Give us background on the Programme and its intentions
ASHFORD: This ambitious and unprecedented programme by the Botswana Football Association (BFA) National Executive Committee (NEC) kicked-off in June 2019 with a full Administration and Management course offered to the Ghanzi Regional Football Association. The programme, known simply as Operation Time for Change, is intended to initially capacitate Regional Football authorities and local Clubs was approved and funded by FIFA through the FIFA Forward programme. The programme has to date been to 12 Regional Associations including Tsabong, Mahalapye, Kasane, Maun, Palapye, Kanye, Tlokweng, Molepolole and Letlhakane covering some 400 participants. The last course during the last week of November 2019 was held at Kang for both the Kang and Hukuntsi Regional Associations. An important feature of the programme has been ‘Maitiso a Kgwele ya Dinao’, normally on a Wednesday evening and which gave local football enthusiasts and course participants an opportunity to engage with the top leadership of the BFA for up to two hours. It is envisaged that the programme will extend to the National Leagues and the BFA NEC and Secretariat.
The programme also provided an opportunity for the departments of Refereeing and Technical at the BFA to make presentations that were pertinent to their roles and of course how they affect the regions. The whole programme has by all accounts been found useful by participants. Apart from raising the general level of administration of football at club and regional levels, the programme is also expected to identify potential instructors in Administration & Management who could later be trained as National Course Instructors and these could be in a position to address training requirements of their respective regions on an on-going basis.
What have been the challenges of Good Governance & Leadership critical in local football?
ASHFORD: A major deficiency of Leadership in local football and indeed sport in general is the absence of Good Governance. This has become an ‘achilles hill” of football across the African continent. This nemesis of the game has more often than not been its undoing. A great deal, of time is devoted to this topic in order that a strong emphasis is made to the participants, particularly how it affects club football even at home. Roles and responsibilities of people in positions of responsibility across all structures has more often than not been a subject of perception. This has led to it being a hugely a grey area and essentially a reason for the retarded growth of the game. There is regrettably a tendency to over-inflate the role of certain leadership positions within clubs and other Association structures. Some emphasis is also made on the importance of club football, in the general pyramid of football and how poor Governance has retarded growth of club football, and indeed other structures emanating from it.
The value of transforming clubs into business-like operations
ASHFORD: Although it was adequate to run football clubs as registered societies at Regional level, participants were advised that it was still necessary that these were properly managed in accordance to business principles. Multi-tasking at clubs by officials was found to be common place and more often than not positions such as club Chairman were too inflated in contrast to Good Governance principles. Clubs were warned that in order for Business to take them seriously they needed to have a well-managed and accountable leadership. As a consequence of poor governance clubs have hardly ever benefitted significantly from sponsorship funding. The need for amateur clubs to transform themselves in terms of structure and management was stressed even at the lower levels. It is my considered view that clubs registered as societies in terms of the Societies Act, will suffice only for amateur ranks of our football or those playing regional football. But as clubs ascend to the level of the Premier League there is a justifiable need to consider transformation into corporate entities. It is highly unlikely that a club registered as a society could attract significant investment purely because of the way they are structured and the rules that apply to such a structure. Clubs were reminded however that it is one thing to have a corporate structure, but it is totally another to have such a structure attracting investment to it. A lot will depend on the structures’ successes, governance and management structures. Investors will invest if they are guaranteed a return on investment and can trust the structure to which they are investing. I do not share the school of thought that club football at the level of the Botswana Premier League cannot provide a return on investment to investors if properly managed. There is a great potential here.
Problems of multi- tasking in local football
ASHFORD: One of the biggest challenges confronting Botswana Football is a cancerous attitude of our club leaders to multi-task. This is where you would find a chairman doubling up as a manager and coach or some other positions. Governance insists on defined roles and responsibilities for each official. We also have enough people in our communities particularly Stakeholders such as school teachers and others from which more than enough human resources can be drawn.
Do teams plan?
ASHFORD: Another eyesore in our football identified during this programme is the absence of any significant type of planning generally in our football. It was a concern that there were hardly any clubs that did any sort of planning. This has led to our clubs being fixture-centric. There is a strong feeling amongst many clubs that the entire business of football is about managing and honouring fixtures. Following presentation on planning the participants were put into group in order to work on some Planning assignments in order that we could compel both the regional structures and clubs to have a semblance of some planning as a core requirement of managing their clubs. It was insisted that ‘Failing to Plan is indeed planning to Fail.’
Politicisation of football
ASHFORD: Politics is a major football problem throughout the African continent, Botswana not excepted. There is need for all involved to de- politicize the game. Elections of football at all levels have been hugely politicised. The obvious downside of this trend is that we end up in the main having people assuming leadership positions when they are less than suitably qualified, thus entrusting the future of the game sadly in the wrong hands. Leadership attending these courses have been told to put the game before any other interests, including even if they have been enticed to vote one way or the other. This explains the general lack of governance at all levels of sport, football in particular
Importance of Media
ASHFORD: We agreed that Media was ‘king’ and that Communication in football should be one of key priorities. In order that as clubs and regional structures we improve our image, it is important that we recognise the importance of media. If and where circumstances permit, we should have Media officers within our structures. This will not only improve the image of the game but will improve communications to Stakeholders and Members. It would not only be futile exercise to fight the media but it would equally be counter-productive. It was stressed that for stakeholders, including sponsors to come on board and be aware of our existence, Media was absolutely imperative.
ASHFORD: Football enjoys a great of popularity in Botswana with a huge number of Batswana have some affinity with the game. During the Workshops a great deal of emphasis was placed on the need for Regional Structures to reach out and involve Stakeholders more that currently obtains. Given the limitation of resources for sport in general, a lot could be gained from a multi-sectoral approach to football. The importance of Fans was explained, as it was they who drive the commercial properties of the game. I remain convinced that our regular interaction with Government Offices, Local Government authorities and Sponsors, in the Regions could be much improved with enhanced and structured Stakeholder Management. Time is right for BFA to partner with Government on Constituency Football rather than being at loggerheads over it, as a great deal could be gained for football by such an association.
• Outcome & Program Sustenance.
ASHFORD: It is expected that this Operation Time for Change program is not only be a knowledge sharing platform but should assist Regional structures and all other participants to be clear on how football must be manged. Sustenance of the program will be key so that it does not turn out to have no long term benefits. Another possible intervention must be that of a Leadership Mentoring and Assessment Program at all levels of the BFA. The programme has revealed a good number of passionate Human Resource base for football in Botswana. I am convinced that the change sought through “Operation Time for Change,” by the leadership of the BFA is a very real possibility if sufficient investment and commitment is made to this important dimension of the game.