The past couple of years have seen the fortunes of Botswana football fall drastically.
From being a destination of sponsors, local football is now struggling to attract sponsors, with old ones quitting and potentials shunning the sport.
Just a couple of months ago when addressing the Botswana Football Association (BFA) Annual General Assembly (AGA), association president Maclean Letshwiti narrated how he had to literally ‘grovel’ in front of sponsors to keep them on board.
It was this same message that the BFA president may have been subtly passing to the football community when the association launched ABSA Bank as a new partner for the league back in October this year.
“Sponsors want to see a return on investment. Sponsors want to market their products and services using football as a vehicle and they want to be associated with brands that have good reputation,” he warned.
For a sport that is haemorrhaging sponsors, the sight of the then Gaborone United (GU) coach Nikola Kavazovic being whisked out off the Galaxy Stadium on a police van this past Sunday would have been cringe worthy.
Kavazovic had to be safely escorted off the stadium in Jwaneng as some disgruntled GU supporters allegedly bayed for his blood.
In the aftermath of the incident, the former Township Rollers coach, who was just six matches into his tenure at GU, resigned from his post.
The unsavoury incident not only drew the condemnation from the GU hierarchy, but also that of the BFA who released a strongly worded statement a day after the incident.
“These unfortunate and criminal incidents bring the game of football into disrepute and soil the good name of the well respected brands that are associated with our game,” the BFA reacted.
“The association is in the process of reviewing the Disciplinary Code to among other things include serious sanctions for perpetrators of these heinous offences,” so read the BFA statement.
Commenting on the matter, veteran football administrator and former player Gabriel Ngele warned that such unruly behaviour has the potential to scare investors away from the sport.
“Sponsors are brands and every brand wants to protect its image. Incidents of the said nature should not be allowed as they can tarnish the brands of sponsors,” Ngele opined.
He said the continued occurrence of similar incidents should not just be condemned but serious action needs to be taken to curb any future recurrence.
“We have to protect the image of football and sponsors and releasing statements without serious action is not an option. Lack of repercussions for such unsavoury incidents will not deter perpetrators,” he said.
The same sentiments were shared by local football analyst Jimmy George who said incidents like this have a potential to chase away potential sponsors, partners and supporters as well.
“As stakeholders, the football association, football administrators, teams and supporters alike should jealously protect the football brand and the brands related to it,” he said.
George said as a social event and entertainment, football attracts families and kids, and any act of violence that puts them at risk will only keep them away.
“If someone decides to bring his kids to watch football and incidents such as these happen, they may never go back to the stadiums. Instead of taking their kids to the stadiums to spend time with them, they may opt to spend time with them elsewhere and that affects attendance at games. It also impacts sponsorships as they rely on numbers to advertise,” he explained.
George went on to add that the regularity of incidents of violence calls for severe punishment for perpetrators and teams alike.
“There is no excuse for violence in football. As stakeholders, we should ask ourselves if the punishments meted are enough deterrents,” he opined.
“The powers that be also need to ensure that swift and harsh punishment is given to perpetrators. Teams should be sanctioned quickly and properly for such incidents so that they can feel the pinch,” said George.