Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Spectator limit has Professional Boxing on the ropes

Batswana’s thirst for live sport is all but over. This past week, Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) issued a statement in regard to return of spectators to sport events.

As expected however, the BNSC says the return of spectators will be done in phases. The 1st phase, which will see venues filled only up to 20% of their official capacity and with strict adherence to Covid-19 regulations will run from the 8th to the 16th of this month before coming under review.

In addition to this statement, it went further on to say of the 20% capacity allowed, up to half the number will be for youth aged 29 years and below.

Phase2 however, will consist of moderate capacity and analysing the pilot phase in order to progressively increase the number of spectators and possibly lift some of the regulations. The guidelines of this phase have been noted that it will be on the 18th of October or before, however, guidelines will be based on whether sporting codes adhered to the pilot phase. the last phase being full capacity will however be announced in future at a time in which it will be determined safe.

Professional Boxing Association Botswana (PBAB) have pointed out their unpleasantness regarding the return of spectators to events plan from BNSC.

Speaking to this publication, Seroba Binda, Public Relations Officer (PRO) for PBAB said professional boxing is a corporate sport and business orientated which cannot be limited to the 20% capacity.

“I am aware this decision will be evaluated in due time but 20% capacity is a small number for us, in addition to their statement, they say 50% should be youth. Where are we going to get youth to attend our events when we are dealing with business people,” Binda said.

Being a modest sport, Binda explained that the lowest price for their event ticket is P100.00. Without doubting the ability for youth to attend their events he said it is unfortunate that a lot of youth cannot afford to buy them

“We have a tournament on the 29th of October and we are hoping that the date they set being the 18th of this month to review their decision it may work in our favour,” he uttered.

Beginning of the year 2021, a fight was scheduled for Onkarabile ‘Scara’ Mthibedi to defend his WBF Africa Bantamweight Champion title belt. Unfortunately, it had to be postponed three times throughout the year due to covid- 19 and certain regulations that had been placed also due to the halt on sport by the State of Emergency (SOE).

According to Binda, due to the nature of professional boxing, they could not hold the tournament during SOE because it is inline with business and the corporate world which entailed having spectators.

“Hosting this tournament without spectators or rather in our case business people was a no-no and it is still is. We work differently from other sporting codes. We are not hosting tournaments just for fun, these boxers make a lot of money out of this corporate event; and I wish we can be addressed separately because they address us like other sporting codes which anyone can attend to like football and athletics,” Binda explained.

He also said most sporting codes maybe favoured by this decision from BNSC, but not them.

“Our events are always hosted in astonishing places, like the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) and one could ask themselves how much we pay for that venue alone. Some sporting codes are being provided with venues for free by BNSC and not us. We cannot take tournament for World Boxing Federation (WBF) and fight at the stadium,” he said.

He highlighted that in their last tournament at GICC they had 50 plus spectators, the rest of the people being the boxers, referrers, doctors and judges and promoters. If they are to have 20% capacity of spectators, even Mascom as a sponsor will not allow such.

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