BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE
When the roll call of guests was called at the BTC Premiership awards on Thursday night, there was one glaring absentee, that of the league sponsors Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC).
Despite being invited for the occasion, there was not even a single representative from the league sponsors at the awards.
According to a source, while BTC was sent an invite for the awards, the league sponsors never replied or reserved.
As if not enough, it is alleged that despite being given the option to sponsor the awards as the league sponsors, the BTC turned down the offer.
“For a long time now, we have known that BTC is not happy with the way things have been going and they are more than ready to ditch the league,” a source revealed.
The source revealed that as matters are, there is a lot of uncertainty on the future of BTC as sponsors.
This was also confirmed by one BPL board member who said ‘they as the board are not sure if the league will have sponsors this coming season.’
“BPL and by extension its board have been sidelined in the negotiation processes. They (BFA) have assumed all negotiating powers of the league,” he said. “All communication is sent to the BFA and everything is with them,” said the board member.
Commenting on condition of anonymity, the board member said due to uncertainty surrounding the sponsorship, the BPL has failed to budget for the upcoming season.
“The league is expected to resume in August and we are yet to make the budget because we are not certain the league sponsors will be with us when the new season begins,” the board member said.
Asked about the recent briefing by the BFA on the matter, the board member said the BPL Board was informed that BTC has offered to either ‘sponsor BPL for a reduced P5 million amount or terminate the sponsorship.’
“For this reduced amount of P5 million, BTC wants exclusive rights to the league product, just as it was in the past season. Their other alternative is terminating the sponsorship. This is a take it or leave it offer,” the board member divulged.
Asked whether the absence of the league sponsors at the awards could be deemed as a pointer to their impending departure, Botswana Premier League (BPL) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thabo Ntshinogang said there is nothing to read into BTC’s absence from the awards.
“Of course, we had sent an invite to the BTC to attend, just like we did with other stakeholders but they never acknowledged or reserved,” the BPL CEO confirmed.
“There is however nothing to read into their absence. For the record, the BTC provided the trophies for the awards and will also pay the prize monies for the award winners,” Ntshinogang said.
On whether it was true the league sponsors had turned down the invite to sponsor the awards, the BPL CEO confirmed the matter.
“But you have to know that sponsoring the awards is open to any company that is willing to. However, as the league sponsors, they are given the first option to sponsor. In this case, the BTC did indeed turn down the opportunity to sponsor the awards,” he confirmed.
The BPL CEO however refused to discuss the future of the BTC sponsorship, saying the matter is still being discussed at the highest level.
“The negotiations on the issue of BTC are ongoing between them and the BFA and at the moment, we cannot say anything on the matter. We will only talk about the matter when everything has been concluded,” said Ntshinogang.
Asked whether the BPL is aware of how the negotiations are going, the BPL CEO answered on the affirmative. “The BFA has briefed the BPL board on the issue but we cannot divulge anything on what has been discussed,” he said.
While the BPL CEO is cagey with matters, those in the know say the absence of the league sponsors speaks volumes of their unhappiness with the league.
Already, the league sponsors have terminated their sponsorship of the league’s flagship charity tournament, which they had sponsored this past season.
“Whereas the powers that be would want us to believe things are being worked out, the truth is when the league season starts, BPL may have lost BTC and may as well not have the bank it wants as league sponsors on board,” said the source.