The 2014/15 beMobile Premier League horse race has long come to an end, but the dust is yet to settle. While many would have expected the battle to be fought, won and lost in the field of play, it has now moved to the boardroom as teams jostle for points. The battle is no longer fought through the tried and tested spectacle of eleven men sweating, chasing and kicking a pig skin on the park; It is now a fought by bespectacled men in suits, poring over voluminous books and arguing over interpretation of rules and regulations as they try to score precious points for their teams. The football fan has been cast out in the cold, discontent and starved of entertainment. Football mania is no longer in sync and Botswana’s soccer crazy fans are unhappy.
One sports administrator aptly called it a ‘new and unprecedented trend.’ It has caused a lot of bother in football’s power corridors and administrators are at pains to explain what could have caused this surge in protests. For Botswana Football Association (BFA) President Tebogo Sebego, the problem is mainly due to lack of understanding of football rules and regulations or sometimes ‘people just acting in bad faith to win games.’ “We spoke about this very issue at our last Annual General Meeting and we encouraged people to familiarize themselves with the statutes governing our football. We are concerned by this state of affairs, especially because some of the mistakes are elementary and could have been easily avoided,” the BFA President says.
He is even more disheartened that some people feel they shouldn’t be punished even after failing to comply with statutes. The situation is very painful for the BFA because some of the problems are self inflicted. Botswana Premier League (BPL) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bennett Mamelodi believes the escalation of protests is an indication that people are now paying attention to statutes and statistics. This is not to say that others are failing to pay attention, or deliberately ignoring the rules to gain unfair advantage. For Solomon Mantswe, Chairman of Police XI, the problem exists because people who are not familiar with the rules and regulations governing local football have been given the responsibility of leading teams, while others simply fail to adhere to set rules and regulations.
“We can’t avoid boardroom wars if teams don’t comply with the rules. The current situation is a cause for concern. Football should be won and lost on the field of play, but that field should be clean. Boardroom wars obtain when football managers are not professional in their application of the rules,” says Mantswe.
He should know, because his team was booted out of the league about three years ago after failing to comply with regulations. Laxity and lack of due diligence by some clubs results in flouting of the simplest playing rules and regulations, which eventually causes unnecessary delays in conclusion of the league. Mantswe also throws a challenge at team managers to have integrity and not seek unfair advantage by bypassing laws deliberately.
“Team managers must ensure that clubs are run smoothly. The club secretariat must keep proper records and work closely with the technical teams,” says Mantswe.
Clifford Mogomotsi, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Mochudi Centre Chiefs agrees. He is simply baffled by some flimsy matters that are being fought at boardroom level.
“Some of these problems could have been avoided if we had proper gate keeping mechanisms. Also, team managers should familiarize themselves with BFA play rules and regulations,” he says.
Mogomotsi believes both the BPL and local clubs must put in place efficient record keeping systems, together with an early warning system similar to the one used by the Confederations of African Football (CAF) and FIFA, which will warn teams of defaulters before play. For Extension Gunners Chairman Kitso Dlamini, the solution lies in holistic development of football in the country. Dlamini, whose club was at the centre of one of the protests, says such development should target clubs, players and managers. All administrators agree that such unnecessary distractions can be avoided if teams start complying with the laws of the game.
According to Sebego, this calls for enhanced development of players, clubs, coaches and managers. More importantly, says Sebego, a spirit of sportsmanship has to be harnessed among all stakeholders.
“We must have integrity and sportsmanship to play by the rules. That will reduce the number of protests,” he says.
Meanwhile, the BPL CEO has promised that they are working around the clock to deliver working solutions to the current problems. As custodians of the league, says Mamelodi, the BPL has a responsibility to preserve the integrity of the league.
“We have encountered problems before and we always found solutions. I promise that we will have found solutions for these problems come next season,” says the BPL CEO.