Botswana Football Association (BFA) president Mclean Letshwiti this week refuted allegations that he snubbed the well-publicised COSAFA and ZIFA president Phillip Chiyangwa’s high profile birthday party.

The party recently held in Harare, Zimbabwe made international headlines as FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended it. The FIFA president visited the region at a time when COSAFA is mobilising to take over the leadership of CAF from long-time president Issa Hayatou of   Cameroon.

This week Letshwiti said he had planned to attend the party on 24th February as there was a meeting planned. Instead the party was held on 25th February. “I was supposed to get into a 7pm flight to Harare, for one reason or the other the FIFA president had a change of schedule so the date had to be quickly changed” Letshwiti said.

“Football does not pay my bills. I had two crucial business meetings here in the morning and in the afternoon. The intention was that immediately after those meetings I am booked on a flight to Harare.” Letshwiti said it was difficult to rearrange his schedule after the FIFA president made other arrangements. “Infantino is not just an ordinary individual, there is budget, security and logistics to consider before his travel. Nevertheless, the COSAFA President did not travel to Gabon but I managed to do so and I personally addressed presidents of all COSAFA FAs while  I was there,” said the self-styled football administrator.

In other matters, Letshwiti said former BFA president David Fani who served as COSAFA additional member was recently voted out during the last elections. “COSAFA has recently resolved to vote only presidents of associations into the executive committee. It was not that we were against him. It was a collective decision taken by presidents of COSAFA member associations.”

Moreover, Letshwiti endorsed Madagascan FA president Ahmed for CAF president, since the regional block has stated its position to challenge for the presidency in the eagerly anticipated CAF elections later this year. The BFA president said his role in the new regional bloc is   that of strategist, which includes being a uniting force for COSAFA.“I am the driving force, the strategist, I keep the group together”, said BFA President.

Nevertheless, the shrewd businessman conceded that COSAFA leaders were disappointed after he could not make it to Harare.  However, Letshwiti revealed that Infantino has invited him to Zurich and he is yet to fulfil this request. “I still owe him a visit.” The BFA president said he has not yet proposed a date to visit Zurich because he is busy. “Go and write what I said not what you think,” a rhetorical Letshwiti said   in his trademark parting shot

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 21 February 2017 15:24

Motswana to officiate at 2019 World Cup

A Botswana Football Association (BFA) bred referee may soon break boundaries after she was listed among prospective officials for the 2019 FIFA women’s World cup scheduled for France. Botsalo Mosimanewatlala (34) is expected to represent Botswana at the   international showpiece in just two years from now.

Mosimanewatlala is no stranger to international games after she recently officiated at the women African Cup of Nations competitions in Cameroon last year. This week, a member of the BFA referees commission, Glenda Mokokwe confirmed that Mosimanewatlala has been named among the prospective officials for the 2019 world cup in France. Mokokwe, who is also a CAF instructor said, “Botsalo is a top match official, she passes fitness tests well, she has been consistent in submitting her reports on time”.

A local female referee assessor says that women referees must undergo male fitness test before being fixtured to officiate BPL games. BFA has five female referees who have been invited to officiate at international games. Mokokwe explained that the neighbouring football authority SAFA usually invites local officials International Working Group on Women and Sport General Secretary Game Mothibi who was in the dark about Mosimanewatlala`s listing to the FIFA 2019 world cup said that the FIFA move reflects that women are progressing well as far as empowerment is concerned.

“We are really making progress regarding women empowerment. It could be at a snail’s pace but we have now joined the world and women in sport can be counted among the world class.”Meanwhile, BFA Public Relations and Marketing Officer Tumo Mpatane said they have not received any communication from FIFA concerning the 2019 World cup officials. However, Mpatane said they will get back to BG Sports as soon as they get the information. Of late local female referees have been facing challenges as the Women football league has been delayed for unknown reasons.

Mosimanewatlala and other female officials will have to rely on FND and BPL league to retain their fitness. It is not clear which criterion is used to select the 88 officials from the FIFA member associations. FIFA is keeping an eye on all continental bodies with Asian Football Confederation (AFC) providing 14, Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) 10, The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) 13, Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL) 15, Oceania Football Confederation (OFA) 3, Union des Associations Européennes de Football (UEFA) 33.

BFA has recently experienced tremendous growth as far as match officiating is concerned, with the likes of Joshua Bondo who just came back from the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. BFA officials have received invitations to officiate at different CAF competitions and international friendly games. The list is endless Joshua Bondo (2007–), Lekgotla Johannes (2001–), Bolokanang Julia Lekgowe (2011–), Kutlwano Leso (2010–), Tirelo Mositwane (2013–), Omphile Phuthego (2013–) and Tshepo Mokani Gobagoba (2016–). Oamogetse Godisamang, Ketlogetswe Goitse Modimo, Meshack Medupi, Moemedi Monakwane, Kitso Sibanda, Bakwena Simankalele, Bolokang Lekgowe, Katlholo Moremi, Yvonne Letota, and Tshepiso Ramothogobeng have been assigned international games in recent years.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 07 February 2017 11:47

BFA purge targets Sebego’s remnants

Botswana Football Association (BFA) factions seem to be alive and well. Four months after the Maclean Letshwiti regime vanquished their rivals, factions seem to linger at the football association. 

The recent reports from Lekidi are that the new regime dubbed ‘Servants of Football’ is moving quickly to finish off the remnants of the football administrators with allegiances to the vanquished Tebogo Sebego regime. The last known members of the Sebego regime are said to be constantly looking over their shoulders. The current regime is tying loose ends especially in the BFA National Executive Committee.

Masego Nchingane, a well-known Sebego regime lieutenant is the only remaining NEC member from the ‘Friends of football’ regime. However, speculation is that the Letshwiti camp is doing all in its power to charm the loyal Nchingane into switching allegiances to their side. 

Source close to the BFA said Nchingane finds himself in a peculiar situation and his future in football administration hinges on whether he switches to the Letshwiti regime or not. The Team Letshwiti insiders reveal that the former NEC additional member (women category) Suzie Montsho was allegedly forced out of her position at Lekidi. Montsho was part of the Sebego regime and her departure gave Servants of football an opportunity to co-opt their preferred candidate, Tshepo Mphoeng into the position.

The casualties are not only at Lekidi house as shockwaves of the clean-up campaign are felt in all BFA regions. One of the targets of the Servants of football is Kweneng regional chairman Loago Raditloko. The Kweneng regional chairman was known to be part of the friends of football faction led by former president Sebego. 

BG Sport has it in good authority that the Letshwiti camp served Secretary General Rapula Gaotlhobogwe and first division chairman Mpezeni Sambandawe with letters of suspension pending disciplinary hearing for misconduct. However, two were not found guilty of any charges and were later reinstated.

Another target of the Servants of football is the BFA Southern region chairman Lesego Leaketsa who was allegedly pushed out of office. Leaketsa who was with Team Sebego ahead of the BFA AGA is reported to have already left office. Leaketsa was re-elected at the regional level ahead of the BFA AGM. The former chairman of Southern regional association was also a regional block representative during the previous administration. There are 17 BFA regions and four blocks around the country.

The former Southern regional chairman is the longest serving member. He was elected in 2008 and has served as BFA NEC member since 2014. Leaketsa however refuted allegations that he was pushed out, and claims he voluntarily resigned from his post. “I have commitments which keep me away from the region for quite some time, I realised that the region will suffer a lot during my absence. I tendered my resignation and due process took place for my deputy to ascend to the chairmanship,” Leaketsa said. 

Published in Sports

The writing is on the wall at Lekidi Football Centre with a seemingly disgruntled and elated football leadership at odds with one another. Currently the Botswana Football Association (BFA) is seemingly going through a transition following a change of guard at the recent Annual General Assembly (AGA).

The Maclean Letshwiti regime, which recently ousted the Tebogo Sebego axis, seems to be reshaping the local game and only time will tell whether such changes will be for better or for worse. Those close to the Letshwiti faction explain that they will create an enabling environment in the next four years for the industry players to reap from their hard work. The buoyant Letshwiti has already been tested by the delays in the start of the football leagues by the recent boycott of the opening games by referees.

Politics rules the game?
Botswana football has suffered greatly over the years due to ideological differences by the politicians. Nevertheless, at face value the new regime seems to be in one book when it comes to matters of improving the game and restoring its identity. The new BFA regime is in a position to craft a strategic plan that cascades from the manifesto of the ruling faction. The faction is built around popular football politicians Maokaneng Bontshetse, Setete Phuthego and Victor Sebolao who do not sit in the national executive committee. The regime has appointed one of their own Booker Banister to chair the Premier League management committee. The leadership has not yet publicised who their legal advisor is, those close to football argue that the association should just have a full time lawyer than an advisor.

Relationship with
 According to Letshwiti, the two leaders encouraged him to unite the warring factions and build the image of football anew. Football had lost confidence of the business community and strained relations with government as well. Nevertheless, the Letshwiti regime is yet to speak to the constituency league, which is partly to blame for sour relations.
 
Creating 5000+ jobs
During his campaign for the presidency, Letshwiti polarised opinion within football circles when he boldly announced that his regime would create 5000 jobs during the four years of his tenure. Nevertheless, the BFA president did not shed light on how the jobs are going to come about. Those on his side claimed that football spinoffs will bring in thousands of pula to SMMEs across the country, thus creating employment for ordinary citizens. It is not clear how the regions will help create conducive environment for the hawkers or small medium enterprises, as they are known in the business world.  Moreover, Letshwiti spoke more about development during his campaign, though he never spoke about the subject of commercialisation or privatisation of the game.

BFA and BPL CEOs fate in question
The two Chief Executive Officers at the BFA and the Botswana Premier League are likely to be fired if the political and ideological opinions expressed by those close to the regime are anything to go by. The two are already serving suspension each pending disciplinary hearing. The matter relating to firing and hiring football administrators is a foregone conclusion. Some football politicians close to the Letshwiti group claim the two positions are sensitive therefore there is need for political appointments. The Kemoeng, Mamelodi detractors believe the two have shown greater allegiance to the ousted Sebego regime.

BFA NEC this week resolved to suspend its CEO Kitso Kemoeng with immediate effect while BFA administrator Susan Lawrence will occupy the hot seat on an acting basis. According to BFA press release, the CEO will have his day to respond to issues raised by NEC. Nevertheless, a press release   announcing Kemoeng’s suspension did not state which issues were raised by the BFA executive committee. In recent months local media speculated that some individuals close to the regime want the top two positions. Letshwiti admin was elected to office at the 2016 BFA assembly in August.The BPL CEO Mamelodi has been placed on suspension, it looks very clear that the man will not find his way back to his office in the near future.

Those close to football decision-making group said the CEO’s allegiance is questionable while those who want him in office say the league has grown tremendously under his watchful eye. The BPL CEO already has a pending case at the industrial court in which he wants the court to interdict his employers from conducting disciplinary action against him.

Zebras coach
The position of national team head coach is one of the few positions which determine the future of football politicians. The Zebras coach Peter James Butler seems to be a darling of the state leadership, despite his enraged social media posts about his superiors, colleagues and the footballing communities. The previous BFA leadership brought in Butler after parting ways with the most successful coach, Stanley Tshosane, in the history of this republic. The nomadic Butler has allegedly found favour among the top brass, which makes it difficult for the current leadership to fire him. The Letshwiti regime is rather expected to put measures in place to control the coach who has become synonymous with his outbursts and social media posts.

Block Technical Directors
During his presidential campaigns, Letshwiti promised football leaders that his leadership would employ technically knowledgeable people to assist in crafting and planning development structures. The four regional directors have been identified already; the financially strained association is still sourcing funds to run the offices, which will be based at the blocks. The local sporting authority Botswana National Sports Commission will host a few or all block directors, until the association finds its own space. 

Women Football
The women football and girl child are among FIFA priority areas as far as development of the sport is concerned. The newly-elected women representative Suzie Montsho, is reported to be relocating to an Asian country known by this publication. Montsho, who was in the Sebego campaign team defeated Theresa Hitchfield and Tapiwa Gaebolae, is likely to be co-opted to replace Montsho anytime soon. The local ladies’ league has been without a sponsor for a number of years after parting ways with transport mogul AT & T Monnakgotla.   

Published in Sports
Monday, 22 August 2016 11:00

Letshwiti must hit the ground running

The former Botswana Football Association (BFA) president Tebego Sebego has said he is still very much involved in football following his crushing defeat to Maclean Letshwiti in the recent Annual General Assembly. 

However, the 42-year-old slick dressing Gaborone lawyer is still very much a player in both domestic and international football structures despite his exit from Lekidi. In a brief interview, the vanquished Sebego said he was not lost to football but remains an avid supporter of the beautiful game.

Sebego acknowledged that it is now time to give the new leadership the space to lead the association. “I am going to sit down and see what to do next. The least I can do is be a football supporter,” Sebego said   this week. “I want to contribute to the growth of football both locally and internationally.”  Despite a crushing defeat Sebego still serves in the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) standing committee mandated to organise the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals from 2015 to 2017. The former president also serves in FIFA’s marketing and television arm.

Sebego, who ascended to the BFA presidency with his ‘Friends of Football’ cabal, served the BFA for the past decade rising through the ranks as the association’s legal advisor. Back then he was a legal advisor for former BFA presidents, David Fani and Philip Makgalemele. Prior to Fani courting him to be the association’s legal think tank he was the legal advisor for Botswana Soccer Association (BOSA), a soccer movement made up of premier league community teams.

The BOSA was mandated to address the plight of community teams that complained about rival state-backed institutional teams that dominated the league. While a BFA lawyer, Sebego challenged the then BFA president David Fani and delivered a crushing defeat on his more experienced rival. However, four years down the line, Sebego whose administration has been under fire for the better part of his presidency, suffered a similar fate at the hands of rival and self-made businessman Maclean Letshwiti.

When Letshwiti announced he was running for BFA president over a month ago, it became evident that the contest would be a bare-knuckled fight. Sebego’s conqueror is a relatively newcomer to football administration at the highest level. The intriguing BFA presidential elections saw Letshwiti defeating his archrival by 32 votes to 28.

One of the key challenges Letshwiti faces is how to deal with the warring factions in the BFA National Executive Committee, which seemed to swirl under Sebego, in the process alienating the association from sponsors and other stakeholders. Letshwiti’s   committee has its job cut in the next four years.

Besides rebuilding the BFA, Letshwiti has to improve the functionality of the association’s structures. A case in point being the recent Mascom Top 8 final where BPL teams complained about Township Rollers’ use of a defaulter but were snubbed by the mother-body.
Other nagging issues that Letshwiti’s committee inherit include the controversial leaguewhich is taking forever to conclude considering that the football fraternity still awaits the verdict in Township Rollers’ appeal to CAS regarding their docked points, which were awarded to Gilport Lions after they had used a defaulter Ofentse Nato.

Letshwiti will also need to foster continuity in both junior and national teams. In the past there has been no cohesion or synergy between junior national teams and senior national teams.  A case in point was the under 17 team which qualified for 2013 under 17 African youth championships in Morocco.

Published in Sports
Monday, 22 August 2016 10:38

BFA should knock at our door-Mamelodi

A FIFA official this week urged   the   Botswana Football Association (BFA) to continue knocking   on FIFA’s doors   if they need assistance with   their projects. Speaking in Gaborone this week, Botswana’s FIFA development officer Ashford Mamelodi said he would like to see BFA benefiting from the world governing body projects.

“At FIFA if you do not knock at our door, we assume you do not need help. BFA should come knocking then we can help”, Mamelodi said. The veteran football administrator spoke   to the fact that Botswana is not benefiting much from FIFA projects, more especially that the governing body`s regional office is based here in Botswana.

Nevertheless, Mamelodi praised the Independent electoral board for organising transparent and fair elections during the BFA’s Annual General Assembly (AGA). In other matters, the FIFA official who is also a former BFA Executive Secretary advised the new BFA executive committee to revisit the thorny Constituency league matter swiftly.

The matter has long been a grey area in local football as the BFA and Botswana government fought for over the issue for over a decade. The long running   issue saw a FIFA delegation visiting Gaborone to address the matter before former BFA president Tebogo Sebego gave a presentation at FIFA congress in 2014. Back then reports were that the two parties had agreed in principle about the league. Since then very little or nothing has been said on the matter. 

Published in Sports
Monday, 04 July 2016 12:13

Letshwiti: Football’s ‘blesser’?

Botswana Football Association (BFA) presidential hopeful MacLean Letshwiti claims he already knows where he would get the money for the association, once elected.

Letshwiti, who is by no means short of confidence and charisma said he will run the football association the same way he runs his businesses. Says he: “I am a financial wizard and I already know where the money for financing the association will come from.”
He further commits to dedicating 80 percent of the association’s resources to development football if he wins the hot seat currently occupied by Tebogo Sebego. Letshwiti, who describes himself as a no nonsense and shrewd businessman, hopes to clean up the association currently plagued by poor  management, maladministration and courtroom battles. If voted into office, the seasoned corporate leader says he aims to focus on grassroots so that local players attract international teams like English Premier League side Manchester United at an early age.

Speaking at his first press briefing on Wednesday after announcing   his intention to run for the BFA top post, Letshwiti said that the problem with the current   administration is that the focus in on the Botswana Premier League (BPL) while grassroots football is being neglected.

“If you vote for me the Premier League which takes 100 percent of the BFA’s time has to be autonomously run. The league must be managed on its own as well as the National First Division so that the association focuses on development,” he said. The local businessman who will take on Sebego in July said football the world over is about development. “If football resources are not developed, it won’t take us anywhere.  Football must be an industry that contributes socially and economically to the country.” Letshwiti said the products of football, which are the players, must be able to be exported to other countries. In addition, the presidential hopeful said the sport must be a national project and not just the responsibility of the BFA alone.

“Government has to support football development, the question is whether we have a relationship with government.” Letshwiti added that both men and women’s football must be developed. “Whatever you do for the girl child you must do for the boys and catch them when they are young. If we start now, we will end up somewhere, our world cup winners are the current  5 year olds.” Letshwiti, who insists that football must be run like a corporate entity   emphasised the importance of following the BFA constitution. The well-known Mochudi Centre Chiefs financier views football to be a passion and must be predominantly run by former footballers.  “We have to bring people who have been role models back to the sport,” he said, adding that the current state of affairs sees administrators using the sport to pass time.

Letshwiti, who derides the practice of NEC members making headlines said he was by no means painting a rosy picture as he knows the road will be initially bumpy. “The BFA is a corporate entity and it must run like one. It is the Chief Executive Officer  (CEO) that must be regularly seen in newspaper backpages and not the association’s president.” He dispelled fears that he was running for the position on a Mochudi Centre Chiefs ticket, adding that he will step down from his role at the Kgatleng team if elected into office. Meanwhile, Letshwiti also condemned the habit of buying votes. “Buying votes is unethical. This is why football has lost its integrity. Journalists must expose this corruption that is not doing justice to football.”

Published in Sports

The Zebras are expected to receive bonuses this week following their 2016 COSAFA Castle cup exploits at Namibia.

The Botswana Football Association (BFA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kitso Kemoeng made the announcement recently.

During   the recent regional tournament held at Windhoek, Namibia, the Zebras won prize money totalling P250, 000 after losing 3-2 to Bafana Bafana in the final.


Addressing the media recently, Kemoeng said the Zebras deserved bonuses for their stellar achievement during the regional show piece.

“We will see how far the prize money will take us in terms of our liabilities to the players," Kemoeng said.

"We will certainly use the funds to clear (what we owe), as we currently do not have any other source (of revenue).



In addition Kemoen said the team are the ones who generate revenue for the association, therefore they deserved part of the prize money.

If the Zebras had emerged victorious at the tournament, they would have pocketed a total P500, 000 in first prize money.

Published in Sports
Monday, 09 May 2016 11:14

Aggrieved Rollers bite the bullet

This week’s decision by Township Rollers to file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Lausanne in respect of the recent Ofentse Nato ruling has thrown a spanner in the works of operations at the Botswana Football Association (BFA).

An aggrieved Rollers management on Tuesday also demanded that all league programmes be suspended pending the outcome of their appeal. This effectively cancelled the launch of the beMOBILE Premiership Awards nominees at the eleventh hour and threw the programme of the scheduled weekend matches in limbo.

Rollers pinned the BFA to a corner by drawing the association’s attention to the principle of law that could deem the local football governing body in contempt of court should they proceed with the remaining programmes of the league. At press time on Wednesday, both the premier league board and the BFA had not taken a decision on whether the league programme would continue this weekend or not.

However, BFA CEO Kitso Kemoeng revealed that an emergency meeting had been called for this Thursday morning (yesterday) for the BPL Board members to determine what to do in relation to the Rollers’ demands. Rollers have also asked that no league trophy handover be conducted until conclusion of their appeal. This also means that the Awards ceremony that was set for later this month will not take place as well. Neither will the BPL Annual General Assembly that is constitutionally held before the end of May after the conclusion of the season.

There was a concern among the football authorities however that even if the games may continue there could be poor attendance as most people seem to have lost interest in the games. A case in point was the weekend match between Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Nico United attracted a pitiable crowd even when the hosting team’s supporters knew that their club was now on pole position to win the league after the ruling that docked Rollers ten points. Equally, there was also concern that some of the BPL Board members may not be able to attend the emergency meeting called for Thursday as it was scheduled on emergency.

It however remains unlikely that the BPL and the BFA will allow the weekend matches to proceed even if the Thursday morning meeting could succeed. This is because the outcome of the Rollers’ appeal could come back with costly repercussions should FIFA rule that Nato is not a defaulter and Rollers get back the ten points taken away from them.

Rollers who were on the verge of winning the league are challenging the BFA Disciplinary Committee’s ruling that Nato is a defaulter. The BFA’s ruling was also challenged by Nato’s agent Paul Mitchel who wondered why his client is deemed a defaulter this year when he was also registered last year by Gaborone United under similar circumstances to this year.

A highly-placed source within the SADC regional football also cast aspersions on the ruling of the DC, saying arguments used to declare Nato a defaulter could fail at CAS. “The judgement questioned the validity of the player’s International Transfer Certificate (ITC), even calling for it to be cancelled. That is absurd. FIFA would not release the ITC without due diligence. The fact that the ITC was released means FIFA satisfied themselves with all relevant transfer processes,” the source said.

With Nato’s professional contract with his Indian club Atletico de Kolkota expiring in December 2015, the player became a free agent and could register outside the transfer window. After the player and Rollers initiated the application for his ITC on February 9 this year, FIFA issued the certificate on February 12, which was close to two weeks after the closure of the transfer window on January 31. It is reported that in processing Nato’s transfer, the BPL Secretariat then backdated the date stamp as License Plus - a registration software used to transfer players - is defective and would not accept any information entered after Botswana’s transfer window closing date of January 31.

The BFA DC found this action of backdating the stamp to be fraudulent and hence ruled that proper procedure in his transfer was not followed. But the source in question poured scorn on that decision, saying even FIFA is aware of the License Plus defect that has forced associations the world over to backdate stamps depending on the respective national transfer window closure dates tied to it. “It is for this reason that we have seen some players like Thiery Henry and Frank Lampard going back to play in the Barclays Premier League outside their transfer windows.

Even in South Africa, a player called Delron Buckley came from Germany to play in the ABSA Premiership outside the transfer window. Such players were never labelled defaulters,” he said, adding that “something must be wrong with your country’s interpretation of the rules.”In the week leading to the Mascom Top 8 final between Rollers and Orapa United, two local football officials Steven Maleka of the BFA and Olebile Pilara of the BPL were enrolled in a FIFA Connect Programme meant to improve record keeping and database management by the Football Associations in the SADC region.

The workshop which was also attended by representatives from  11 other regional countries, is an improvement on the current player and stakeholder registration processes and was largely hailed as a tool that would help associations arrest the dating problems associated with the defective nature of the License Plus software. “At such workshops that have been taking place the world over since they started in Singapore, FIFA Connect was described as a programme that would bring to an end the practice of doing backdates. That should say to anyone that what happened in your country is a common occurrence,” the source said, adding that Rollers have a bigger chance of winning their case.

Published in Sports
Monday, 04 April 2016 11:08

Mamelodi facing the chop in BPL mess

FOOTBALL

The storybook of the Botswana Premier League (BPL) reads like that of Mafia operatives hellbent on getting whatever they want no matter how irrational and illogical. 

The book chronicles a tale of lies, deceit, fabrication, self-aggrandisement and divisions - as well as a trace of personal vendettas and quests to settle old scores. The inevitable result has been a failure to focus and account prudently for the money that has been pouring into the league. 

Now the blame game has taken centre stage, with one dominant faction of the BPL Board of Governors pushing for the permanent removal of their CEO, and the minority muted in their defence of the beleaguered officer whom they feel is a victim of a witch-hunt. At the heart of everything that has been happening there lately, is the guised fight for power; the battle for control and an ultimate desire to be in charge of the close to P25 million that the premier league churns annually. All else, really, is secondary.

Just as the attention of local football lovers was glued on the ensuing photo finish rush for the beMOBILE Premiership crown between Orapa United, Township Rollers and Mochudi Centre Chiefs, the league gurus on the other hand mastered a grand plan to divert attention to courtroom and boardroom issues.  

This past weekend, a meeting of 12 BPL club chairpersons – there are 16 in total - who constitute the league board resolved to recall board chairperson Walter Kgabung, his deputy Solomon Mantswe as well as to suspend the league’s Chief Executive Officer Bennett Mamelodi. The bone of contention is that the CEO has failed to account for what is presumed to be missing funds, with Kgabung and Mantswe seen as accessories to the ‘crime’ as they have failed to supervise the operations at the Secretariat. There is no clarity as to why the CEO’s Personal Assistant was also suspended.

As is always the case where self-serving tendencies floursih, the involved parties are clutching at straws, and those in charge are refusing to go on record regarding their deeds – of course under the pretext that the matter of the suspensions is sensitive and was still to be discussed at a BFA NEC meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday evening this week. It is thus remained unclear at press time what the real issues are. 

On the one hand however, is the story of a P6.2 million deficit that is being bandied around as the cause of Mamelodi’s suspension. There was a board meeting on March 5 where the CEO presented the financials of the BPL, and those close to the trigger-happy side of the board members say he failed to account for that P6.2 million. Yet another submission from within the polarised board says there is confusion of issues as that sum only represents the outstanding funds that are yet to be credited into the BPL in the form of P4.2 million in prize money from sponsors BTCL and about P2 million from Mascom. 

There is also no clarity as to who to blame for the BPL’s reported overspending this season, with reports that it was once again the CEO who failed to plan for the year properly. Yet those sympathetic to the beleaguered Mamelodi argue that the said board members are just desperately trying to discredit a blameless man even when they know what actually is the cause of the league’s financial problems. They cite the unexpected turn of events where BURS, the taxman, held the BPL at ransom over an outstanding tax amount of close to P2million carried from previous years.

The BPL, on striking an P8million broadcast deal with the Department of Broadcasting Services, were told they would not get a tax clearance certificate needed by the government broadcaster until they had paid the tax in question. The football body is registered for tax, and the outstanding money was eventually debited from the broadcast stipend, which left the BPL with lesser money than they had budgeted for. 

In addition, BG Sports has learnt that clubs themselves refused to have their monthly grants paid less tax, saying the BPL office had to be the one to bear the tax liability. The clubs insisted on getting strictly P50 000 per month, nothing less. Each club has since received P250 000 in grant money for the first five months until December, with the tax liability left for the BPL office to sort out. This too, reportedly dug from the BPL coffers, leading to lesser money at the office than had been anticipated. The dominant section of the board maintains the CEO is to blame for failure to budget properly while others feel it is an unfair accusation given the prevailing circumstances. 

There is also the issue of Mamelodi reportedly getting a P900 000 loan from businessman Jagdish Shah to assist indebted teams with grants against their prize money, something the board says constitutes conflict of interest. Shah is an investor in Township Rollers and the concerned board members feel that the move could be the one influencing decisions at the BPL that go against protesting opponents such as Chiefs and Gilport Lions in the famed Ofentse Nato case. BG Sport has however established that the benefitting teams - Motlakase Power Dynamos, Green Lovers and Sankoyo Bushbucks - are the ones who directly sought such loans from Shah. 

Sources close to the three clubs also questioned the figure of P900 000, saying they have only received a total of P200 000 from the businessman. “I know a different story to that one of P900 000,” a source told BG Sport, adding: “Sankoyo and Lovers each asked for P50 000 while Motlakase requested a P100 000 loan. I understand Jagdish then told the clubs that he needed assurance that he would get his money back after one club failed to pay him back last season. That’s when the teams approached the BPL for assistance through providing surety against their prize money which will come at the end of the league.” An official from one of these three clubs confirmed their loan deal and wondered why it was made an issue this time when other teams have been doing that over the years. “I know Letlapeng also had a similar arrangement with Shah last season while Miscellaneous was helped by Nicolas Zackem. It’s difficult to understand what people are on about,” he said. 

Shah himself has rubbished claims of a P900 000 loan to the BPL. Instead, he confirmed lending the three clubs a total sum of P200 000 and seeking surety from the BPL before the transaction could be done. This Shah had to do after reports say relegated Letlapeng are yet to pay him back after he had lent them money last season.

For now the BPL CEO remains suspended despite the mother body setting aside the Saturday decisions of the board until both parties have furnished reports as to what really led to the weekend decisions. On Thursday, the BPL offices were a beehive of activity as investigation agents reportedly from the DCEC and Botswana Police Services confiscated computers and cellphones of some BPL employees. Kgabung and Mamelodi were also taken for questioning.

With the BPL board saying they will in the meantime be carrying out a forensic audit at the BPL office, it will be interesting to see if the audit will also extend to the clubs that consume about 80-85 percent  of the league’s annual income. Only about 20 percent is used for the Secretariat’s operations. On an annual basis, Mascom pumps in P5million into the league, DBS pours P8million while BTCL bleeds P10million. The bulk of this money, directly and by extension, goes to club related expenses such as prize money, grants, referees’ transport and accommodation, emergency medicals services, ticketing, as well as official and player accreditations among others. With crowds having been good this season, the clubs should have also made a lot of money from gatetakings. The BFA should thus ensure this audit covers every aspect of the BPL finances, both at club and Secretariat level – just to help determine how money is used by the league and to determine who really is fooling who.

Whatever the truth is regarding these stories, it begs the question why it took this long for the BPL to raise these financial queries when all along there were board meetings where there are always financial updates. There is also no official answer as to why, for the first time, the weekend board meeting was held without the CEO who reportedly was in South Africa for a funeral. The first time the board raised alarm was at the March 5 meeting where the CEO was in attendance, and that was the perfect time to question him ahead of a follow-up suspension then. The CEO, who once resigned out of frustration before being begged to return, has never had a healthy relationship with the board and other people involved in the prevailing allegations, and it remains difficult to know the extent to which the sour relationships may be playing a part in his suspension. The allegations against him misappropriating funds come a long way back, yet the board still gave him a new contract last November to continue running the affairs of the league. There remains more questions than answers in this saga, and the BFA leadership had better expedite conclusions on the matter lest the premier league programme be thrown into chaos. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Sports
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