The past two international football matches played in Francistown raked in an unprecedented P1. 6 million for the cash-strapped Botswana Football Association, (BFA). The matches in question are the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier between the Zebras and Burkina Faso where the local side triumphed 1-0.
The other match was a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier that saw the Zebras beat Eritrea 3-1 in the second leg of the competition’s first preliminary round.
In both games, the attendance was impressive with numbers that went way beyond the 20 000 mark to set new attendance records of a football match in Botswana. The Burkina Faso game was the first to be played at the Francistown Sports Complex and the number of spectators who thronged the venue was staggering, giving the BFA an amount close to P1 million in gate takings.
The Eritrea match, though played midweek and at night, also attracted handsome numbers that reportedly gathered close to P600 000 for the local football’s governing body. There could be no better news for the football association given that the money made in just the two games this year was better than the money the Zebras made in gate takings for all of last year.
Despite government – the stadium owners – getting a 20% stake in stadium levy, the money accrued by the BFA came in handy with no sponsors to take care of the national team at the moment. The Zebras have been running without a sponsor for months since sponsors BancABC and Orange contracts ended early this year.
“Batswana are supporting the team through gate takings; we have the right environment to start making profit,” BFA president Tebogo Sebego told BG Sports. He added, “We are not breaking even yet, because we have pay costs associated with hosting games of this magnitude.”
The BFA president appealed to the business community to come and partner with the Zebras to reduce costs associated with playing games in Francistown. Among these costs, the association has to incur costs of lodging players and football officials in Francistown whenever playing international games there.
The business community has started to reap rewards too as they experience high demand of the food items they sell. “Vendors in the city and those coming from surrounding areas are happy with the returns from selling on Zebras match days. They have told me it is especially the food they sell that makes big money for them. Of course other business players are yet to tell whether hosting the national team is paying dividends,” the Mayor of Francistown told BG Sports.
It has also emerged that the hospitality sector in the region has done well on Zebras’ match days, benefitting not only from teams and their officials, but also from visiting supporters, agents, media and scouting personnel coming from various parts of the country and beyond the borders. Another sizeable crowd is expected to grace the Francistown football arena this Saturday when the Zebras host Mali in a FIFA World Cup qualifier