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Finally, football makes business sense

Rollers vs Al Merreikh
With a domestic league that can only reward a maximum P2.5 million in prize money, local football has never been a tantalising cash cow. Persistent efforts from Good Samaritans have helped paper over evident financial cracks, but football largely remains a basket case. However, Township Rollers’ progress in the CAF Champions League has proven there is light right ahead, writes MQONDISI DUBE

If a local team wins both domestic competitions on offer, just P2.5 million is on offer. This is usually the equivalent of most club’s season budget. Effectively the team breaks even by winning the two local competitions, the BTC Premiership and the Mascom Top 8.

However, since the inception of the Premier League in 2008, no team has managed to win a double. Effectively no local team has banked more than P1.7 million in prize money. Budget for most teams ranges between P2 million and P3 million, which effectively means the majority record deficits every season.

Revenue from the gates keeps plummeting, and other than Township Rollers, most clubs have not generated much from the turnstiles in the current season.

Money from ticket sales had plunged from P11.8 million during the 2009-2010 season to just P4.1 million two seasons ago.

Latest figures were not immediately available, but attendance has been poor, with Botswana Premier League (BPL) chief executive officer, Thabo ‘Styles’ Ntshinogang bemoaning the decline at the end of the season awards last June.

There is no club merchandise sales to talk about for the majority of the 16-team league, which means revenue streams are extremely constricted.

But amid a depressed environment, Rollers have struck rare gold after reaching the last 16 of the continent’s richest competition.

With it, Rollers are guaranteed P5.5 million, while they have already banked P1.3 million for winning the Mascom Top 8. A league title would bring a further P1.2 million, taking their earnings close to P8 million, which should be sufficient to ensure a surplus for the season.

This would probably be the first time in the history of local football that a club records a profit, as football has largely been handled as a pastime, rather than a commercial activity.

Efforts to privatise have often hit a damaging brick wall, with fans arguing their teams are registered as a society and therefore cannot be ‘whisked away’ and be privatised.

But the route that Rollers has taken,

particularly in building a solid team that has been able to break the shackles in Africa, is likely to encourage many clubs, who are acutely aware that there is little financial benefit if teams do not progress beyond domestic competitions.

Rollers’ financier, Jagdish Shah admits there are no financial benefits derived from backing local football.  “Not at all,” was Shah’s curt response.

Shah has pumped millions into Rollers, but might well see his investment pay dividends this season, after successive losses. However, other clubs will remain in the doldrums with only two domestic competitions to fight for, and a P385,000 per season grant from the Botswana Premier League (BPL).

There have been arguments from some quarters that there can be returns from local football, but evidence on the ground has suggested a mammoth task.

Mochudi Centre Chiefs general manager, Clifford Mogomotsi said it is difficult to run football as a business in Botswana.

“The figures talk for themselves. It depends on the model that you choose. If you want to run football like a social responsibility you can forget about it being a viable project. If you commercialise, it’s a very expensive exercise and cannot be dependent on one sponsor, there has to be associate partners,” Mogomotsi said.

He said the P385,000 which clubs receive as grants per season is usually gobbled up by salaries within two months.

Mogomotsi said Chiefs make between P20,000 and P50,000 from the gates after deductions and that is not enough to sustain the team.

“Gate takings have been dwindling. There are no other sources of income at the stadium like suites. In other competitive leagues, you can sell suites and season’s tickets, but here prices are pre-determined,” he said.

Rollers spokesperson, Bafana Pheto said gate takings and prize money from domestic competitions are not enough to run a club.

“People like Shah are doing it for the love of the game. At least if there were more competitions, maybe it could be better,” Pheto said.




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