Thursday, February 25, 2021

Is Football League Resumption Feasible Right Now?

As the clock ticks towards a year of no football activities and the clamour for football to resume increases, Botswana Football Association (BFA) finds itself under immense pressure.

Of late, the association has found itself on the receiving end from all stakeholders including players, player unions, coaches, supporters and others to start the football season.

In response to the demands, the BFA at the beginning of this month announced that activities will resume this coming month.

The announcement was however met with derision from Botswana Football League, who feel resuming the league will be premature, and at most suicidal.

Not without reason! Since Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) ditched BFL, the league has failed to attract sponsors. Having learnt the hard way during the past season how difficult it is to play a season without sponsors, BFL clubs seem not keen to take a risk. 

Now with the advent of the new normal, as living in the COVID-19 era is called, many administrators feel the costs of running a team are not sustainable.

“For the least paying club in the league, the monthly costs of running a team pre COVID-19 topped P100 000,” one administrator explains. Still another administrator estimated that the costs of running a premier league team stood at between P200 000 and P300 000 a month.

Even then, with teams generating some income from gate takings to go with their monthly grants from the then Botswana Premier League (BPL), teams still struggled. Now things have changed. The newly autonomous BFL does not have title sponsors for the league. 

Sources say the BFL currently sits at a potential P7 million worth of sponsorship with which to start the league. Of this, P5 million is said to come from selling league broadcast rights to Botswana television (Btv), while P2 million is the seasonal sponsorship from Absa Bank Botswana. This is a far cry from how things were a season before BTC pulled a plug on its 3-season sponsorship of the BFL, then known as BPL.

At the time, BTC had invested P36 million for three seasons in the BPL, amounting to P12 million per season. In addition, they also had P5 million per season from Btv, taking the league’s total sponsorship to P17 million. 

The new normal has however complicated things. The new normal requires no supporters at games. Our premium league teams depend on gate taking for extra cash and for survival and without supporters at games they have no other source of income to depend on.

How much have things changed now? What is the bare minimum each team needs monthly to survive? There are a few things to consider before the league starts, each club has to carry out Covid-19 tests on a regular basis, they need accommodation, transport, payment of salaries, match venue payment and not forgetting security payment. 

For the purpose of this article, we focused only on how much each team will need monthly for Covid-19 tests and salaries for a team of 30, including the technical team. A rapid Covid-19 test costs P180.00 and if one club is to test 30 of its team members using rapid test it will cost them P5 400.00 per game. In just a month a club plays four games which will make P21 600.00 in total. 

With a season played over nine months, each team will be expected to spend a minimum of P194 400 on COVID-19 tests, which will add up to P3, 110, 400.00 spent on COVID-19 tests for all the 16 BFL teams in a season.

If players including technical team are to be given a standard salary with a minimum of P2000.00 per person, the whole team will be required to pay P60 000.00 per month. 

For the whole season, a sum of P540 000.00 will be required for one club and the combined salaries for all the 16 teams will amount to P8 640 000.00 for just one season. 

Based on these two alone, with the exclusion of accommodation for away games, payment of security and testing of security personnel on match day as well as match venues, the expenditure already tops the estimated P7 million BFL will have in sponsorship.

Speaking to this publication, the administrator says given how the new normal will increase expenditure for teams, it is not surprising that the BFL is not keen to resume the new season.

Sunday Standard’s attempts to get a comment from BFL on the matter proved futile.

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