Despite continuing denials by both parties, BG Sport can safely reveal that the family of businessman Esfandier Ghodrati is still chasing a stake in Lobatse giants Extension Gunners, and if things go according to plan, a deal could be finally sealed before the end of next week.
The deal will see the celebrated Ghodrati family acquire a 70 percent stake in the Peleng side while able supporters and business entities that have been assisting the club will share the remaining 30 percent. Last year, the same family bought another Lobatse side BMC FC with the plan to change the club’s name to FC Rangers and moving the club to Gaborone.
The change of name is expected to effect next season but the club has already relocated to Ghodrati’s business premises at New Era College where they now conduct their training sessions. Sources close to the classified negotiations say months after continuing with BMC FC, Ghodrati finally came to the realisation that the acquisition of the club might not have been a wise business deal after all. The club does not enjoy the wide support base and brand status of other privatised clubs in the mould of Gaborone United, Township Rollers as well as Mochudi Centre Chiefs, and it was thus proving difficult to see it blossom into a viable business entity.
For sponsors and other partners to invest in a local football club, its popularity is always going to play a major role as the number of people who follow the club eventually become their marketing vehicles and customers. BMC FC, the sources say, does not offer such opportunities as their supporters cannot even fill up half of a single stand at a stadium. All forms of merchandise therefore, especially replica shirts, were proving too difficult to find buyers as the numbers are not really there. “It was a case of his so-called advisors and handlers misleading him when they first suggested the BMC club. These are people who just wanted to benefit from the deal without caring about whether or not BMC FC could eventually grow into a viable business,” a source said.
Two weeks ago, the wheels had started to come off the BMC FC gravy train, with players and coaching staff warned against unsatisfactory performance. Two assistant coaches are said to have received notice letters informing them they were no longer needed at the club.
The head coach, Daniel Nare is said to have also received an ultimatum to win the next two matches or face the chop. In fact, at some stage last month, some players are alleged to have complained of delays in their monthly payments, something observers connected to the alleged loss of interest in the club by its owners. Now they have come up with what they deem a master class - get Extension Gunners who arguably have the biggest following across the country, and then turn BMC FC into a feeder club.
Should either of them relegate, the remaining side will go by the name Extension Gunners while the relegated one becomes a reserve side. If they both survive the chop, a plan will be made to see how best to run the clubs, with a complete merger being on the cards.
However, it was not a smooth path towards reaching such concessions. The lengthy discussions entailed several models that the two parties could not agree on, among which were the change of names and base. The Ghodrati family wanted to drop the name ‘Extension Gunners’ for ‘FC Rangers’ and also to relocate the club to Gaborone. In fact, the idea was to merge both BMC FC and Gunners and then use the new name of FC Rangers, but the Gunners’ representatives in the negotiations would have none of it. Eventually an agreement was reached to allow the Peleng side to keep its name and remain a Lobatse club. It was also agreed that the best of the players from the BMC side would join Gunners to create a strong squad while BMC is built as a feeder side. What is left now is the official conclusion of the deal which is said to have delayed because a key element in the business deal, a son in the Ghodrati family, has been out of the country on holiday but will be back next week.
Ghodrati could not be drawn into discussing the matter while Gunners’Chairman Kitso Dlamini this Wednesday rubbished claims that a deal will be signed next week. “All I can tell you is that we are negotiating with various investors, and of course the Ghodratis are among them. There are others that we are talking to but we are still far from signing any deal with anyone,” Dlamini told BG Sport.
He added that any agreed deal with anyone will henceforth go through another process of consultation, which could take a long time. “This club is massive; there are a lot of people that relate to it who will need to be brought on board about whatever decisions we make. Our supporters have to know, members of the community including traditional leaders and business people who have been with the club through thick and thin – so there is no way we are signing any deal next week,” he said.