‘I do not believe it will be possible to commence in July’ -Masaseng
Football sponsorship to be announced end of July
Footballers Union Botswana (FUB) Secretary General, Kgosana Masaseng has warned that very little has been done to adequately prepare for the return to play in a matter of weeks (by mid July 2021). Therefore, FUB does not believe it will be possible to start the 2021/22 league season in July as promised by Botswana Football League (BFL) and Botswana Football Association (BFA).
For starters, from a medical perspective, Masaseng said FUB and Botswana Football Association (BFA) must have met to discuss the requirements of the medical protocols. “We should have agreed on testing protocols so that we can know when, how and where to test ahead of training and competitions. There is a need for uniformity,” he said.
Masaseng believes that people should have been trained accordingly in the football fraternity. He said his major concern is that although everybody knew that eventually football was bound to return, nothing seems to have been done to prepare for that eventuality. In addition to this, Masaseng wishes the BFA could have engaged other stakeholders on how they will be working together with the return of sport amid Covid-19.
“All these are issues that could have been discussed first more so that they say the league is returning in July. I do not believe it will be possible to commence in July,” said Masaseng.
From a financial perspective Masaseng is worried that teams are the least bit prepared for the financial obligations. “For the past ten years about ten teams have been struggling to pay their players. Now with the arrival of Covid-19 matters are worse,” he lamented, expressing concern over the nullification of the 2020/21 season by the BFA which he says has affected contracts of some players. “We could have met to discuss this especially because FIFA had provided guidance and that’s why I say there is a lack of readiness,” he scoffed.
Molepolole side, Masitaoka FC Public Relations Manager, Godfrey Ratlhaga said they appreciate the opportunity to return to playing football again. “We are now busy running around with compliance issues in order to return to play but to also acquire the license as per the regulations in place,” he said.
For his part, a disappointed Township Rollers spokesperson Bafana Pheto said he cannot comment much because the BFA nor the BFL have not consulted them since the lifting on the ban of sport. “The announcement was made, and we saw the government gazette next thing they called the media to make their presentations. It has been three weeks now but there has not been any formal communication,” he said.
Last week BFL announced that they are working overtime to ensure they are back in playing fields. According to BFL Chief Executive Officer, Solomon Ramochothwane the return of the league is dependent on three factors which are compliance, value creation and strategic direction.
“As in the case of a business, compliance is the starting point. Teams will be expected to submit all compliance documentation in order to be accredited and to also adhere to the club licensing regulations,” he mentioned. The league dates remain unconfirmed due to logistical issues but should be availed to the general public soon. Ramochothwane said they have plans to live stream matches and ensure the game is delivered to spectators at the comfort of theirs home until they are allowed back on the field.
According to Ramochothwane, no teams have come forth to say they are having any financial constraints with regards to return to play. However, had any team approached them, they would have helped them find ways around the problem. “We are building a new organization and we will continue to updated but let it be noted that Covid-19 relief for the teams purgatory of the BFA,” he added.
Income generation is set be acquired through television rights which they as the BFL are in the process of negotiating for. “The hope is to have as many online platforms as possibly delivering quality production,” he added. Live streaming and TV rights are expected to generate sustainability for the league and in turn cushion the football clubs as well. The BFL is in the process of setting up significant strategies and have deals on the table with sponsors. While Ramochothwane could not share details on title sponsor, he said to expect an announcement possibly end of July or beginning of August.
In addition to unfolding developments, the BFL is set to develop a new strategy centered around mapping and management shareholder identification. BFL Chairman Aryl Ralebala said the BFL has adopted a constitution that gives them the mandate to become a professional league and more of a commercial inclination. “All BFL will be commercial which means everyone associated with the respective teams will have a commercial contract and every player will be a player of a company registered with BFL,” he explained. Ralebala added further emphasis that there will be no volunteering and players will definitely be kicking the ball in return of something, something facilitated for with contribution by the Botswana Football Association (BFA).
Ralebala said teams are encouraged to change their structures from societal to ownership. Another achievement they have managed is to elect board members whose duty will be to direct and operate the BFL. Among other things they have also been able to adopt a licensing regulation criterion for the premiership; a process that is going to take them four years to achieve. This will include assessing the financial, technical and managerial aptitude capability of all teams that will participate in the BLF.
Mandatory to all teams is youth development which has been made viable in one of the licensing codes. Teams are expected to have a youth coach and demonstrate a youth development programme. The is no clear indication of what will happen to teams that fail to comply to the stipulated regulations as the BFL believes the regulations and expectations are within reach and realistic. “We are not imposing the licensing criteria on the teams, we have discussed, we have workshopped around what is possible and reasonable and are certain teams will make it,” said Ralebala.