Just over a year since he assumed the Botswana Football Association (BFA) presidency, businessman, Maclean Letshwiti is entirely convinced that he is on track to achieve his goals and enhance the appeal of local football. He spoke to Mmegi Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE
Mmegi Sport: Please sum up your time thus far at the BFA?
Letshwiti: The time for blame game is over. We have to deliver on our promises, and we will be judged on that, and not what other people did. I have delivered a strategy that addresses the relevance of the association.
All organs of the BFA participated in the formulation of the strategy. What is left now is implementation that calls for a strong secretariat, it’s no longer dependent on the president. That strategy is anchored on development.
The objective of my youth policy was to establish grassroots throughout the country.
We have developed a programme that will deliver grassroots development in Botswana. We now have, for the first time in the history of Botswana, youth leagues. That we have delivered.
The third objective, we now need to develop a robust coaching programme. We are still lacking, but the good thing is that we have a programme in place. We saw that we cannot implement the programme alone and we have solicited the help of FIFA.
We have engaged a German national to audit local football.
On the regulatory framework, we have looked at our play rules and regulations, constitution and code of conduct, which have been done and are in place, in line with CAF and FIFA reforms. Regarding the national teams, during my campaigns, I said there is no successful team without robust development. We now have youth leagues for both genders.
We also spoke about professionalising the league, and as the president I have provided resources, but progress has been slow. I have brought an expert from FIFA to work with the Premier League, but they have not taken advantage of that and I am yet to find out why. But they have to make a move in the next six months. We have managed to implement club licensing, which will assist in professionalising the league. We have managed to maintain and increase the level of sponsorships and are hopeful of announcing new partnerships by the end of the year.
Mmegi Sport: How far are you on the issue of creating legal framework for clubs to transit to professionalism?
Letshwiti: Clubs have to decide what type of model they want to pursue, in turning professional. That will guide us. Right now, others are trust or society, it’s outside of our control, but once you become a member, in line with club licensing, these issues will fall into place.
Mmegi Sport: There is a feeling that a 16-team league is too big in relation to resources?
Letshwiti: My view is that, yes, they are too many. We should promote quality as opposed to quantity, but the congress and the Premier League have to debate this issue. It’s a challenge to spread the resources.
Mmegi Sport: What is the status regarding partnerships, some which were lost?
Letshwiti: People had lost trust in the association, that’s why we lost partnerships like BanABC. You have to do a lot of convincing to win them back. Nowadays, a sponsorship is an investment, which must provide visible returns. It’s unlike in the past. It requires sophistication from the BFA and the sponsors themselves.
Mmegi Sport: At the moment, do you think you have sufficiently cleaned, in order to attract sponsors?
Letshwiti: We haven’t (cleaned enough), but we are getting there. As a businessman, I have history. My commitment and who I am should convince people. I have a track record.
Mmegi Sport: ... but has that been happening (new partners coming on board)?
Letshwiti: Yes, that has been happening. You are able to talk to business at the same level. You understand what business wants. But as I said, time for blaming is over, we have to deliver. If FIFA sees value in supporting our programmes, we can leverage that on the private sector.
The problem is that we don’t have the capacity to market and source sponsorships. We should be in a position to employ a marketing and communication manager to solely focus on sourcing sponsorships. Football has sold the biggest companies in the world, why can’t it do the same in Botswana. Simply because it was poorly run.
Mmegi Sport: Are you still going to stay for only one term (four years)?
Letshwiti: At the rate at which work is, it might be impossible, but if I have an improved secretariat and regional leadership, where I am not operational but supervise, I might consider. It’s not just football that needs me, business also needs me. At the rate at which I am involved, I might not stay.
Mmegi Sport: There is concern that there are ‘jobs for pals’ at BFA?
Letshwiti: It is a priority that you are in my camp, but I don’t just give you a job because I know you. You have to be capable.
Mmegi Sport: But was not the case with the previous CEO?
Letshwiti: I don’t think he did a bad job, he could still be here, but he left because of other commitments.
Mmegi Sport: What needs to be done regarding the high turnover of CEOs
Letshwiti: You need an astute individual. The CEO must have the capability to implement the strategy of the organisation.
Mmegi Sport: Do you think you have the right person in Mfolo Mfolo?
Letshwiti: It’s too early to judge, but he has the right credentials. He has a strong academic background, I don’t see the reason why he should fail. He must surround himself with the right people. He now has to appoint people who can deliver for him, that I can’t do for him.
Mmegi Sport: Do you think the political atmosphere at BFA is not conducive for technocrats to flourish?
Letshwiti: The game, politics, is over. BFA must just deliver. It’s delivery that will make these people to shut up. Everyone, including NEC members should deliver on the strategy. Performance will be the only politics. If you don’t perform, you go.
That’s my strong background; corporate governance. People have not been challenged to perform, they have been challenged to do the politics. The culture has been promoting inefficiency. People kept their jobs because of votes, but for me, they will keep their jobs due to performance.
Mmegi Sport: There is a feeling that you allow (football) politicians to interfere with internal processes at BFA?
Letshwiti: Some of the things happen without my knowledge. You must understand that the level of leadership at BFA is different from what I deal with in my companies. It’s a different environment. It’s the biggest mistake I ever made. For a long time, it has been the culture of not doing anything.
You have to teach people that there is separation of powers, between the board and the secretariat. Until they understand their roles, the interference will always be there. It depends on how strong the CEO is. In the past, they employed CEOs who were good for nothing but football. Now I have a different animal who will fight to preserve his own turf.
Mmegi Sport: How far are you with the appointment of the BPL CEO?
Letshwiti: I will be paying my attention to BPL. I have always said BFA should not be spending time on the BPL, it’s a finished product. Just like you, when you get married, you get out of your father’s house. I have told them to get a full-time CEO. I want to see them out of the stable within six months. Imagine you, your children and your father in the same house.
Mmegi Sport: You had said you wanted to extend the forensic audit to the BFA, but that has not happened?
Letshwiti: That will be a good thing, but a forensic audit is expensive. For years, they (BFA) have not produced proper set of accounts. A forensic audit will be an eye opener and will bring to the fore, things we don’t see. But as I said the blame game should be over, let’s move forward.
Mmegi Sport: But is (the forensic audit) not part of moving forward?
Letshwiti: It is, but you should appreciate that we got into an association which was bankrupt, and therefore we have financial constraints, I would have liked to do that.
Mmegi Sport: You said the BFA was P10 million in the red when you took over, what is the situation now?
Letshwiti: BFA does not generate income, and therefore it has stayed that way. What is important, is not to add to that, until we are able to generate our income. But there are measures in place to get income from elsewhere. But the fundamental issue is, how do you create a debt of P10 million.
Mmegi Sport: How much has this debt been a hindrance?
Letshwiti: It’s a big hindrance, we have to take money meant for other projects and try cover the deficit. It’s a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Mmegi Sport: What’s the state of women’s football?
Letshwiti: We had an arrangement, but they could not continue playing as there was no sponsorship. Women’s football is difficult, people do not think so. FIFA has established a women’s football wing. I am getting a resource person to restructure women’s football. I have to admit we haven’t done well. But we are going to do well and better.
Mmegi Sport: You promised to create 5,000 jobs during your campaign, are you still on track?
Letshwiti: To a degree, if you look at the youth development programme, we will have around 600 teams, each employing two coaches. Looking at those numbers you see that already we are on track. Last year, we spent around P5 million purchasing kits, and we bought local, meaning we created local jobs. We are developing the artificial field and at the end we will have two qualified artisans. It comes in all shapes (the job creation).
Mmegi Sport: Your last words?
Letshwiti: The media has a vital role in football development and they must accede to that role. They are not playing that role, they are playing the BFA politics, which is not developing sport. If you criticise constructively, no one will be offended, but the media is offensive.