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Local sport escapes COVID-19 bullet

Struggling: There have been concerns over low attendances at soccer matches PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Local sport has been, like all industries, hit by the impact of COVID-19, but the blow has been somewhat softer.

This week, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare announced a P70million relief package meant to cushion arts and sports during the bleak period.

But has local sport been hard hit like other industries such as tourism and manufacturing? A cursory look indicates that the impact has been more on the physical activity rather than on the financial losses.

ootball will, as per the persisting norm, receive the largest share of the relief fund, after the minister disclosed that Premier League and First Division players are to receive P2,500 and P1,500 respectively.

Other codes will share the little that remains, while others have been left out as they are deemed undeserving of the relief share.

Physical activity has been partially re-opened, with non-contact sport like athletics and tennis allowed to resume.

It is where the majority of the local sportspersons can cry the loudest. Precious competition time has been lost due to the suspension of activities.

The local sport is mostly semi professional, with a few pursuing it as a full time career, due to lack of financial support and other structures.

While Premier League and First Division players have contracts, most clubs, even without COVID-19, were already struggling to pay salaries.

Clubs argue that they are losing out on revenue due to inactivity, but most do not generate much through gate takings.

Township Rollers and Extension Gunners can claim to be genuine crowd pullers, while paltry attendances marring most of the

Premier League.

Few clubs can therefore, claim to rely on gate takings, and as such COVID-19 has not entirely impacted their purse.

Most sponsors had already released monies before COVID-19 struck, and therefore there is no financial loss.

FIFA had released grants to football associations, and COVID-19 relief funds have been planned.

Some codes have operated for years without sponsorship, and even without COVID-19, the status quo would have prevailed.

Few codes pay allowances to their athletes except at national level.  Women’s football is crying foul after being left out of the relief fund. But other than on compassionate grounds, the code has never received sufficient financial support pre-COVID-19.

It would be interesting if the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) collates the financial losses of all the codes as a direct result of COVID-19.

Some clubs are reportedly on the brink of collapse due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But the struggles had persisted menacingly even way before the COVID-19 struck.

Football teams like Extension Gunners, Miscellaneous and Notwane lost points due to failure to pay players.

COVID-19 has had an impact, but it has been very minimal on sport, which remains semi professional or at amateur level.

Professional athletes such as Isaac Makwala and Nijel Amos can claim significant losses as absence of competitions impacts on them negatively.

In the long term, the impact could be severe, with sponsors’ bottom lines hit due to COVID-19.

Local sport has, therefore, not been one of COVID-19’s severely disfigured victims.





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