Saturday, May 28, 2022

How it all went awry for ECCO City

Relegation will be a devastating blow for Ecco City Greens football club. Sources close to the club say the team’s current travails are no surprise.

The team’s main sponsor, BMC, pulled the plug on funding, leaving ECCO City struggling to survive in the league.

This was compounded by the fact that a new committee was elected to lead the club earlier this year when the BMC sponsorship was coming to a close.

“This would be something new for the team management to deal with as they always had had nothing to worry about,” a source close to the team said.

“BMC was taking care of all the team’s needs ÔÇô the players’ financial welfare or even the team’s match day expenses.”

When BMC opted out, the committee found itself in unfamiliar terrain and the team started struggling to pay players on time, according to the source.

Even more ominous for the new management, the incoming committee members were working in different regions of the country and thus failed to meet regularly to map a way forward for the club.

“The situation is that the team’s Executive Committee Chairperson is located in Lobatse while his Vice is working in Gaborone. This leaves only the Team Manager as the only influential Executive Committee member close to the team and this affects the day to day running of the team,” the source said.

The financial malaise following BMC’s pull out was to be expected. What is surprising is that the struggles on match days came so soon after.

Ever since coming into the Premier League, ECCO has had many top-four finishes in the league, been in one or two cup finals and competed in the Top 8. In all these instances, there were prize monies won by the team.

Since BMC was taking care of all their expenses, where did all these prize monies go? “This is the money that should have been saved and used to help run the club at this period of the team’s struggles,” the source said.

The team’s recently ousted coach, Oupa Kowa, said while he is not privy to the goings-on in the ECCO Executive Committee, there is no doubt that the team may be struggling financially.

“The management has never told me the team is struggling financially. But I have seen players come and report that they have not been paid on time or that they have not paid rents to their houses because they have not yet been paid, something which may point to financial struggles,” the former coach said.

The former coach said that while he had interacted with the Team Manager, he has never had a meeting with the team’s Chairperson.

“If and when I wanted to speak or tell the chairperson something, I had to route it through the team manager. Don’t get me wrong, I would not say this is wrong but I think it is an anomaly. If we had a chance, we could have discussed things and reasoned on what I needed or wanted to know without my communication coming through an intermediary, something which could result in distortion,” Kowa said.

The former coach said while there is no doubt that the current committee is made up of brilliant minds, the current committee needs to meet regularly to strategize and map a way forward for the team.

“They also need to meet with the team technical staff as well as players and supporters to inform them of the club’s current situation. This would give all those involved a chance to make their opinions heard and give them a clear indication of the way forward,” Kowa said.

The former coach also lamented the lack of interest from the Francistown business community in helping teams from the region with sponsorship.

Kowa also said it is imperative that the Botswana Football Association moves in to help teams from the North region to ensure football development in the region continues.

“If you look at the current national team set up, a lot of players in the team are from the Northern part of this country. This calls for the BFA to look into issues affecting teams from the North to keep them unearthing new talent,” he said.

Kowa said what compounded their problems was that the conclusion of the sponsorship coincided with the time when most of the team’s senior players’ contracts were coming to an end.

“This meant that we could no longer afford to pay some of the player’s fees and we had no option but to let them go. This compromised the quality in our team as we then had to find raw and inexperienced players to fill the void left by these players and this is how we now find ourselves struggling,” Dingalo explained.

He said at the moment, the current ECCO Executive Committee is doing all it can to find sponsors for the team.

He however said this is proving to be very difficult as the business community in the north seems not so interested.

“In other instances, we find that some of the major businesses in this region have their headquarters in the Southern region of the country and when we approach them, they forward us to their headquarters. When we get there, they tell us of their involvement with one of the sports teams, a certain sporting code or a charity organization. We thus find it hard to find sponsors,” he explained.

Dingalo however said despite this challenge, they hope to secure the team a new sponsor by the end of the first round of this season.

Commenting on the status of the current committee, the ECCO City PRO said while it is true that some committee members are working far from the team in the South, this does not affect how the team is run.

He said apart from the two members working in the southern part of this country, the rest of the committee members are in the Francistown area vicinity and do meet regularly.

“The geographical deviation is not a problem in the running of our committee. We ensure that we hold regular meetings and we are thus able to run the team accordingly,” he said.

Dingalo said the costs of running the team are very high and this is draining the meager resources they have at their disposal.

“There is little money in local football but the expenses of running teams are very high. To give you an example, no matter how hard we economize, it costs us at least P15 000 for a one match trip to Gaborone and we travel a lot. This is financially draining,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the ECCO PRO said looking at how the team is playing, it is feasible that the team will still be in the Premier League next season.

“We are playing very well despite the apparent lack of experience in our team and I believe very soon our team will win more games. This is the reason why we opted to bring in a full time coach for the team and part ways with coach Kowa because we are of the belief that the young boys in our team need a coach who will spend more time with them. Kowa is a great coach but we felt that his work commitments were deterring him from giving this young team all the attention it needs,” he said.

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