Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Is it time to merge BNSC and BNOC?

For a long time now, power play between the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) has seemingly hampered the growth of sport in Botswana.

Despite countless attempts to ensure the two sporting bodies’ have clarity of roles to avoid a clash, the attempts have not borne any fruit, if the current situation is anything to go by.

According to reliable sources, while the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are fast approaching, the two bodies have been engaged in a cockfight over who is in charge of preparations.

However, with preparations going haywire, none of the two bodies is allegedly willing to take responsibility.

Just a week ago, the two sporting bodies allegedly appeared before the Ministry of Sports to give the ministry a report on the Olympic preparations as well as to try and resolve their impasse.

With the continued clash between the two organisations, new suggestions are coming that the only way to end the impasse may be to merge the two bodies.

“It is a common practice in successful sporting countries to have both the national sports commissions and the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) under one roof. Maybe it is time for us to consider following such a model,” one administrator opined.

The administrator went on to cite South Africa as one African country which has followed the trend of merging the sports bodies, forming what is now called the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).

“Far afield in Europe and the Americas, the trend is similar as countries like Germany and the United States of America have also housed these bodies under one umbrella body,” the administrator said.

“We are a small country with meagre resources and having the two bodies under one roof will help us manage our resources better. Also, it will help us prepare better and prioritise games better as everything will be planned and done by one umbrella body,” the administrator said.

On why as national federations they are not advocating for the merger of the two bodies, the administrator said while it can be considered, the political landscape will probably make it difficult.

“Unlike the BNSC which is a statutory body or a parastatal, the BNOC is under the direct control of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). For a successful merger of the two, the state would lose control and that will not be acceptable,” the administrator said.

“As a statutory body that came into being by an act of parliament, the BNSC is directly answerable to the government. The fear is that if it merges and gets under IOC, the government will lose control,” 

Reached for comment, former BNSC chairman Solly Reikeletseng said the current standoff between the sports commission and the BNOC has nothing to do with lack of roles clarity but rather more to do ‘with who holds the purse.’

As the longest serving BNSC Board chairperson, Reikeletseng said while the two sport controlling bodies feuded in the past due to lack of role clarity, the issue was resolved when the government enacted a new act to define the roles of the two bodies.

“It was in the aftermath of this act which defined the roles of the two sports bodies that the Department of Sports and Recreation (DSR) was borne. It is a pity however that save for the birth of the DSR, nothing has changed between the two,” he said.

Commenting on what could be causing the current impasse, the former BNSC Chairman had this to say; “This is more of a power play between the two sports bodies showing off as to who has financial control.”

On the issue of combining the BNSC and BNOC into one umbrella body for sports, Reikeletseng said it is a viable option which can be possible in Botswana.

“We already have a similar model in South Africa with SASCOC. But the problem with this model is that the government will have no direct control and it will not be able to appoint its board of directors or the chairman,” he explained.

“Under the arrangement, the new body will run independently and its board will be elected by national federations as per the International Olympic Committee (IOC) regulations. This is the same reason why you will find BNOC members on the BNSC board but the latter are not on the BNOC board as they were appointed and not elected,” explained Reikeletseng.

Should a decision be taken to merge the two, Reikeletseng said it will mean the government comes on board only as a financier. He however said if the government still wants to continue running sports, the merger of the two sport controlling bodies will not be possible.

Contrary to popular belief that the government will lose control if the two bodies are merged, the former BNSC Board Chairman is of the view that this would not be the case.

“As the financiers, the government will have control in that it will dictate how it wants its monies to be used. The government will have access to the body’s audited financial reports, meaning they can always know how the monies are used and thus have control,” he said.

Asked for his opinion on whether merging the two bodies will be a good idea, Reikeletseng said ‘merging the two is the route to go.’

“My opinion is that Government should not run sports. Sports should be run by professionals or volunteers. If the government stops running sports, sport may be able to attract sponsors,” he said.

“As it is right now, sports sometimes fail to draw sponsors because they (sponsors) are of the view that the government is adequately funding sports,” he concluded. 

For his part, BNOC Chief Executive Officer Tuelo Serufho declined to comment on the matter and directed this publication to BNOC acting President Tshepo Sitale.

“Those are political questions that can only be answered at board level,” Serufho said.

The Sunday Standard attempts to reach the acting BNOC president however proved futile as his phone rang unanswered.

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