I have been following with great pain and regret the merry go round, the Russian roulette in which our football league bosses have been engaged with a cabal of scandalous, dangerously ambitious Zimbabwean businessmen.
Personally, I think there is a dangerous insider within our Premier league who deliberately or, perhaps, culpably so, invited these bankrupt people into our football shores. It is an open secret that Zimbabwe football is more advanced and exposed than our amateur set up. Why would their company want to rescue us while their country itself is in dire need of such resources? It is against this background that it is probable that Botswana football might take forever to turn professional.
If a bunch of unknowns can play with the emotions of a nation and a respectable office for more than a month, then we had better revisit and rethink our dream of one day hosting the African Nations cup.
My point of departure is that, we will never have such a big sponsor in our league until clubs are privatised. I think it would be dangerous and suicidal for us at this stage. If local teams were privatised, it would make business sense for Barclays Bank to sponsor Mochudi Centre Chiefs with a whopping P30 million for three years, Stanbic going with Township Rollers with P20 million and Extension Gunners with P20 million from Barloworld Botswana. This is a hypothetical example based on the clubs’ fan base and tradition, the success and the brand. This is a universal precedent set by companies involved in football. Today it would sound preposterous for a successful company like Naledi Motors to sponsor a club such as Gaborone United or Tasc with more than P500 000 because of issues of corporate governance, this includes tax.
What would they benefit as a sponsor? Football is a business and that is a fact, therefore, when South African companies, like MTN, sponsor a Premier League club, like Golden Arrows, there has
to be some business understanding not just that Arrows will beat Chiefs and that King’s Park stadium will be full. Remember MTN is owned by Cyril Ramaphosa and some shareholders, who at the end of the year want to know what that investment has produced for Arrows, the country and, of course, the company. So having a credible sponsor is not only a matter of the sponsor excising sympathy and social responsibility obligations. Arrows owners go back to MTN and report satisfactorily to the board of MTN and if Arrows have exceeded the targets set out in the contract they can then request an increase or look elsewhere for a better sponsor.
The owners would show, for example, that they had developed three players such as Papi Zothwane, Kagiso Dikgaciou and Siyabonga Sangweni who are now playing for the national squad. Wouldn’t that be nice for any sponsor to hear?
Arrows owners may even go on and say they had won the Under 20 Metropolitan Cup, have just
signed a working partnership with Portsmouth in the English Premiership, or have struck a bursary with Damelin for 200 KwaZulu Natal orphans every year! However, if Arrows fail to give a satisfactory report, that allows
MTN to look for a better, accountable and progressive partner. It is that simple. Anybody that understands sports business will
In all honesty, it is inconceivable to talk about professionalism while we are faced with such back to back shenanigans in our football. Companies in Botswana would give teams serious money if clubs were run professionally and with the will to be accountable on the part of club owners. Club owners would also be compelled to account to supporters because the supporters make the club grow in terms of membership and mileage. There is no club in the whole world that becomes rich because of cups and silverware won, not even in the United Kingdom. Manchester United and Real Madrid are the richest soccer clubs in the world because of membership and the number of shirts they sell. Orlando Pirates made close to R100 million from merchandise in 2004 because of the brand that they are and it can be borne in mind that the last time Pirates won a
major cup was 8 years ago.
Kaizer Motaung is on record saying he pays
well over R5 million a month to run the club, that includes everybody from himself, players to the gardeners. However, Motaung reports, together with Primedia (an advertising company that own 40% of his club) to sponsors and supporters while Irvin Khoza would similarly report to his shareholders.
The PSL is one of 10 most professional
leagues in the world because of this protocol, strong corporate ethics and the will to account.
In Botswana, we still need to see all the teams turning professional so that serious and credible companies can come on board.
The pathetic Zimbabwean company that wanted to bring our game into disrepute realised that there was nowhere in Africa where football is not taken seriously, even in Botswana.
Botswana, for them, was a destination of choice and they fortunately found gullible and naive soccer officials with no sound business background and/or the will to know the difference between running soccer and a scout club.
For me, this is the opportune moment for us to reflect on this critical point of professionalism across the board.
I think what Satmos and Rollers have done is commendable and all teams must have owners. Our football should not be run on a mafia type of leadership; it must be inspiring and exciting. It must make companies battle for teams’ sponsorship; it must make supporters argue about their team’s wealth and how much the players get out of it. Until such time, our players will continue to work and train in the evening; our players will continue to go out to nightclubs before matches, players will continue to disrespect coaches, management and the supporters.
The elected committees voted in by supporters will continue to be arrogant until the night before
elections come when they have to lobby and canvass for their re-election.
It is public knowledge that the meager funds thrown into soccer today do not go to the clubs. I challenge any club boss to show me a club account that has at least P50 000 in it for at least three consecutive months. This is because the club owners are not obliged to be accountable, transparent and responsive to the requirements of corporate governance and general business ethics.
We need to have cultured, passionate and dedicated club leadership who will fight for players’ rights, Television rights and other pertinent issues, such as supporters’ safety and grassroots development. After this has been achieved, we would then have a sound, strong Premier league that would benefit the national teams with happy and committed players.
I hope this is not viewed as disrespect and pessimism at the highest degree; it is imperative to call a spade a spade and for a moment avoid euphemisms.
I think football off the field, just like on the field,
needs the input of many minds.