Gaborone- The Botswana Football Associations (BFA) has revealed that it is weighing several options among them whether to complete domestic leagues or declare them null and void due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Botswana Football Association had originally directed that all football activities be suspended in a bid to be observant to the advice from the government and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Whilst giving an update on the status of the domestic leagues, BFA President Maclean Letshwiti said when the State of Emergency was declared the elite league (BTC Premiership) was already on week 20. He said both the first division North and South were left with four rounds to complete the season. This is not only perculier to the BFA but various other leagues in the region were also on their final stages of completion but were forced to suspend them in order to meet health regulations.
According to Letshwiti, there are options available but require strict guidance by health professionals on how the sport can resume.
“The BFA-NEC wishes to state that the intention is to play all the leagues and games to finality. This will be done when it is conducive to gather and play football as per the government guidelines. Should it be not viable to complete the leagues the season will be cancelled and declared null and void. This will also be guided by the health authorities’ advice. It will mean no winners and or relegation as per strict adherence to the BFA and FIFA rules,” he said.
The BFA President explained that another option would be to have the leagues paused at where they are at the moment and to have the log leaders declared as per current standings. He added that the same will apply to the relegation and this will all be done as a last resort after having exhausted all the options.
“Whilst all these options are being considered it must be noted that the BFA is not in a hurry to risk lives and or resume activity against the government’s advice. There is an option to use the COVID-19 challenge to change the football season from the current one to the February to November calendar. This will be in line with the current CAF season,” said Letshwiti.
He said this will also assist in implementing a long-standing resolution to change the season to a more suitable and medically recommended one. Medical experts have long advised that it is more convenient to play football during winter as compared to high extreme temperatures experienced during the months of November to January.
Touching on another annual football competition named the Orange FA Cup, Letshwiti said it was at its quarter-final stage when the league was suspended. Like in the League the main priority is to play to finality. He said that whether this will be possible this year, all will be determined by the advice of the health authorities.
“In the event that all this is not achieved, the local organizing committee will decide on the way forward,” said Letshwiti.
Meanwhile a press release from the association states that BFA like any other FIFA member association receives USD 1 000 000 for its annual operations. It says the money is disbursed in two instalments of USD 500 000 every January and the second disbursement comes in every July of the reporting year. These funds are issued on the 10 points agenda items set by FIFA that need to have been achieved. The same are audited according to that criteria. This creates a significant level of financial uncertainty for BFA in the short-term.
FIFA has promised to assist their 211 Member associations from what has been termed a FIFA relief fund. BFA as a member has been asked to submit its request on the COVID-19 relief and after consultation with its members, the BFA has duly complied and now awaits response from the mother body.
“As of the 8th of May 2020, the funds had not yet been received by the BFA; FIFA is still going through its governance approval processes. Once finalized member associations will be notified of the amounts disbursed, to mitigate the negative effects of COVID 19. The assistance according to FIFA will dispensed based on each country’s needs,” the BFA says.
According to the release, in an effort to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 on Member Associations. The second disbursement afore mentioned has been moved from July to May 2020.
“This was done to obviously help the association to continue operating during this tough period and to avoid football structures from collapsing. Once the relief funds are available the BFA-NEC will advise on its usage and distribution. The framework and guidelines are being developed with input from BFA structures,” the association says.
It says the Botswana Football Association has advanced all the BPL Teams an amount of P40,000 per team against what will be availed from their League grants. The BFA structures and regions have also submitted their requests to BFA and will be assisted as soon as possible.
The government of Botswana through the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) communicated to its members association to assist them financially on the effects of COVID-19.
“Government is yet to finalize the assistance. All this will be done in a transparent manner with independent auditors and government authorities overseeing the process,” the release says.