) in the neighbouring South Africa.
“They have the board of governors, which is composed of 32 clubs, 16 each from the Premier League and the National First Division. These then have elected an Executive Committee which runs the leagues on behalf of the board. I believe we can adopt a similar model,” said Ntshinogang.
But does the premier league board know its role? “They know their role. All the sixteen clubs have the constitution, so they know. All we need to do is tell everyone to respect the constitution as it is,” the BPL CEO said.
Despite Ntshinogang refusal to acknowledge that the BPL board is interfering in the day to day running of the secretariat, he however admitted roles ‘may get mixed up at times.’
“As I have said, as it is laid down in our constitution, we should all respect the constitution and you can quote me on this one, everyone should stick to his role as prescribed by the constitution,” he reiterated.
On the issue of the BPL Board’s penchant of firing and hiring BPL CEOs at will, even to the detriment of the league, Ntshinogang said it was within the board’s role to do such.
“The board’s role to supervise is not taken away. They hire the head of the secretariat and they have to assess his performance. But this should not be influenced by politics but by performance only,” he said.
While Ntshinogang was diplomatic on his answers, his sentiments are by and large shared by some administrators and stakeholders, who also believe there is a need to change how the league is run.
Commenting on the matter, Notwane president Tebogo Sebego concurred that there is still a need for the BPL Board to continue but said there is a need to change how it does things.
“You cannot operate the league without the board,” Sebego said. “The BPL board is made of chairmen of teams who know the challenges faced by our teams each and every day. They are better placed to lead the league on strategic level than anyone can,” he said.
The Notwane president admitted that at times, the BPL board seems oblivious of its role, which is to give strategic guidance and dabbles at running the league.
“We probably do not know our role, which is to operate at strategic level. We should be giving the BPL Secretariat guidance from a strategic level, giving them deliverables and checking whether they meet the strategic targets set before them. But we sometimes find ourselves discussing the fixtures in our meetings, which is not our remit as the board,” he said.
Sebego also concurred with the BPL CEO’s view that there needs to be a change at how the BPL board operates, saying the South African ‘NSL model is the perfect one for BPL to follow.’
“We need to have a fully fledged Secretariat which can undertake all the day to day running of the league under the supervision of the Executive Committee as elected by the team representatives, who constitute the board of directors,” Sebego opined.
For his part, one team manager who commented on condition of anonymity said the BPL board seems to not know its role.
“What is happening in our league is sad. It is now becoming difficult for the league to run effectively and as administrators, we sometimes ask if it is worth staying in this game,” one team manager lamented.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the team manager said as it is, the BPL board seems to be in the dark as to what its roles are.
“I believe it is high time we dissolved the BPL board and in its place we elect a committee or some board to take over as board members are conflicted and cannot do their duties effectively,” the team manager opined.
“What should then happen is that the elected committee will then call all the team representatives at least twice or three times a year to brief them. It can be decided that these consultations be done at the start of the season, at the midway point and at the end of the season,” he said.