Constituency league games continue to present a great challenge for national sports associations despite the individual financial benefits associated with them. The games, played in tournament format, offer financial incentives which cost mainstream associations a lot of players who are lured by the cash incentives offered to the winners. Netball and volleyball have been the most negatively affected sporting codes while athletics on the other hand has benefited from scouting for good talent among runners who participate in the games.
Constituency league is a government initiative which was introduced in 2008 under former President Ian Khama’s administration. The games were introduced to curb unemployment as well as removing the youth from the streets and giving them something to keep them active. However, the games have brought more damage in the sporting fraternity compared to the good deeds which were expected when the games where introduced.
Facilitated and administered by the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, the games continue to gobble a lot of tax payers’ money though meaningful results are yet to be seen. Since their inception millions have been spent on the games with P10 million spent in 2008-20009 season, P28 million in 2010 and P125 million in 2016. With the current format the games are played firstly at ward level ,going through constituency, regional until reaching national level. Prizes are awarded at every level with winners and runners up scooping P3000 and P1000 respectively at ward level. At constituency level champions and losing finalists are entitled to P5000 and P3000 respectively while winning teams at regional level get P7000 and P5000 each. National champions win a whooping P9 000 while runners-up walk away with P7000.
“At a general level we do have teams that could have registered with national associations but because of a guaranteed prize money within a short period of time teams and players don’t come to us therefore affect the growth and spread of national associations. Associations especially those who are struggling to have regular and sustained sponsorships lose players and when they do return they expect clubs to pay them allowances, transport and feed them as it happens at constituency tournaments,” said Botswana Volleyball Federation president Daniel Molaodi explaining the situation.
As of now the games have brought misery and confusion to most sporting codes as most players ditch their respective clubs to make quick cash from the games especially in netball and volleyball. With the current status in netball and volleyball where there is no national league most players have resorted to playing in the constituency league which left many teams without players because some resign to head for the lucrative constituency leagues. Though some sports administrators hail the games as a good initiative they concede that it the games have also brought some harm to some sporting codes.
“This is a great initiative but in my opinion it could have been better if it was incorporated into the running of the associations so that it assists in the development of individual codes instead of competing with the development of codes and even reaching out to where it has become a nightmare for many sports because of lack of funds. What it does to netball is that it has taken all unemployed athletes out of our structures and they no longer see the national flag as a pride to look up to but see constituency as a survival means which is realistic as it provides that means,” narrated Botswana Netball Association president Malebo Raditladi.
Though most codes are crying that constituency games are a nightmare to them it is a different case with athletics since Botswana Athletics Association acknowledges that the games are of great benefit to them. At the start of the games it was only football, netball and volleyball however athletics was added at a later stage. “This game has been quite helpful to us as an association because in the past we have managed to identify some talented athletes there. The like of Zibani Ngozi who is a national team runner is a product of the games. But so far we are working with the ministry to ensure alignment to world class standards because so far we have assisted with the rules and regulations so that organizers comply with the world standards,” said BAA president Botlhale Phaphane.