Tuesday, October 19, 2021

NO excuses for safe return of football as SoE ends

The State of Emergency (SoE) has come to an end. Used to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the SoE which had for a long time been seen as ‘oppressive’ came to an end on September 30th, Botswana’s Independence Day.

For sport and football in particular, the end of the SoE and the restrictions that came with it means a return to the field of play for both the players and spectators. While the return will still be guided by regulations, it is however expected to spark some life force into the local football which has been comatose for more than one and a half years now.

As the Minister of Sports Tumiso Rakgare alluded to in his press briefing held on the eve of the country’s Independence Day, the elapse of the SoE means there will be no cap on the number of spectators allowed during match days.

“We plead with our sectors to be cautious as they get back to business. The pandemic is still there. We all have the responsibility to protect one another by adhering to protocols,” the Minister cautioned.

For the beleaguered Botswana Football Association (BFA) which has for a long time taken a stick for ‘failing to safely bring back football to the playing pitches’ amidst the raging pandemic, the end of the SoE and the wholesale return to play will also bring a lot of relief.

As regards Botswana Football League (BFL) and its individual shareholders, it will bring a lot of pressure. For the BFL executive board, time is running out to find sponsors. “Our engagements with sponsors are ongoing. From our own side as the BFL secretariat, things are moving,” BFL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Solomon Ramochotlhwane.

“We are more than ready to resume. We have been more than ready. When we meet the shareholders, we will be ready to update them on the status of sponsorships. The fixtures are ready and will be given proper dates as and when stakeholders agree,” the BFL CEO said.

For the individual shareholders, there will be no excuses not to play ball now. Having touted the absence of match day revenue due to absence of spectators as a good enough reason to delay the start of the football league, clubs now have no reason. The pressure was on the BFA and now the BFL to find league sponsors to ensure each club had enough subsidy to survive in the elite league is all but gone. Like chaff in a summer breeze, that excuse has gone.

Spectators are now allowed back. Clubs will now be able to generate income through gate takings as was before the pandemic. With sponsors now ready to come back, which will allow for availability of prize monies and most probably the much sought-after grants, the onus will be back on clubs to play their part and augment whatever they get.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one administrator close to the BFL said even with the recent changes, he does not expect the game to resume any time soon if the behaviour of the shareholders and the ongoing power battles in local football do not come to a stop.

Asked if clubs have any excuse not to start playing ball as spectators are now allowed back, the administrator said; “If you listened to the recent press briefing from the concerned shareholders, you will realise clubs will still bring excuses not to return to play.”

“It has nothing to do with whether their reasons make sense or not. This is football politics at play. They are gunning for the heads of one or two people and I do not expect anything to change,” the administrator said.

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