Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Rugby league starts with changes expected on and off the field

The Botswana National Rugby league started this past weekend with many changes either taking place or being expected on and off the field of play. For starters, the league resumed without two of its competitive teams, the Ghetto Sharks of Francistown and the Desert Whales of Thebephatshwa who have both been scrapped from existence.

The two teams fell victim to the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) restructuring process which sees the army reducing the number of its sports teams to counter its shortage of personnel. The army will now only have BDF Cheetahs and EMG Gunners as its teams in the Rugby league.

With the BDF having had four teams in the rugby league, the move, which came into effect this year, now sees the rugby league remaining with only six active teams in the top flight. Apart from reducing the number of teams in the league, the move is also likely to affect the quality of competition considering the competitiveness of both teams.

Sharks finished the past season on fourth position, just one place above BDF Cheetahs while Whales finished sixth.

Speaking in an interview with Telegraph Sport, the Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) President Bob Lekan said that considering that the local rugby league season will have been shortened even further by the withdrawal of the two teams, the BRU has decided a new format of play that will see to it that the season stays longer.

“Unlike in the past year when teams played each other only once, we have decided that teams should play each other on a home and away basis. Under this new format, we will get to see teams playing more games than they did in the past seasons, something which will see the league get longer,” Lekan said.

Another new development will see the two bottom placed teams in the league log facing off in a match to decide who will be placed in the fifth position. He says as a measure to close the gap past the league season, other competitions like the knockout cup will still remain.

The league boss is, however, concerned that as of now, both the two rugby competitions have not yet found a sponsor.

“This is disappointing as teams will continue playing just for the love of sport and will have no motivation to be much more competitive,” Lekan added.

Off the field of play, Lekan said the BRU executive, in its special general meeting this past week, decided to formulate a permanent disciplinary committee to deal with issues of indiscipline on time. According to Lekan, the new committee will consist of five members, two of which will be lawyers who the BRU has already identified and talked to.

“In the past, we had only one permanent member of the disciplinary committee and others were selected when need arose. The committee was thus non functional and took time to deal with issues.

This new committee will be there for 24 months and will be expected to deal with issues of indiscipline as quickly as they come,” the BRU President said. He says the new committee’s first task will be to draw their own disciplinary code of operation which will be benchmarked from those of countries outside. He says while the Committee will be drafting its operational plan, the BRU will hold the fort and ensure discipline is upheld.

The committee is part of three other subcommittees that the BRU is formulating to improve the running of the BRU and its competitions. The other three new sub committees will include the Public Relations and Communications Committee, the Marketing and Sponsorship Committee as well as the Finance and Audit Committee.

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