BY DUNCAN KGANGKENNA
The move to professionalise sport as an avenue of helping government in creating employment is said to be going in the right direction.
These sentiments were shared by the former Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng answering a question in parliament.
The Minister was responding to Member of Parliament for Francistown East, Buti Billy, who had asked the minister to update parliament on how he is commercialising sport and if there is any strategy in place to carry out commercialisation.
Olopeng explained that transition of Botswana National Sport Council (BNSC) to a Commission in 2014 was the first step towards professionalisation of sport in terms of setting up structures.
“Sport is at different levels of commercialisation in the different sport codes depending on the level of professionalism. We have a number of teams or codes which are already at semi-professional. In football, several clubs have their players contracted and remunerated as per signed contracts,” Olopeng told his peers.
He observed that sport also sells broadcast rights to generate the revenue. Merchandising is another way that sport has commercialized in the country.
“There has been establishment of local companies that manufacture sport apparel, and these have grown in popularity over the years,” the minister revealed.
Boxing, Athletics, and Golf were sighted as some of the local sporting codes that have professionalised their operations and the minister believes that more codes will follow suit.
To emphasise his views that sport is in the right path to professionalism, Olopeng observed that ‘In some of the sport codes, individual sportsmen and women play professional sport internationally.’
“We have our international athletes, those who participate outside the country at different events; they are paid. We have other players, our athletes in football, netball and those who are hired by teams outside Botswana,” he explained.
The BNSC Strategy 2028, which commenced in January 2013, is an overarching strategy towards professionalising of sport, and thus commercialisation.
“The strategy seeks to promote sport excellence and enhance the contribution of sport to the economy,” Olopeng enlightened parliament.
On Buti’s supplementary question as to whether sport has satisfactorily created employment hence the view that some codes have since professionalised, Olopeng had this to say; “Yes I am happy sport has created employment. At the Premier League in soccer, we have 16 teams and every player within these 16 teams are on payrolls; they are paid by those individual clubs, that is creation of employment.”
He went on to explain that in some instances, local players have been employed by professional teams in South Africa and are paid by those particular teams.
In conclusion, Olopeng acknowledged that though they are in the right path they are yet to reach the target they want to achieve.