Notwane Football Club’s bid to avoid life in the lower leagues as well as a sanction by the Botswana Football Association (BFA) suffered a major blow this past Thursday as their bid to have their appeal heard urgently was dismissed. The fallen Gaborone football giants had pleaded with the Court of Appeal to expedite the hearing of their appeal against a high court ruling that had dismissed the club’s urgent application to stop their relegation playoff against FC Satmos on the 10th of June earlier this year.
On the eve of the contested playoff between the two teams, Notwane filed an urgent appeal with the High Court seeking to stop the game pending the resolution of their complaint against Sankoyo Bush Bucks. In the aftermath of the dismissal of the case, Notwane were haplessly beaten by FC Satmos and were relegated to the first division. The team’s court case also left Notwane facing a disciplinary hearing from the Botswana Football Association (BFA) for taking football matters to court, contrary to FIFA and BFA’s Play Rules and Regulations. Following the dismissal of their case as well as the thrashing at the hands of FC Satmos in the playoffs, Notwane then filed an appeal against the High Court ruling. As part of the appeal, the relegated Notwane is also seeking for the annulment of the result of their relegation playoff game which they lost to FC Satmos.
Giving a ruling on whether the case should be heard urgently, Justice Isaac Lesetedi said the case was not urgent and it will not be heard during the current seating of the High Court of Appeal. In their plea to have their appeal heard as a matter of urgency, Notwane, through their lawyer Tshiamo Motsumi, argued that the appeal should be expedited and their appeal be resolved as the league is set to resume in early August. He said if the matter is not heard urgently before the leagues resume, Notwane will then be forced to play in the lower division.
Questioned by Justice Lesetedi on whether the fact that Notwane played in the playoffs does not mean they agreed with the High Court ruling, Motsumi argued that his client played the game because BFA had threatened to take action against them if they did not honour the playoff fixture.
In his answering affidavit, BFA legal representative, Mike Rasetshwane argued that by virtue of playing the playoff game, Notwane were agreeing with the ruling of the High Court. He said with the court not having ruled that Notwane should go and play the playoffs, the team was literally ‘trying to close the stables while the horse had long bolted.’ Dismissing the application, Justice Lesetedi said there had been ample time for Notwane to have filed their appeal earlier.
Justice Lesetedi said even if he rules in favour of Notwane, the ruling will not provide any relief. He said it might only result in other teams approaching the courts seeking relief and this will disrupt the leagues as the issue may drag for a very long time. He also said there has to be a determination whether Notwane acquiesced to the court ruling by playing the playoffs. The dismissal means Notwane will now wait for their appeal while playing in the first division. As if the ruling of the Court of Appeal was not enough, Notwane suffered yet another setback on Thursday evening as the BFA Disciplinary Committee (DC) ruled that their case will be heard on the 13th of August. With the league resuming on the 7th of the same month, the ruling of the DC means Notwane will have played their first game in the lower division when their case is heard.