In a diamond-rich country, lack of funding has surprisingly continued to cripple sport. This has seen some athletes failing to fly out to international competitions, while in other instances, progress has been severely curtailed. Mmegi Sport Staff Writer, CALISTUS KOLANTSHO talks to sports administrators about a bane that threatens to reverse past gains
Seven young athletes had enthusiastically waited to board a long flight to Finland to take part in the IAAF Under-20 Championships this week. But their dreams were crushed when the authorities cited lack of funds for aborting the trip.
Elsewhere, as the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) announced the Africa Youth Games (AYG) team, the same regular irritant of lack of funding reared its ugly head.
The team had to be trimmed after government cut the budget for the Algeria trip.
Sports administrators are looking for solutions, with some urging the government to tap into the Alcohol Levy to fund sport.
BNOC chief executive officer, Tuelo Serufho said the challenge is that funding for sport is not evolving.
“It continues to depend on government with very little private sector involvement. For government, it would become difficult to increase funding to sport or any sector for that matter because the economy is not doing well,” he said.
Serufho said the long term solution is for the government to allow sport bodies to invest some of the grants in profit bearing facilities and that the government should come with laws that compel companies to spend a portion of their profits on sport as part of Corporate Social Responsibility.
“The government should use sport as a means to many ends like addressing some health and social concerns,” he added.
Serufho argued that the government should dedicate a certain portion of the funds from Alcohol Levy to sport.
“Many of the issues around alcohol and drug abuse could be addressed through sport. I had the privilege of officiating at the national finals of the Constituency Tournaments recently. I was amazed by the level of discipline amongst the players,” he said.
Serufho argues that sport has kept the youth away from alcohol and other social ills.
Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) chairperson, Solly Reikeletseng said it is time to reverse the ban on alcohol companies' sponsorships.
“We need sponsors and alcohol beverage companies are some of the biggest sponsors. Alcohol industry could assist in supporting rugby, golf, pool table and darts,” he said.
Reikeletseng said the government should speed up the Botswana Gambling Authority (BGA) activities and fund
“We are now remaining with mobile phone providers and all of them are fighting over football,” he added.
Reikeletseng said it was important to expose young athletes to international meets, adding that athletics is a number one sport and should be protected and assisted.
“It is unfortunate that funds are a challenge. It was not our desire to downsize the team (to Algeria) but circumstances forced us to do so. I wish we had resources,” Reikeletseng said.
Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) president, Mothokomedi Thabano said budget cuts have hit them hard.
“We have received P520, 000 and last year it was P540, 000. The cut has negatively affected us since we have an Olympiad this year. Olympiad alone needs P500, 000 for proper preparations. Right now, we cannot afford training camps,” he said.
Thabano said the World Chess Federations (FIDE) has assisted BCF with a coach, Grandmaster Esam Elgingy from Egypt for a one-month period, from August 22 until September 22. Thabano said BCF should find proper accommodation and meals for him. “We are struggling with this budget cut,” he said. The AYG quota was 90 but the team was cut to 54 athletes due to limited resources.
Assistant Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture
Development, Dikgang Makgalemele admits there is a challenge with limited funding for sport.
“I feel there is an opportunity for more. We need to be more creative and repackage our endeavours so that we mobilise more resources for sport,” he said.
Makgalemele said more resources could be explored through the private sector. He said his ministry has benefited from the Alcohol Levy, which was supporting different programmes.
“I do not want us to depend on the Alcohol Levy for sport development. There are other forms of resources that are available that can fund sport,” Makgalemele said.
With no immediate solution in sight, sport appears set for a lengthy battle with lack of funding despite posting good results on the international front, which merit an increase in funding.