COVID-19:A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR A BETTER BOTSWANA FOOTBALL RETURN

BY:Kabelo Seleka

On April 2nd 2020,Botswana government took a bold decision to put the entire country on a nation wide lockdown in light of corona virus scare. As a result, it has been over a year now since the last kick of local football was recorded due to COVID-19 health protocol restrictions and football is yet to return as new data from the weekend suggests that 2020/2021 football season has been nullified.

TALKING POINTS

  • 2021/2021 season has been nullified
  • Botswana Football has been regressing
  • COVID-19 gives an opportunity for professionalisation preparations
  • Winning starts at offices

COVID-19 GIVES BOTSWANA FOOTBALL OPPORTUNITY TO GROW THROUGH CHALLENGES

It is my view that the invisible enemy is a blessing to Botswana football, the country’s elite soccer has been declining over the years, it is now time for the powers that may be to bring back football as an appealing product to the masses.

In all honesty,COVID-19 exposed Botswana as an amateur to the core footballing nation. To date, the government of Botswana is yet to open not only football but all sporting codes. This should be a lesson to sports leaders to get their act together and make sports a great sector.

The first step to this is to acknowledge that sports especially football is a billion dollar industry that can power the economy. Out of over two million people in the country, someone should be in a position to convince stakeholders that sports is a major contributor to the national GDP just like in other countries such as South Africa,UK,Spain,Germany,France just to mention a few.

FOOTBALL USED TO BE THE THING

Back in the days when football was fashionable, Botswana Premier League(BPL) attracted supporters and ultimately sponsors on board. This growth since the introduction of P38million BTC as the tittle sponsor has been regressing of late. The sponsorship issues at Lekidi Football Centre are yet to be resolved. Coronavirus stalling of the local beautiful game should be an opportunity for football leaders to bring onboard sponsors and find ways to attract supporters to the game.

It is a known fact that Botswana Football Association(BFA) and Botswana Premier League(BPL) have embarked on making BPL an autonomous body. The BPL is expected to trade as Botswana Football League(BFL)this move personally deserves praises. The nullifying of the 2020/2021 football calendar will allow the football authority to deal with the issue as a matter of urgency in preparations to the all new season, thanks to COVID-19,for I believe the association was never ready for the move to officially make BPL an independent football governing body.

Ones BFL officially takes over the reigns to run the elite game, it must note highly of commercial factors that make football stable and profitable. One of my favourite football personality Big Fish once proposed that what BFA can do is to register the number of supporters from each team and they propose a value proposition to potential sponsors.

In essence what Big Fish highlighted was that ones it is known that there are 50 000 followers of football on record, loyalty cards can be ushered to fans where they will get discounts at selected sponsors outlets. This will be a win-win situation for fans while bringing in revenue for the concerned companies. It goes without saying that TV broadcast play a crucial role in sports business. BFL should use this corona virus era to hunt for broadcasters to visualize its products.

BROADCAST RIGHTS ARE KEY IN FOOTBALL

It is hard to believe that BTV as a national broadcaster is the only capable local television to broadcast Botswana football. This must come to an end, BFL should not rely on state TV to make an income from TV, but they should rather tap into other giant regional broadcasters such as Supersport TV. The media industry is huge, BFL can also sell highlights and other media related products as a means of raking in money, thanks to COVID-19,the team can prepare now.

One burning issue in football corridors is club licensing. The time is now to make everything that must be done to make sure clubs abide for licensing as this can improve our football. Club licensing includes professionalism and youth leagues which are important to Botswana sports. Referees also must be paid with overdue costs, no time for turning back now, its time for fixing football.

BFA SHOULD GET THEIR HOUSE IN ORDER

It is true that players are suffering due to the halting of football, but is Botswana ready for football now? The answer is no, not yet, administrative wise we are lagging behind, no sponsorships, no nothing, no vision at the moment, leaders at Lekidi should use this extended period of no football to win at the boardrooms because games are not won at the grounds but rather winning starts at those fancy airconditioned offices.

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