How Basutoland Ink, LEFA deal soured

How Basutoland Ink, LEFA deal soured

MASERU – It is just over seven years since Basutoland Ink debuted as the main kit sponsor of Lesotho’s national team, Likuena.
The date was August 11, 2011 and the move was heralded as a momentous moment as a local apparel company, for the first time, took sponsorship of the country’s flagship side.
The contract was also a boon for Basutoland Ink as it gave the company its most high-profile deal since its launch in 2006.

It wasn’t just Likuena that was supplied, Basutoland Ink provided new attire to all of the Lesotho Football Association’s (LEFA) national teams in a five-year deal.
Apart from supplying kits, Basutoland Ink also sweetened the deal by promising M5 million in cash to whichever national side that qualified for a FIFA or CAF tournament.
The kit – a white home strip and a green away jersey – was paraded by Lesotho around the continent and its unique style was a welcome departure from the bland kits Lesotho had worn previously.

Likuena even enjoyed success in the kit.
In August 2014, Lesotho reached its highest-ever FIFA ranking of 105 and the side competed in 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Ghana, Zambia and Sudan claiming a memorable away win in Sudan along the way.

Likuena also reached the semi-finals of the 2013 COSAFA Cup in Zambia, going unbeaten from the group stages through to the final four.
Last year, however, the Basutoland Ink-LEFA marriage ended without a word and Likuena debuted a generic Adidas strip at the 2017 COSAFA Cup in South Africa.
Theories swirled on the fate of the deal and, in an interview with thepost, Basutoland Ink director, Bokang Kheekhe, clarified the company offered LEFA a new contract last May before the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers started.

However, according to Kheekhe, Basutoland Ink was given the silent treatment by LEFA and is yet to receive any word from the association saying it has decided to take its business elsewhere.
“The contract ended (in 2016) but we had the first option to renew and we showed interest to continue with the contract; it was an entitlement as per the contract that if (Basutoland Ink) still wants to continue as sponsors we can,” Kheekhe says.

“We gave (LEFA) a proposal which was modified given our experiences with them over the five years and they never replied, they never wrote back to us to tell us ‘No, we are not continuing with you and that was it’. They went to Adidas to go buy from Adidas and apparently they are expensive.”
LEFA declined to comment for this article but several reports say Likuena’s Adidas kit was purchased for M1 million. Details on the senior side’s kit, in general, remain vague.
Kheekhe said Basutoland Ink’s partnership with Lesotho’s national teams from 2011 until the end of 2016 had no financial rewards for the company.

Basutoland Ink, he said, supplied kit to LEFA for its national teams and offered the association a provision to purchase jerseys to sell as merchandise for profit.
“It was not a financial sponsorship, we were technical sponsors,” Kheekhe explained.
“This was the first project of its kind in the country and LEFA had no sponsor before that. We gave them a proposal that we will sponsor (LEFA) with everything that is needed on the field and off field and above that we were making replicas to be sold to the fans.”

LEFA’s dumping of Basutoland Ink has not gone down well with sections of the public. Two weeks ago, an online petition was launched by a group of Basotho enthusiasts demanding LEFA return business to the local clothing company.
The petition has been signed by over 600 people so far and is looking to get 1 000 signatures.
It is unclear what will happen when the petition reaches its target but Kheekhe distanced Basutoland Ink from the campaign.
“I have nothing to do with the petition; Basutoland Ink has got nothing to do with it,” he said.
“I think what happened is after LEFA started wearing Adidas people kept asking what is going on and they were surprised to see (Likuena) in an Adidas jersey. As a person you would love to explain to people when they ask, but LEFA chose not to work with us even though they did not say anything to us,” Kheekhe said.
“(LEFA) decided they will go buy elsewhere which personally I don’t have a problem with. Speaking as a director of Basutoland Ink, I think I don’t have a problem with that decision because we gave them a proposal that we knew we were comfortable with.

“The petition, I think, is people feeling we are being hard-done by or that why now when LEFA has money they go buy Adidas or Lotto yet they never bought anything from Basutoland Ink that has been there with them for the past five years. I think that is where it is coming from.”
Kheekhe, nonetheless, said he shares the gripe of petitioners who contend Basotho businesses sponsoring sports should also be supported. He added LEFA missed a trick because Basutoland Ink’s sponsorship deal was beneficial to the association.

“It is painful from a business point of view because clubs are struggling, even LEFA is struggling,” Kheekhe said.
“I think if they are genuine, they know, in terms of their growth, that our proposal was going to help them to avoid these things of sometimes not being able to pay the players their per-diems,” he added.

“We proposed to say ‘we are going to sell you this number of replicas, the profit you are going to make from selling these replicas is yours so that they can pay these players that are on national duty’. But now they are going to buy and I doubt there are going to be replicas to be sold.”
Kheekhe also accused LEFA of abusing its five-year association with Basutoland Ink.

“We had started something that is sort of a business for (LEFA) because replicas are sold for profit,” Kheekhe said.
“We said ‘here is what you can sell’, and the kit already had a following because you could see people wearing that replica and it means we were going somewhere.”
“The saddest thing is that when we were working with LEFA there were people who were faking these replicas, I am sure you have seen a fake Likuena kit made by people on the streets. Now LEFA is working with those people, the same people that were ruining our business LEFA is working with them and they are actually buying from them,” he said.
Basutoland Ink, however, will continue to supply kits for clubs.

“We are a business, we have interests in the sporting sector,” Kheekhe said.
“We work with different teams. We worked with Liphakoe, they bought stuff from us. We worked with Lioli. Right now we are working with Galaxy, we have also worked with Linare before,” he said.

“It is part of our work, we don’t only work with the national team, we work with every Mosotho or organisation that will help to see the mandate of Basutoland Ink continues.”
Kheekhe said talks are progressing with Econet Premier League giants Matlama over a potential partnership.
“We will continue to work with different clubs and not only in football. Right now we are talking with one volleyball club and hopefully basketball too,” he said.
“There are other teams in the premier league and we are still hunting for more. Hopefully Matlama is coming on board, we are still talking but it looks promising.”

Luciah Phahla

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