Troubled Gilport’s matches postponed indefinitely

House of hunger: Gilport Lions off the field problems
House of hunger: Gilport Lions off the field problems

The Botswana Premier League (BPL) yesterday announced the postponement of Gilport Lions’ remaining two matches before the Christmas break, following an impasse between some disgruntled players and the management.

The two parties are at loggerheads over some outstanding payments, which prompted the concerned players to boycott the last league match against Jwaneng Galaxy.

The players refused to travel to Jwaneng, leaving only eight players available for that match. Gilport Lions then honoured the match with only eight players, but the match was later aborted after two other players suffered injuries, leaving only six players on the field. The players are said to be complaining about non-payment of their October and November salaries.

Following the impasse, the Footballers Union of Botswana (FUB) was involved and the meetings were expected to continue yesterday with a view to finding a solution.

The BPL, through a statement, acknowledged receiving a letter from the club informing the office about the deadlock. “This impasse has impacted negatively on the club’s ability to participate fully in its obligations to the league. As a result, we are informed that the players have decided to activate Article 16.1 of the Employment contract and mutually agree to terminate contracts,” the BPL said yesterday. The league also announced that they have been informed of the appointment between the concerned players and FUB yesterday.

“In the light of the above, a decision has been taken to postpone Gilport Lions remaining two matches to mitigate any damages which may impact on the Premier League and its structures,” the BPL said. With only eight players willing to continue with the club, the rest of the players have reportedly reached an agreement with the management to terminate their contracts due to the outstanding payments.

The club has already had its fair share of problems, which started at the time when some members of the old BMC football club claimed ownership of the team. The club was previously run under an umbrella of the Botswana Meat Commission, which included another former Premier League side, ECCO City Greens (now Francistown City Greens) and other sporting sides.

Following the company’s decision to ditch the two football clubs because of the financial situation, the company sold the club to the Ghodrati family who later handed it to the current management led by renowned football administrator, Kelesitse Gilika.

It was then that problems began for the club as some members led by former chairperson, Sonny Phiri challenged the decision by the parent company to hand the club to the Ghodrati family. The new management led by Gilika in the process lost sponsorship worth P6 million from Slim Holdings due to the continued wrangling over the ownership of the team.

Both Gilport Lions and Slim Holdings had entered into a P6 million deal last season, but the deal fell away following the boardroom wrangles between the club and some disgruntled members of the then BMC football club. During the launch of some sponsorship deals recently, club chairperson, Gilika, indicated that the sponsor had to pull out because of the issues surrounding the ownership and status of the club. He said the sponsor did not get the value for their money because of the issues.

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When the pandemic reached Botswana’s shores last year March, a nation united in the quest to defeat an invisible enemy. It is a moment never witnessed in recent memory, with the catastrophes of the world war and the 1918 Spanish influenza being the only other comparisons in living memory. Botswana, like the rest of the world, had to readjust its priorities and channel most, if not all, of its energies towards fighting COVID-19. It has not been...

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