Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama has called on local commercial banks to come forth and assist government with the financing of local sport associations and athletes.
Speaking at a breakfast meeting he hosted to present a case for the funding of National Sport Associations by potential sponsors on Thursday, the Minister pointed out that government spends P90 million annually on sport development, which he believes is not enough looking at the fact that there is high unemployment rate in the country and the youth are the ones mostly affected.
Four banks were represented; Bank Gaborone, Barclays Bank of Botswana, First Capital Bank and Standard Chartered Bank. Barclays, soon to change to Absa, recently signed a sponsorship agreement with the Botswana Football Association to sponsor the elite Premier League at the tune of P7.6 million, following the initial sponsor, Botswana Telecommunication Corporation’s reduction of the sponsorship value.
TK, as the Minister is affectionately known, is of the view that having finished 13th at the All Africa Games held in Morocco last month, the country performed well. However, he is skeptical with the caliber of preparation for big competitions such as the All Africa Games and the Olympics. “The standard of camping, accommodation, was ok; but it should not be ‘OK’ it should be good,” he said, emphasizing that it is not satisfactory. “I am not satisfied with the amount of effort we put in developing sport, my ministry can do better.”
Hence, he pleaded with the banking industry to come forth to assist on that aspect. “I plead with you as the banking industry to help us in any way you can, with any small amount you have to assist us improve the welfare of our youth.”
Locally, football is the one that enjoys the biggest share of cash injection from sponsors, as well as from the national sports body, the Botswana National Sports Commission. This phenomenon worries the Minister as he feels that though the sponsors are leaning more towards football, the results in regional and international competitions do not reflect that.
He advised that there are other areas that they need to focus on, such as those sporting codes that are doing well such as athletics, karate, boxing as well as the special needs people.
The banks welcomed this call for sponsorship. Corporate Director, Corporate and Investment Banking at Barclays Bank, Lesley Bradley highlighted that they are extremely passionate about developing sport. She justified the choice of football as having been informed by their ongoing transformation from Barclays to Absa, saying that it was advisable for them to sponsor football because they want to reach to the masses in this transition period. There is no doubt that football has the masses in comparison to other sport codes locally.
Bradley pointed out that while some people in the sports fraternity view their P7.6 million sponsorship as not being enough, the bank believes that it is just a part of the efforts to assist sports and other players are encouraged to come on board. “We remain committed to the course and there is more that we can do. I will take the message to my principals,” she said.
Having said government’s P90 million funding was not adequate, one of the banks’ representatives asked the Minister what the ministry was looking at as the adequate budget. “Think of a programme that works within your budget and if you need further discussions I will be more than happy to do that. We do not want to be subscriptive, anything will be helpful. It is all about what you have to help the athletes, anything you will give will be more than what we have,” TK pointed out.
All the banks indicated that they will see as to how they will assist going forward. Head of Wholesale Banking at Bank Gaborone, Khalala Mokefane advised that it would work better for the sport associations to provide them with full schedules of their events countrywide, for them to make informed decisions on where to inject funds.
Lack or inadequate funding of sports is a cause for concern in the country. Some sports codes end up suspending competitions, while some teams and athletes end up missing international competitions as a result of that. A good example is volleyball; they have not had league or cup competitions for the whole of this year because they are yet to find sponsors. Their one-year Mascom volleyball league sponsorship ended last year and they have not touched the ball ever since.