Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Money(less) game

Football is a money game. The more you have, chances are you will be successful. The world over, teams with financial muscle succeed more than those without.

This situation is no different from semi-professional and amateur football teams in the world, Botswana included.

To meet these demands, aside from finding rich owners, football teams are forced to forge partnerships and sponsorships with different entities.

Here in Botswana, Township Rollers have gone the said route to meet its financial demands. The team is replete with sponsors and partners such as Stanbic Bank, who are the main sponsors, Liberty Life, JB Sports, Cresta Hotels, Shield and Umbro, the technical sponsors, just to mention a few.

In the words of Get-bucks Botswana managing director Marthinus de Kock during the launch of his company’s sponsorship of Notwane Football Club, “If you want to walk fast, go alone. If you want to go further, walk together.”

Likewise, in the words of Rollers president Jagdish Shah, “If you want to eat an elephant, you have to first cut it into pieces.”

As Notwane announced GetBucks Botswana as its new sponsor this past Thursday, questions were raised as to why the sponsorships seemed so minimal.

For a fee of P300 000, GetBucks has secured the rights to be Notwane’s primary sponsor for the remainder of the season as well as the upcoming 2019/20 season.

“Our teams are not serious,” one journalist quipped. “Do they know how much it costs just to have a company’s name emblazoned on the chest of a Premier League team?” the journalist asked rhetorically.

While the journalist’s consternation at the seemingly inadequate sponsorship was perhaps well placed, some local football administrators feel it is a reflection of the state of our league.

“Until the Botswana Premier League (BPL) and the individual teams can quantify the value we are bringing to sponsors, this is what we have to accept,” the BPL chief executive officer Thabo Ntshinogang observed.

“Usually when we go to sponsors, we beg for sponsorship. The sponsor will then tell us ‘we can only offer this much.’ Unfortunately, given the current financial difficulties faced by teams, we then accept what we are offered. We cannot turn it down,” he said.

Ntshinogang said while the sponsorship may seem meagre, for the struggling teams in Botswana, walking away may seem a not well thought idea.

He said going forward, local teams and the BPL will have to sit down and find ways to quantify and justify the mileage and any other benefits sponsors will get from associating with them.

However, for one administrator, the amount given to Notwane was a reflection of the current value of local football and in particular the Premier league.

“This is a reflection of our league value. Personally, I would like to think that there a lot of sponsors but our league product is not sellable,” the administrator observed.

He said given that the minimum expenditure of a local premier league is approximately P200 000 monthly, the sponsorship monies afforded to Notwane pales when considering it will also cover the upcoming season.

“It is now for our clubs to find other ways of making money and attracting sponsors. Since 2016/17, the number of supporters at the grounds has dwindled and the BPL and clubs have to find a way to bring them back to the stadiums and maximise gate takings,” the administrator said.

“As an example, in the 2014/15 Rollers made P2 700 000 in gate takings after deductions from gate takings while Sankoyo Bush Bucks raked in at least P1 900 000. This past season, Rollers struggled to make more than a million in gate takings. That is the reflection of our game. We have gone down in value,” he observed.

The administrator went on to say that the blame for the sponsors’ lack of interest in the local game should fall squarely on the shoulders of the local football leadership.

“They have let football politics ruin what was once a promising product three seasons ago and now it shows. Tearing down a product in the name of politics is easy, rebuilding is difficult. Until we separate football politics from the product, we will continue to have sponsors staying away,” he said.

For Notwane football club, acknowledging the money may seem meagre, it is a great start for the team, which has been struggling to find sponsors.

“It may seem [the money] little but it will go a long way. It will help us achieve some of our targets. I believe that until the season ends, it will help us pay our players’ monthly dues,” Notwane FC Public Relations Officer Mogomotsi Orapeleng explained.

The same sentiments are shared by Notwane FC president Tebogo Sebego, who said the sponsorship is the start of a relationship.

“For us to have sponsorships as teams, we have to build relationships with a view of continuing them into a foreseeable future. For us as Notwane, we know we have to start building from somewhere, and this is the foundation,” Sebego observed.

Sebego said for their relationship with GetBucks, there will be other fringe benefits which they will accrue and these will help them rebuild.

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