Struggling BPL clubs get P90 000 lifeline from overdue TV rights
Just when several Premier league clubs faced the very real prospect of going out of business, their bank balances this week got a P90 000 boost.
Clubs received revenue from TV rights in a backdated lump sum after the P30 000 monthly payment was delayed for three months.
Whilst clubs will obviously welcome the cash the delay has caused hardship for many, especially those without the benefit of sponsors and wealthy owners.
Botswana Premier League Chief Executive Officer Bennett Mamelodi could not be drawn into discussing the matter opting to refer all questions to his Chairman Mokganedi Molefe.
However Molefe could only absolve the BPL from any wrong doing without answering any further questions regarding the league’s official broadcaster.
“We have a contract with BTV and will not discuss terms of our partnership,” was all he was prepared to say.
While some fingers have been pointed at the national broadcaster, Director at Broadcasting Services Lesole Obonye in turn referred all questions to the Botswana Football Association.
“We have an agreement with BFA, they would be better positioned to give you an answer on that matter.
We do not release money as if we are paying electricity bills, we have agreed on some tariffs,” was Obonye’s terse comment.
BFA President Tebogo Sebego was in a meeting most of Wednesday, but when we were able to contact him he replied:
“The delay was on the side of our partners (BTV).
They should have released the money in January but they had a problem.
We have however held discussions with them and we believe going forward the situation will improve.”
IT’S GRIM UP NORTH
Northern clubs feel the pinch more as their travelling expenses are higher, and they lack the lucrative sponsorships most of their counterparts in Gaborone enjoy.
For the team often dubbed as the ‘Francistown giants,’ trying circumstances on and off the field has dwarfed a once proud stature.
Their perilous position at the foot of the table is matched only by their dire financial situation.
Finances for February show that the team received only around P8000 in gate takings from their one home game, whilst in excess of P80 000 was needed to pay wages and other expenses.
“The figures simply don’t add up. The team is not winning and so the fans stay away.
There were only 344 paying spectators for our solidary home game against Satmos last month, and even the local derby against Ecco last Sunday only attracted 564.
“Anyone who has ever been associated with the leadership of the club will know that you have to have big pockets and broad shoulders.
Big pockets to help the club out financially and broad shoulders to withstand the attacks of those who criticise, but don’t put their money where their mouths are.
“The supporters too have not contributed much in the way of buying club merchandise.
When Rollers came to Francistown earlier in the season they sold P60 000 worth of club merchandise – we sold three T-shirts.
You simply cannot compete on those terms.
“Even the P90 000 received this week from the Premier League will not go far as at least half of it is owed in loans, rentals for the players, and inherited debts,” said a financial adviser at the club.
Tafic have received assistance from The Voice newspaper who have come on-board as shirt sponsors and have pumped in over P300 000 in the last year from corporate and individual sponsorship – but even that is not enough.
Players are paid only sparodically and even then less than they are entitled to expect as ‘professional’ footballers.
“And that is part of the problem. The call to professionalise football in Botswana is just not feasible.
Clubs were better off when players were part time and in gainful employment outside football,” the adviser said.
Meanwhile across town at Ecco, the only northern club to have won the league title, the situation is far from rosy since the Botswana Meat Commission pulled the plug on sponsorship back in October.
According to treasurer Spaceman Sebapalo the club has been surviving on funds from selling T-shirts and monthly raffle draws which generates around P10 500 per month – this together with money from the league and cash from their profitable run in the Macom Top 8 competition have helped the club stay afloat.
“Despite the financial constraints the club have been paying players well on time except for last month when funds were exhausted,” the treasurer said.
But when asked how he saw the club managing in the future, Sebapalo answered: “There is a high possibility of liquidation.”
Serowe based Miscellaneous are another club feeling the pinch from the delay in paying the TV money.
Although they can now breathe more easily following the disbursement of the funds, they still rely on donations from supporters and well- wishers.
The clubs Public Relation Office Musa Morapedi explained that before the cash came through this week things were extremely tough.
A major challenge is soliciting transport for all their games because they do not have a home ground.
In the past it used to be worse as they had to part ways with P3000 for games in Orapa as opposed to the P700 for the field in Palapye that provides their current home ground.
But even then they still have to pay P2000 for the players to camp prior to games.
“We don’t have a sponsor and depend on members and elders of our community to help us keep the club running.
The likes of Mompati Merafhe, President Ian Khama and Rre Ratshosa donate monies from their pockets to help keep the club afloat, but that is not enough.
“Some supporters go to the extent of providing vegetables from their farm to help us feed players and make ends meet,” Morapedi said.
He explained that trimming the squad in December from 30 + to 24 players had helped reduce their wage bill to around P60 000.
He however said on average their monthly expenditure was well over P80 000 mainly due to always being on the road.
The same cry of woe was heard at the Palapye based Motlakase Power Dynamos who will use part of the TV money to pay off debts acquired over the past three months.
Motlakase spend over P10 000 on average for away games and it is only when playing big teams such as Rollers and Chiefs that they have something to take home from gate takings.
Directors go to the extent of sacrificing their company profits to help the team run its day to day business, and even that is never enough because costs of running a BPL club are high,” outlined team spokesperson Abel Lebopo.
He revealed that their monthly wage bill was in the region of P79 000, with an additional P40 000 needed for travel, camps and accommodation at away games.
Selebi Phikwe based Nico United chairman Mothusi Taolo said that had the TV rights money came monthly it would have better helped them manage their cash flow.
The club are better off than most however as they get sponsorship from BCL mine that helps keep them going throughout the season.
The chairman said the club also sells merchandise and membership to supplement the sponsorship from BCL.
“Almost all clubs spend around P1.5 million per season to run the club, which is a lot of money.
This clearly shows that even winning the P1million league prize is not enough.”
The club can expect over P50 000 from gate takings when they play the bigger clubs, but that is only a handful of games.
While the general assumption is that teams in the south have it easy, investigation by Voice Sport revealed the opposite.
For a club like Uniao Flamingo Santos the situation is critical because they have youth structures that need to be financed to remain operational.
The club’s Chairman Mokganedi Molefe said his club depend of the television rights grant to survive and the three-month delay has been some form of discomfort for his club.
“We are barely surviving – it’s a struggle,” he said.
Molefe who is also Botswana Premier League Chairman said his club, which boast the best developmental structures in the country, needs at least P250 000 a month.
“To receive P90 000 after three months does not go a long way to helping the situation.
We are near the bottom of the league but even winning the P1million first prize would not be enough,” Molefe said.
The BPL Chairman said his team has lost important players to well-resourced clubs, which has hampered their efforts to turn professional.
“With the way things are, professionalism will remain a dream for most clubs. Without the involvement of the corporate society football in this country is not ideal.”
Echoing the same sentiments was Extension Gunners Chairman Kitso Dlamini.
“We depend on gate takings, but people stay away and watch matches on television, so when this grant takes three months to arrive it makes life difficult for us,” he said.
Dlamini said the P90 000 has gone straight to pay their debts accumulated since last year.
“We are fortunate to have someone like Cassim Dada who has taken the responsibility of paying players’ salaries, otherwise we would be struggling,” he said.
Gaborone United chairman Fedilis Nkomazana said even with the backing of club Director and property magnate Nicholas Zakhem they still struggle to pay players on time.
“Sponsorship or not, our needs as premier league teams are the same. We have been managing so far but things would be a lot better if the money arrived on time,” said Nkomazana.
Township Rollers is another club with financial muscle thanks to their union with multi-millionaire Jagdish Shah.
Rollers are one of the few teams in the country whose players are fulltime employees.
However the club’s Public Relations Officer Bafana Phempherethe Pheto said they still need the money.
Jagdish has gone on record saying he spends at least P200 000 a month from his own pocket to supplement the team’s budget. (Larger than life interview – The Voice 22 March 2013).
BDF XI who enjoy subsidies from government and are P1 million richer after winning this year’s Mascom Top 8 competition also lamented the time it takes to receive the grant.
“People are still under the impression that we are a government team.
Like we have said on numerous occasions, government only helps with transport.
We need the money on time to pay salaries,” said Club Chairman Boikanyo Addenes.