When it was still known as the Super League, Botswana’s Premier League used to have 10 teams. The teams were later increased to 12, and the practice went on unchanged for a while. The number was later increased to 16 as more changes were instituted, culminating in the changing of the league’s name from Super League to Premier League.
For seven years now, 16 teams have been competing in the Premier League. But there are feelings in some quarters that the number of Premier League teams should once again be reduced to 12.
The issue was one of the hot topics at the much attended Bosele declaration three years ago. Some of the reasons advanced are that the Premier League does not have enough resources to cater for such a large number of teams.
The Premier league will be manageable with a reduced number of teams since fixtures will be finished on time. The ever present problem of shortage of playing grounds will also be a thing of the past.
Reduction of the teams will also make it possible for the league to have more tournaments, unlike in the present scenario where the number of tournaments is limited by lack of time.
Last year there were rumors that one of the commercial banks wanted to sponsor a lucrative tournament, but found it impossible due to congested fixtures.
Others also believe that the reduction of Premier League teams will make the feeder league, the First Division, more competitive.
National team competitions have become a nightmare for Premier League teams, as teams whose players receive national team call ups suffer. The players have to stop their team commitments, while others have to play catch up matches in a short space of time on return. When Premier League teams are reduced, the national team will have ample time to prepare for international duties.
But two leading soccer figures are totally against the idea of reducing teams. They argue that reduction of teams does not guarantee success. The technical officer of the Botswana Football Association, Phillmon Makgwengwe told Sunday Standard that before people think of reducing the teams, strong youth structures should be considered first.
“In the first place, why should the teams be reduced? We used to have a small number of teams in the Premier League, but we were not progressing. Enhancement of competitions from a very young age is the way to go. Teams should at first have strong youth structures regardless of the division they compete in,” he said.
Makgwengwe also added that in the past when there were still lesser teams, the First Division, which is the feeder to the Premier League, played a lesser role because most teams used older players who had no ambition of helping their teams qualify for the Premier League.
“The reason most teams used older players who had long passed their sell by dates was because the league had lost its credibility, and some teams were not playing for ambition but for fun. If we reduce the teams we are going back there again and our football will stagnate,” he said.
Makgwengwe’s words were echoed by Township Rollers Managing Director, Somerset Gobuiwang. He told Sunday Standard that the current number of teams is fine because teams do not have sponsors and are making their own money through gate takings.
“For me everything is fine and I do not see any reason why the number of teams should be reduced. We could talk about that if we had sponsors lining up to sponsor tournaments, which is currently not the case. The large number of teams now ensures that we have action for a major part of the year. If we reduce them we won’t have anything to do once the league is over,” he said.
Gobuiwang also said that the issue of shortage of venues will be a thing of the past after the completion of construction of stadiums around the country.