BY PATIENCE LEPHOGOLE
ÔÇïFootball fans – for the foremost half – are a ferociously loyal bunch.
The importance of football’s 12th player cannot be over emphasised, more especially in Botswana where teams largely depend on gate taking to make ends-meet.
However, match attending is a great aspect in football, despite the arrival of social media where fans can watch live streamed games or check football pages on Facebook for scores instead of watching the games at the stadium.
I watched Barcelona against Liverpool game this past week, all seats in the stadium were occupied by supporters, what would happen if Batswana adopted the same practice?
Why is it hard for Batswana to fill up our stadia? Funny right, there used to be a team when Mochudi Centre Chiefs had massive attendance of supporters during games. The enthusiasm had fallen over the years.
In 2015, the Botswana Premier League, chief executive officer Bennett Mamelodi reported at the annual assembly that Township Rollers made a killing in the gate taking with the highest revenue of P2.5 million.
He said Rollers made over P1 million from the Be MOBILE Premier League gate taking and more than P200, 000 gate takings from Mascom Top 8 games, Township Rollers was followed by Sankoyo Bush Bucks who recorded close to P1 million from the be MOBILE Premier League games.
That alone is a clear manifestation that teams need supporter’s attendance during games, not only for vibe and morale, but for income as well despite their ignorance by not coming to games at the stadium.
Are these numbers a true reflection of supporter’s attendance during games? Is it only resourceful teams that get massive match attendance? Does this call for measures to be applied so that the stadium gets filled up?
According to local sports analyst Jimmy George teams have a huge challenge of fans not attending matches as it is reflected in gate takings. However, he noted that the challenges should be addressed from the onset.
“The league should approach fans and encourage them to attend matches, in fact it should be known by all football lovers,” he opined. He further added that he remembers back in the day when Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers had massive attendance, their clash turned heads. “Then came Gunners and Gaborone United, the derby of such teams brought massive crowds, football was fun then,” he added.
George threw a rhetorical question on how does one start at when it comes to addressing such an issue. He said “This should start from the foundation, sponsors should benchmark from English premier leagues. Those stadiums have bars and restaurants so spectators can enjoy themselves whilst watching games.”
He further added that in Botswana if a supporter had to choose between watching a late night came and hanging out with friends, they would opt for braii with friends. “If they were somehow allowed alcohol at games, maybe we would achieve numbers at the stadium,” he added.
“BTC as a sponsor should try enticing whilst getting more fans to the games, they could offer free WIFI for them, allow non bottle alcohol beverages for their refreshment during matches. We would not get many but with time we would bring a larger number to every game in the league,” opined George.
He further added that BTC should have event organisers responsible for scheduling games. “This thing of postponing might be curbed once there are event organisers who will bring season tickets hence mastering game dates,” he noted.
Moreover, George added that BTC and teams could bring affordable merchandise during games, to encourage more supporters to fill up the stadium. He said “Take Kabelano Charity Cup for example which is a one day spectacular, it normally brings a lot of spectators to the stadium because it has a lot of fun in between rest games of teams. These vary from entertainment, live performance and giving away of merchandise.”
“One other thing that might be keeping supporters away during matches is that they want to watch players who are well taken care of and paid handsomely. MCC had massive match attendance back in the days; supporters stopped attending in similar numbers once players were not paid well,” he added.
George further added that one other thing all teams should be resourceful. “At the moment Rollers is more resourceful hence the large supporters match attendance, if all teams were resourceful then they would attract more supporters to fill up the stadium,” he concluded.