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Competition Authority breaks branding war impasse

The National Stadium branding deadlock has been resolved
The Competition Authority (CA) has resolved the branding deadlock between telecommunications giants, Mascom and Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) over the use of the National Stadium.

There has been an impasse over the use of the facility, forcing most of Botswana Premier League (BPL) clubs to opt for stadia outside Gaborone. Mascom bought space from Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC), who are the stadium custodians.

BTC on the other hand protested that their competitor was gaining free mileage during BTC sponsored league games.

However, early this year BPL chairperson, Jagdish Shah indicated that the issue had been resolved and the stadium would be available for Premiership matches this season. The National Stadium hosted the Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers match towards the end of the season. It has emerged that the CA played a key role in breaking the deadlock.

CA received a complaint from a whistle blower in February, alleging an unfair practice by Mascom and BNSC.

“It was further alleged that the exclusive agreement gives Mascom the right to display its advertisements on the billboards around the National Stadium at all times,” CA noted in a summary report of its investigation.

The practice was seen as unfair as it foreclosed other competitors from advertising and displaying their adverts at the stadium, particularly BTC, which sponsors the league. Such an arrangement, the whistleblower argued, deprived clubs of revenue, as they were forced to use facilities outside Gaborone. CA assessed the contract between Media Reach, which handles Mascom’s advertising at the stadium, and BNSC, and realised that “the latter has a duty to sell the other marketing rights of the National Stadium when all other advertising, be permanent or changeable are covered or uncovered.”

“The provision to sell marketing rights to promoters or sponsors when the present advertisements are covered have always been present,” CA noted.

However, an addendum was made to the agreement in April last year, where, in the event that the Mascom adverts are covered, there shall be compensation paid. CA said Media Reach had indicated that neither BNSC nor Mascom had any objection with BTC Premiership matches being played at the National Stadium.

“All that Mascom has requested for is that, if for any reason, its standing adverts are covered, so as not to be visible for a certain period of time, it needs a 15% reimbursement. This is because the agreement between Mascom and BNSC is to display the advertisement boards

for the whole month (24hours) and it is billed on that exposure,” the watchdog said.

CA said there was a clause in the contract between BFA and BTC, which entitled BTC to “sector exclusivity” ensuring that all advertising by sector players on match day are covered or not visible.

“This shows that BTCL would not allow Premier League games to be played at the National Stadium with Mascom advertisements visible, not the other way round.”  CA said during investigations, it became apparent that the BPL was responsible for preventing the teams from playing league matches at the National Stadium, and it was not an agreement between BNSC and Mascom.

Clubs blamed the agreement between BNSC and Mascom for their failure to use the stadium, and had to compromise the safety of their supporters by taking games outside Gaborone.

“As a result a significant number of supporters were not able to attend games and this is an opportunity cost for teams as they mainly rely on gate takings to run their teams as almost all the teams in the league did not have sponsors,” the CA said.  CA director communications and advocacy, Gideon Nkala said they are glad the matter has been resolved amicably.

“Premiership football has returned to the National Stadium and this has eased the financial burden on teams and supporters. Our hope as Competition Authority is that since the bigger issue has been dispensed with, the concerned parties would easily resolve the issue of who pays the fee for covering the standing advertising boards during Premiership matches at the National Stadium,” Nkala said.

“Unfortunately, this is matter for the BPL, the teams that use the National Stadium as a home ground, and the sponsor to resolve. It falls outside the remit of the Competition Authority.” Teams wanted the cost of covering the Mascom advertisements during BPL games, to be borne by the BNSC as it was already being paid for the use of the facility. BNSC and BPL were not prepared to bear the costs of covering the advertisements. BPL chief executive officer, Thabo Ntshinogang said the hosting club bears the costs.

“The hosting club bears the costs or if it is any other competition of the league, BPL has to bear the cost,” Ntshinogang said.




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