What Covid – 19 Means To Botswana Football!

Covid -19 is upon us. We need to look at it from all the possible angles. In this verbiage I’m going to address it looking at five parts regarding Botswana football. I will look at Botswana football’s operating environment, the impact of Covid – 19 in our football, and its aftermath, the projected risk management we need to put in place and lastly the opportunities that will present themselves after the Covid – 19 cloud passes.

Botswana Football’s Operating Environment
Firstly, let’s understand how our operating environment speaks to football (this I would like to refer to as our football system), using five (5) factors Social, Health, Education, Economic and Political. Socially, in our country we use football as a leisure activity, with more men than women gathering for entertainment to pass time. Some of us use it settles rivalry amongst ourselves, and significantly it keeps us away from social ills and problems. Health wise, it helps us to exercise, eat healthy, reduce health diseases and keeps one healthy and active. In terms of education, we learn a lot with regards to life skills, psychology, tactics and techniques, but unfortunately in our society football is usually blamed for poor academic performance and perceived as a time waster. Economically, we lose a lot of money through football, the league grants given are never enough to sustain the game. We end up in more debts and in the end football is a deficit business that doesn’t make profit but more financial losses with ghost and recurring debts. Politically, we get less support from the government, no policies are in place to support football specifically. Aptly so, most of the politicians use football to gain popularity as they organize tournament to canvass for votes during elections only and nothing for long term.

Where Does The Football System Get Its Money?
For the sake of relevance, I will use the Botswana leagues, the Premier League, First Division and Regional Leagues. The Premier League this season, 2019/20, had its sponsorship reduced from P13 million pula to P5 million by the league sponsor Botswana Telecommunication (BTC). ABSA bank pledged about P3 Million to rescue the situation, unfortunately there are no TV rights money for the league. In the First Division, Debswana gave the league P2 Million for all the 24 teams, which each getting P50, 000 and at Regional Football Leagues there is absolutely nothing, no grants, no sponsor (zero pula). Hence, all our teams (100%) depend on gate takings to generate revenues, 70% needs a league sponsor to play the league, and 30% can play without a league sponsor. As is right now, only 50% of the teams can manage to complete the league without any gate takings while the rest won’t manage (so we can’t play behind closed doors).

Impact of Covid – 19 On Our Football
Since all our teams depend on gate takings to generate revenues, currently there is none generated. Our football teams will continue to owe players and all the associated individuals they owe historically and currently. Most teams as is, have used the League sponsorship money to play their games. Worryingly so, as players are not engaged in the game, it means they have nothing else to do, and an idling mind is dangerous, hence there will be cases of social ills and our players are going to be vulnerable to health diseases.

The Aftermath of Covid – 19
Politically, we are going to get less and less support from the government as its coffers would have dried because of the pandemic. The government will bluntly tell us that more money has been used to address the Covid – 19 pandemic. Health wise, we are bound to experience health related diseases because of lack of exercise, player will lose fitness, gain more weight with a lot of anxiety and instances of depression. Socially, we are bound to be faced with a lot of unhappiness, more social ills, criminality and negative vibe from players and supporters because of what Corona virus would have done to the World. Economically, it’s a given that there will be more garnish orders, remember as football we owe people and those people we owe during Covid 19 period they don’t make money and they will come after us to claim their money. Rightly so, there will be more debts, less income and more expenses experienced by our football.

Risk Management
Covid -19 will expose us to a lot of risks, most importantly the Botswana football is a high risk business. With Corona virus in the picture the risks will be severe. Be as it may, we need to find a way to mitigate them. One of the risks is no revenue generated due to lack of no games which most teams use to generate revenues through gate takings. The painful thing and reality is to reduce salaries for all the employees (players, coaches, administrators and officials). There is another risk of more debts, especially since there will be ghosts, old and recurring debts in the picture. One of the ways to mitigate it will be to make less or no new commitments at all and make an honest payment plan. Social illness is another prominent risk that we need to manage as a lot of players will be disgruntled, indulge in alcohol and drugs, resort to criminality to pass time. To address and mitigate this we need to take advantage, look into corporate social responsibility of various organizations and partner with them to run life skills and social illness intervention programs. Last but not least we run the risk of not being trusted, we have been try to restore trust and dignity but after corona they will be a lot of dishonesty trying to convince people that we are okay, since we are not your honest people. Fortunately, or unfortunately so, we need to change our tact and be brutally honest and spell our football problems as they. This will give us a chance to clean our football.

Opportunities As A Result Of Covid -19
Thabo Mbeki once said, “We shouldn’t be despondent because the weather is bad, nor should we be triumphalist because the weather is good. Trying times calls for adversity.”

Explore Social Enterprise
We will need to venture into social enterprise in the quest to address social ills and problems that will emanate from Covid -19. This will give us an opportunity to eek funding and foster new partners with organizations like United Nations to address these issues and talk to UN Sustainable Development Goals

Socialism Football System
This is also the right time to bring to the time the unpopular suggestion of socialism in our football, that is have teams sharing equal money given by the sponsor, equal grants, no prize money at the end of the season. The league should only play for championship or trophies at the end of the season. Have all merchandise of all the teams sold from a central point, if you have 16 teams each gets 1/16 of the sales every month. How do you have one team getting 4.5 million pulas from a sponsor competing against a team that gets money from taxi drivers every week. That money must sponsor football in general.

Introduction Of Cap Salaries
With socialism in place it will make it easy for us to regulate and standardize players’ salaries. This will also help in reducing debts, reduce movement of players from one team to another since salaries will be regulated across and all the teams will be able to afford to pay their players. Capping will facilitate the much talked about professionalism of football and will assist teams to fulfill requirements of club licensing. Importantly we will be able to put strict measures to have new registering teams to be of a desired financial prudence and level before they get registered than in the current situation where a team can register today and 5 games down the line they fail to honour league games. How did such a team get admitted into our football system really?