Lessons from 2017–18 UEFA Champions League
Not much similarities can be drawn between the BTC Premiership decider and the UEFA Champions League final, which both took place last week in cities far apart and with the atmosphere and dynamics completely different.
Given, both were games played to decide the winner of the 2017-18 edition of the respective leagues. On home soil Township Rollers defeated Extension Gunners 2-0 to be crowned BTC Premiership champions for the third consecutive season. Quite an achievement by any standards!
Further afield the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League was the 63rd season of Europe's premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 26th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs' Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The final was played between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine. Real Madrid, the defending champions, beat Liverpool 3–1 to win a record-extending 13th title and their third title in a row.
Watching both games live, one could not help but observe glaring differences in the way the celebrations at the end of the games were managed. Soon after the referee blew the final whistle at the National Stadium in Gaborone, sending thousands of supporters into a frenzy of wild celebrations, officials of the league sponsor invaded the pitch to drape Township Rollers players in white T-shirts.
That effectively obliterated the Rollers jerseys, which are branded in their club sponsors' logos. Consequently, BTC stole the limelight with the T-shirts during crowning moments in the process denying Rollers title sponsors like Stanbic bank, Liberty Life and JB Sports an opportunity to enjoy the publicity during celebrations. Such moments are part of the reason why these sponsors spend so much on the teams. As it is, pictures from the crowning moment are currently splashed all over the world showing Township Rollers players clad in BTC branded T-shirts at the expense of their kit sponsors.
Such was not the case in the UEFA Champions League final as Real Madrid players lifted the trophy and celebrated in the jerseys bearing their club sponsors. It was clearly evident that a league or tournament sponsor knows his place, what s/he can or cannot do and how s/he relates to club sponsors. A league sponsor cannot behave like they are also club sponsors, hence despite being sponsors of the English Premiership Barclays did not drape Manchester City players with their branded kit when the team was crowned 2017-18 Champions recently.
This begs the question, are BTC League sponsors or club sponsors? Is BTC exploiting the drought of league sponsors in Botswana to encroach into areas reserved for club sponsors? Does the BTC/BFA contractual agreement recognise that individual clubs also enjoy the right to secure sponsorship deals independent of the league sponsor?
Football pundits opine that such incidents are a clear demonstration that local football still has a long way to go. Clubs will continue to fail to attract good sponsors because the BFA cannot protect them to guarantee return on their investment because when the glorious moments come the league sponsor behaves like they are the only ones who deserve recognition. Everybody else is relegated to the backbench despite their immense contribution. BFA should move fast to correct this anomaly for football to be attractive to potential sponsors with resources to support local football. It boggles the mind why such incidents still occur in local football even after numerous benchmarking exercises in more advanced leagues in Europe and elsewhere. Even without globetrotting, football administrators obviously watch developments in most if not all the best leagues in the world, thanks to digital television.