Fully vaccinated football fans could be allowed into stadiums when the new season kicks off in September, the Botswana Football League’s (BFL) chief executive officer (CEO), Solomon Ramochotlhwane has said.
Local football authorities would look to take a leaf from Euro2020 organisers, who allowed fully vaccinated fans to watch matches at the stadiums.
The local league is scheduled for a return, for the first time in 18 months, when the 2021-2022 season starts on September 11. But teams face the grim reality of playing before empty stands due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
However, there could be a reprieve as the BFL considers allowing fans who have received their vaccine doses into the stadium. Responding to a Mmegi Sport inquiry, Ramochotlhwane said they will engage with the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) as well as the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) on the issue.
“Our hope is to constantly engage MYSC and MOHW on the matter. This can also motivate people to get vaccinated in order to be allowed into the stadiums,” he said.
Income from gate takings would be crucial for local clubs, who have seen sponsorship deals hard to come by.
The BFL has its work cut out as it negotiates with potential title sponsors in an environment made difficult by COVID-19. There was no prize money at the end of last season as title sponsor, BTC, reduced its sponsorship amount and the deal has since elapsed.
Allowing vaccinated fans into stadiums will, in a small measure, cushion the clubs. It is a route most soccer authorities are taking although it has not been implemented particularly in Africa.
Organisers of the 2022 World Cup, to be played in Qatar, have already announced that only fully vaccinated fans will be allowed into stadiums. Cricket has also implemented a similar measure, with West Indies allowing only fully vaccinated fans during South Africa’s recent tour of the Caribbean.