Econet plots ‘football revolution’ in Lesotho

Econet plots ‘football revolution’ in Lesotho

Maseru-Econet Telecom Lesotho, the sponsors of Lesotho’s top-flight, are looking to bring further sweeping changes to the local game. Econet outlined their ambitious plans – which include improved administration and marketing – at an impromptu indaba held at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena last Friday that came almost eight months to the day since the company became sponsors of the country’s elite league. It was in August 2017 when Econet stunningly took over as Premier League sponsors replacing their telecommunications rival Vodacom Lesotho with a game-changing three-year agreement worth M6 million – the biggest sponsorship deal in Lesotho sports history.

As part of the pact, Econet will shell out M2 million in each of the 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns and each season the league winners will take home M500 000 in prize money – double the previous jackpot. Other fresh features in the deal include monthly awards for players, coaches and match officials as part of what Econet called its intention to lay a good foundation for the growth of football by the end of its sponsorship. With the deal seven months in, the company has been able to take stock of its early returns and while the sponsorship has indeed energised the Premier League, things haven’t all been smooth sailing.

From delays in awarding the new monthly league awards to sporadic confusion over venues for games, there have been worrying glitches and the recent scandal involving Bantu using illegally registered players also hasn’t helped matters, especially given ‘A Matšo Matebele’ president Leuta Leuta is also chairman of the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC). These instances have given Econet sleepless nights and several company insiders involved with the Premier League sponsorship advised the project re-strategize in order to yield better operational systems. The discussions brought about last Friday’s meeting with the media in which Econet said it will look to have defined plans to usher in its promised growth of Lesotho football in line with the stipulated Premier League club licensing requirements for all teams.

Friday’s indaba was overseen by Econet’s Solly Mofoka who is the company’s spokesman on Premier League matters. Top of the list of the challenges he mentioned was a lack of finances for football clubs to run their daily affairs and a lack of proper administration in the game at all levels. Mofoka cited a need to create and develop strong brands within local football.

Breakdown of Econet’s yearly sponsorship of Premier League:

1. M1 445 000 to be awarded to clubs depending on their league position at the end of the season.

Winners: M500 000
2nd: M200 000
3rd: M120 000
4th: M100 000
5th: M75 000
6th: M70 000
7th: M65 000
8th: M60 000
9th: M55 000
10th: M50 000
11th: M45 000
12th: M40 000
13th: M35 000
14th: M30 000

2. M255 000 allocated for match officials. Money set aside to pay referees and assistant referees.

3. M200 000 to administration personnel who will look after the daily running of the league.

4. M100 000 for awards, monthly and end of the season awards.

Mofoka referenced a dire need for clubs to create “progressive sponsorship packages” in order to attract more sponsors and a necessity to better market the premier league. Econet has also been alarmed by the absence of properly kept club databases of supporters and followers a tool which would also help the company realise the return on investment it needs to see in three years’ time for its partnership with the Premier League to continue.

Despite the hurdles, however, Mofoka expressed confidence that with understanding the game’s different stakeholders would overcome all challenges and make football in Lesotho better. “We have a responsibility and debt that we owe to ourselves to make it happen for the greater good of Lesotho and our people,” Mofoka said.

“We”, he explained, includes “administrators, leaders, the supporters and the fans, the teams, the media, business community, government and everyone else within the community.”

He said the challenges need a collective response in terms of resources, administration, leadership, professional skills experience. So how is Econet going to ensure its sponsorship project yields the best possible results for Premier League clubs? Mofoka said Econet is going to mobilise for a collective support and team effort from all stakeholders to make the dream of football growth and development a reality. This process may include tweaks to the administration and structure of the league.

“We will also help football clubs to generate on-going income towards their administration needs through Econet products and services,” Mofoka said.

“We will also work towards grassroots development to ensure sustainability and perpetual growth by appealing to big teams like Matlama, for example, to adopt nearby primary schools teams to teach students the basics,” he said.

“We will help football clubs to collect, manage and grow an electronic database of their supporters and followers,” Mofoka added.

“We will also help them to communicate much more easily and effectively (and) then develop a communication mix that will give the (Econet Premier League) better exposure throughout the country and also outside of Lesotho. It must allow for two-way communication between the Econet Premier League and the greater football community in Lesotho,” he said.

These changes should be in effect by the start of the 2018/19 season. Part of Econet’s vision for next season is to develop road shows that will take the excitement of Premier League football to the people in all the ten districts of the country. Road shows are popular across the border in South Africa where big clubs such as Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates host events around the country before their respective games in an effort to attract and urge supporters to attend matches.

“We will work with Lesotho Football Association to organise and host a nationwide football dialogue (in order) to hear what the people have to say in terms of what they think can be done to bring about the very growth and development that we all desire in the game,” Mofoka said.

“Lastly, we will develop efficient operational systems that will underpin the sponsorship’s administration, awards, marketing and business development activities.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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