The controversial alcohol ban during BTC Premiership games may be part of the reason why supporters prefer to watch games at home. The ban, which seems unique to the domestic league, has been in effect for a number of years. However, BPL clubs are currently hurting in the pocket due to declining revenue in gate takings only a handful of supporters bother to attend games. Despite strict laws prohibiting football supporters from consuming alcohol during BTC premiership league games, some supporters still manage to smuggle alcohol into the stadiums venues during weekly fixtures.
A case in point would be the BTC premiership fixture at the Molepolole Sports Complex this past weekend where Kgatleng sleeping giants Mochudi Centre Chiefs lost (1-0) to Orapa United. The game saw alcohol flowing and supporters drinking before the eyes of both security personnel and BPL official. Nevertheless, there are visible security measures at most BTC premiership venues and every vehicle that enters the venue is searched for illegal alcohol beverages. Majority of the supporters who spent that hard earned cash to attend the Saturday fixture game were clearly quenching their thirst as the game went on. This has in fact been happening for a while and now it begs the question on whether the Botswana Premier League (BPL) is enforcing strict measure
in their rather relaxed quest to ban alcohol at stadiums.
The sad reality for the BPL is that most local football seems to enjoy watching domestic league games in the comfort of their homes. Some prefer familiar company and rather enjoy football crowding in local bar where they can have access to alcohol. One would argue that it is time to reconsider revising the alcohol ban by all stakeholders involved. Not only would the relaxing the laws allow fans to relax and unwind with a couple of glasses but it might just help bring back supporters to the stadiums.
Nevertheless, the BPL decision’s to ban alcohol at the stadiums might have been justifiable long back given the unruly and occasional violent behaviour of some supporters that eventually caused the ban. The premier league is in desperate times with players and coaches’ unpaid salaries being at the top of the agenda. The BPL needs to start generating revenue. Moreover, the BPL’s P 50 000 grant handed to clubs has proven to be insufficient in running the teams. As local club wage bills continue to exceed their monthly income and other challenges like Club licensing crop up, there seems to be more trouble in the horizon for local teams.
The decision by government to discourage liquor companies from sponsoring sports activities has not helped in growth. The notorious Alcohol levy has also compounded this state of affairs. One could argue that alcohol continues to be a major boast to sport development especially football in countries such South Africa and Europe.
Meanwhile it has since emerged that the alcohol ban in stadiums does not sit well with some of the crowd pulling teams in Botswana. Even traditional top clubs in Botswana has started feeling the pinch as revenue declines at the gate and supporters chose to stay home with their money.
In an interview this week, Extension Gunners Club Administration Officer Kefilwe Balaodi had no qualm alcohol at stadiums affects attendance greatly.“Before people can come to the games, they are somewhere drinking with their friends and then they are told to stop drinking just because they want to watch a game,” Balaodi said.
Balaodi argued that he has on several occasions seen supporters abandon buying tickets simply because they were told that they should not drink their alcohol, which was a sad and profound sight for him. Nevertheless the Gunners official said they are already working on a proposal to be handed over to BPL and Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) regarding the matter.
“We will be approaching them soon, the gate taking revenue is heavily affected, and football is entertainment mostly for male folk. It gets boring for them if part of their entertainment is restricted to only soft drinks and water,” argued Balaodi.
For his part Mochudi Centre Chiefs spokesperson Clifford Mogomotsi said the alcohol issue has a historical background in that people were once allowed to drink but decided to be violent hence the current law.
“A great number of people stopped coming to the stadium since then and honestly, we are the ones suffering most,” he said.
Mogomotsi advised that BPL should think of ways to allow people to drink but at the same time be cautions that there is no harm done. He said FIFA has not banned