Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The BPL – A Powerful yet Destructive Force

As a voting bloc, the Botswana Premier League (BPL) board is one of the most powerful allies for any aspiring Botswana Football Association (BFA) National Executive Committee (NEC) member.

While it holds just a quarter of all the votes, with a mere 16 votes from the total of 60 in the BFA elections, the BPL’s influence is seemingly huge. 

According to those in the know, the power of the BPL board to influence the elections is however not confined to just the 16 direct votes it holds.

Because they have to be affiliated to their regional football associations, the BPL teams seem to also have a certain degree of influence at regions as well.

Please the BPL and your battle to the BFA NEC position is half fought, fight against them, you kiss your ambitions goodbye.

“They hold a significant number of votes and they also have a far-reaching influence. One cannot afford to fight them and lose their vote,” one aspiring candidate hints.

There is however one catch, pleasing the BPL is a task easier said than done. The BPL board is more of a bunch of suicide bombers, ready to blow themselves up in order to destroy the enemy.

A case in point is the 2016 BFA elections. Ahead of the 2016 elections, the then BFA NEC led by Tebogo Sebego had numerous acrimonious encounters with the BPL.

As the BPL wreaked havoc and destabilised its own house, the Sebego regime tried to intervene and suspended the entire BPL board.

With the wars between the BFA and the BPL board escalating, the Sebego led BFA NEC would later try to appease them but it was a little too late.

“At the time, we had held several meetings with Sebego warning him not to suspend us but he still did. We then punished him,” one chairman hints.

The chairman went on to point out that when acting in unison like they did in 2019, the BPL board is a very influential structure.

“When we voted in Letshwiti at the time, he did not even have the same football administration credentials as Sebego. We just voted him in because we wanted to oust Sebego,” the chairman says.

While their battles with the former BFA president were the first time the BPL board had been so openly political, some believe it was not the first time it had flexed its muscles to dethrone a sitting president.

“From what I have learnt from being close to the BFA elections, whoever the BPL board aligns to is more likely to win elections,” football commentator Monty Gagomokgwa opines.

He says for the past two consecutive elections, the BPL had been very active and has to a large extent influenced who occupies the biggest sit in Botswana football.

“It happened when they supported Sebego to take over from David Fanie and then repeated itself when they dethroned Sebego to install the incumbent Maclean Letshwiti,” he says.

In fact, Gagomokwa says when the wars between the BFA and BPL board escalated ahead of the 2016 BFA elections, some BPL team chairmen went to lobby Letshwiti to stand.

Whereas they had to a large extent not been keen to be active in regions where they affiliate, Gagomokgwa says 2016 was different as the BPL teams actively campaigned for Letshwiti in their regional associations.

From the events leading to the 2016 BFA elections, he says one realises the BPL is capable of collapsing everything to make its point.

“When they do that, deliberately destroying the league, people outside will say football is dead and point an accusing finger at the incumbent BFA president,” he says.

The same sentiment is shared by another football analyst Molatlhegi Mangole, who says ‘as the brand of national league football,’ the premier league is influential.

Mangole says as such, it takes a very strong character to effectively deal with the premier league, which he describes as ‘self-destructive.’ 

Given their now common use of their voting power to get their way, the BPL is allegedly using it once again to bargain for autonomy.

Their bargaining has seen the hastening of the processes, a move which is seemingly agreeable for many within football who say the time is now for the BPL to be independent.

“They are big crybabies and the BFA should not be shouldering the responsibility. They have to get their autonomy so that the BFA can now focus on its core mandate of developing football,” an aspiring candidate opines.

It is the same sentiments shared by Mangole. He says the BPL should now fend for itself.

“It is surprising that the BPL is still being taken care of and being accommodated by the BFA while the lower structures are out there fending for themselves. They should not be dependent on the BFA as it is right now,” Mangole concludes.  


Read this week's paper