Confusion over elite athletes' relief fund

Professional athlete: Makwala falls under elite athletes PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Professional athlete: Makwala falls under elite athletes PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE

There is confusion over whether professional athletes can benefit from more than one (coronavirus disease 2019) COVID-19 government relief scheme.

Elite athletes qualify for assistance under the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC), Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) and World Athletics (WA) relief funds.

However, a clause in the MYSC relief programme indicates that a person cannot benefit more than once from a government scheme.

The BNOC and MYSC programmes fall under government assistance.

But authorities appear unclear if elite athletes are disqualified from receiving relief aid more than once.

BNOC chief executive officer, Tuelo Serufho said once the athletes benefit through the WA fund, it would mean they might not qualify for money from the government.

“It also means they will cease receiving monthly camping allowances. But that will be determined by the amount received from WA,” Serufho said.

MYSC permanent secretary, Kago Ramokate said some elite athletes under the International Olympic Committee (IOC) scholarships were already on a financial support programme under the BNOC, which is funded by his ministry.

“BNOC/BAA are best placed to talk to the various categories of athletes. Our financial support remains available to qualifying athletes,” Ramokate said.

Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) vice president-administration, Oabona Theetso said they would be going against the guidelines if they do not submit names of professional athletes for consideration.

“If we remove them, we would be breaching the guidelines of the Relief Fund. They state that the fund is for professional athletes so we could not replace them with amateurs. We do not want to be accused of denying the rightful candidates their benefits,” Theetso said.

He added that if the elite athletes were to benefit many times, it should be allowed. “If luck dictates, so be it. We are not in control of these programmes,” he added.

He said they had submitted names for local support consideration, as well as to the WA.

BAA north/central coordinator, Mpho Bagwasi said all clubs in his region have submitted the names of athletes as per BAA request. The deadline for the submission of the names was yesterday (Thursday).

“Names have been submitted but we are not sure if our athletes would qualify because the majority of them are not professionals, they are tertiary students. The problem is that we did not get clarity as to who really is a professional athlete,” he said.

Southern coordinator, Doctor Mandawu also said they had submitted names for consideration.

Meanwhile, WA has opened registration to its COVID-19 relief fund, to help athletes who struggling due to the suspension of activity during the pandemic.

“In association with the International Athletics Foundation (IAF), World Athletics announced a $500,000 (approx. P6 million) welfare fund at the end of April, allowing athletes to apply for one-off grants. It will help to support professional athletes for their loss of income through international competition and sponsors,” reads the statement.

Theetso said WA would award the money based on how many elite athletes an association has and it was difficult to say how much the BAA would receive.

“I do not have the exact figure that they would give us. Other than that we are also waiting for our annual grant from them. WA has not responded to our request at the moment,” he said.

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