Thursday, December 3, 2020

Will Autonomy Reduce the Premier League’s Powers?

For a long time, the Botswana Premier League (BPL) was a major player in the decision of who takes over at the Botswana Football Association (BFA).

As a BFA structure, the BPL sent 16 delegates with voting powers to the association assembly, making the BPL a strong voting bloc.

To fully comprehend the influence of the BPL as a voting bloc, one needs to go back just four years ago to the BFA elective assembly.

Ahead of it, the BPL started a revolt against the then incumbent BFA president Tebogo Sebego and his National Executive Committee.

When the elective general assembly arrived, Sebego paid the price as the BPL cast its vote for his then opponent Maclean Letshwiti.

Speaking in a recent interview, one candidate, who has since won his election for the BFA NEC position, described the BPL as a powerful force that could not be ignored.

“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,” the then aspiring candidate hinted.

This, it seems, was not helped by the fact that the premier league has mostly been used as a yard stick to gauge how the BFA had performed.

Now as the BPL, along with the First Division become an autonomous structure, which will be admitted to the BFA as a special member, how influential will it be on the BFA presidency?

According to Bathusi Rathari, the move to give the premier and first division leagues autonomy and make them special members of the BFA will address flaws that have been existing in the association structure.

With the premier and first division leagues accounting for more than a third of the voting delegates in the BFA elective assemblies, Rathari believes they had become too powerful.

He cites the 2016 elective general assembly in which the premier league voted out Sebego as a perfect example of the power it possessed.

Now as the premier and first division teams’ band to form Botswana National League, Rathari says the constitution will be amended to accommodate them as a special member.

“As a structure and a special member, the Botswana National League is expected to have only two voting delegates, similar to that of regions,” he says.

According to him, this move will automatically correct the anomaly which has always been there within the BFA.

“It never made sense why the premier league teams, who are members of the regional structures, each had a voting right,” he says.

“We always believed that the premier league teams were equal members of the association as all the other teams. But the question was always why they were given a special treatment while other members had to be grouped under regions and had only two votes,” Rathari exclaims.

On whether the change would also reduce the influence of certain individuals within the premier league, Rathari says he could never be sure.

“If we still hear of situations where brown envelopes are said to be deciding the fate of the vote, it this does happen, powerful individuals with money will still decide the elections,” he says.

Meanwhile, a BFA insider says with the move, the premier league and teams will be powerless to decide the BFA office bearers.

The insider says while the new structure will probably have voting rights, they will eventually have none as a way to ensure they have no say on how the lower structures run.

“The Botswana National League will be a private entity that controls and decides its own fate. They will therefore not be allowed to decide the fate of other structures,” the insider explains.

The insider theorises that as a private structure, the Botswana National League will be modelled similarly to the Premier Soccer League (PSL) in South Africa.

“They will be an affiliate or a special member of the BFA. We will allow them to sit in our meetings but they will make no resolutions,” he says.

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The Telegraph December 2

Digital edition of The Telegraph, December 2, 2020.