The rivalry between Botswana football’s premier sponsors, Mascom Wireless and Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) is threatening to deny local football teams an opportunity to use the National Stadium in Gaborone for premier league games.
This week, the Botswana Premier League (BPL) was forced to change the venue of the league’s 59th match of the season between Security Systems and runaway log leaders Township Rollers from the National Stadium to Molepolole Sports Complex ‘due to unresolved branding issues.’
At issue is the Mascom Wireless branding, which adorns the perimeters of the stadium, more especially the east side popularly known as ‘Panda.’
As part of their ongoing exercise to generate income from their facilities, national stadium owners, Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) have entered into a contract with Mascom Wireless to brand themselves in the Stadium.
However, given the ‘bad blood’ between local telecommunications’ companies,’ and their aversion for opposition advertising during events organised by either of the companies, BTC is said to have expressed misgivings over the appearance of their rival’s branding in premier league matches.
The grievance is alleged to have been communicated to the BPL by BTC during last weekend’s grudge match between archrivals Township Rollers and Mochudi Centre Chiefs which was broadcast live on Botswana Television.
While the issue has never really been a big problem in the previous seasons as BPL was allowed to cover the Mascom branding, things seem to have changed regarding the arrangement.
Speaking in an interview, BPL acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thabo Ntshinogang said when they tried to cover the Mascom branding as was the custom, they were told not to do such.
According to the acting BPL CEO, negotiations with the stadium management and all concerned stakeholders are ongoing to resolve the impasse.
“At this moment, we cannot give much information as negotiations are ongoing. We are however not sure when the issue will be resolved. Pending that resolution, the stadium will continue to be out of bounds for all BTC Premiership matches,” Ntshinogang explained.
On whether it will ever be possible for local football’s two major sponsors and rivals to work together as is the norm internationally, the BPL CEO said it is an issue they are always working on.
“Both the concerned parties are our major stakeholders and we are always engaging them. All our stakeholders are very important and it is therefore vital for all of us to have a common understanding,” he concluded.
Reached for comment, acting BNSC CEO Bobby Gaseitsiwe said as the custodians of sport in the country, they value sports partnerships and will therefore be keen to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
While acknowledging that Mascom has paid to brand themselves in the stadium, the acting BNSC CEO said the company has in the past proved they can budge where issues of clash of interest surface.
“I believe when we finally engage on the matter, a solution will be found,” he concluded.