Yes! MTC has cut ties with the Namibia Premier League (NPL), which is an open secret. The writing has long been on the wall, but the latter has failed to smell the coffee.
Allow me to critically analyse the latest happenings pertaining to the just-ended romance between MTC and NPL. MTC has provided reasons why it deemed it fit to abbreviate the sponsorship deal. Many football pundits and football followers have their own reasoning and believe otherwise, but be that as it may.
Sports administration and management in Namibia in general is in the doldrums, with the exception of a few sporting disciplines – you do not want to talk about football the unifier of people from all walks of life.
Be it directly or indirectly, the general public has been sponsoring the NPL through MTC, who is the reputable telecommunications giant. Daily purchases through recharge vouchers ranging from N$2, N$5, N$10, etcetera, Aweh light, Aweh-Aweh, Super Aweh, gadgets, etcetera.
The same scenario could be used to underpin a similar channel pertaining to other corporates in Namibia, as to how they earn their millions, yet they are reluctant to come on board. I am not crucifying them but just attempting to paint a picture, while playing the Devil’s Advocate.
First and foremost, NPL as the owner and promoter of the product, football – must first understand the product, the nature of environment it operates in and what benefits can be derived from this product when it is maximally utilised.
Jumping on the bandwagon and just accepting any sponsor at the slightest provocation just because they are in dire need and desperate for sponsorship is not an ideal business model. This will be fatal and to their disadvantage. NPL ought to be proud of its product offerings, and must learn to negotiate sponsorships or sponsorship deals in their favour.
Engaging a sponsor is a reciprocal process but they must dictate the terms and conditions and it should not be other way around. We are thankful to MTC for having been the only responsible sponsor for the past years.
We are living in a fast-changing world and environment and should be able to constantly monitor the business environment we operate in while making the necessary adjustments to the changing business environment, even if it means to be proactive and renegotiate the terms and conditions to our competitive advantage.
This should be no different to NPL and here I am blaming the NPL hierarchy for the current chaos. They need to own up and say, “Yes, we have failed here, these are the lessons we learnt and going forward, this is what we are planning with a clear-cut strategic blueprint. Somebody somewhere, must be held accountable”.
Are we going to blame the holy spirit for not securing sponsorship, coupled with lack of accountability and transparency? It is about time NPL employs a strategic person (CEO/COO) to steer the ship. Let us get our house in order by recruiting competent people from a governance perspective.
Going forward, we should understand, as role players and stakeholders in football, where our responsibilities start and end, including administration at grassroots level, which is non-existent. We should learn to take responsibility, admit and account for our wrongdoings; after all, we are human beings and need to be progressive.
There has been the notion from different personalities that we do not need to point fingers at each other for the current state of affairs, with MTC disconnecting from NPL for an infinite period. This is where the issue of accountability takes centre stage and I solely blame NPL leadership for the obvious reasons.
Please hear me out, I am saying it loudly, the NPL leadership. I must point out that any leader or executive is inextricably linked to the organisation he or she is leading such that the success/failure of the organisation thereof will be linked to the institution as a juristic person and individual leading it.
MTC spelled out to NPL what needs to be done as the principal sponsor in trying to avert what they were foretelling and I understand the sponsorship issue from a business perspective. In order to understand the present, one has to be conversant with the old adage that the past has to inform the future.
What was the arrangement before MTC came on board? How was the issue of sponsorship handled? What precipitated the breakaway or fall of the previous arrangements that were in place? What were the reasons cited then?
Let us take the classic example of the Dr Hage Geingob Cup. We have a significant number of sponsors on board and it is working wonders, the principle is the same – sponsorship! Why can we not replicate that for the NPL sponsorship, where we could have more sponsors to ease the burden on MTC?
Perhaps, this was a blessing in disguise that MTC disconnected from NPL. Maybe it is time for NPL to do some self-introspection and try to understand the important role it plays in domestic football as a brand, how it can re-position itself and its product offering and how it can become appealing to potential sponsors. Television rights/broadcasting rights can do wonders. Let us explore that and many other options.
Figuratively speaking, the issue of branding on the chest by MTC was a non-starter from my perspective. This has been the case and NPL allowed it – I do not blame MTC on that score. It is a global trend that the branding on the chest must depict the logo of the individual team sponsors and not that of the league sponsor, period.
That should not be negotiable. This wrong must be corrected forthwith, and whichever sponsor comes on board should be enlightened accordingly by the league and it should be unconditional. Let the individual teams in the league approach whoever they deem fit for sponsorship and eventually for chest branding.
Clear distinction should be made between the sponsorship relationship that exist between the NPL and its principal sponsor(s) on other sponsorship issues and leave the respective teams to solicit their own sponsors and chest brand the name or logo of their own sponsors.
The other issue is that I have a serious problem with the league is the recent media article on the envisaged trimming of the league teams from 16 to 10 with the ostensible objective of making the league professional. Dear brethren, this is a big joke because even by downsizing the number of teams to 10, this exercise will not make us overnight professionals.
That move is tantamount to stealing/robbing Peter to pay Paul. What criteria do you intend to apply in justifying this move? Arguing that clubs that have not met the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and NPL requirements will be the first to be chopped does not hold water and is extremely vague.
What has the NPL and CAF done to assist clubs meet these requirements? Were there any workshops held to sensitise the clubs in earnest for these requirements. Give us the material proof that these efforts were made by NPL and CAF before even thinking about the chopping of clubs.
These decisions require consultations from all stakeholders at all levels. The idea of professionalising the league is good but let us do proper groundwork before we embark on such ideas.
What can be done to change the landscape of the Namibian football, especially the issue of sponsorship and to professionalise the league?
This is a tall order that requires concerted engagement from all the stakeholders, it is doable but is not an overnight thing.
A friend of mine telephoned me with an idea of approaching Social Security Commission with the hope of every worker contributing one dollar towards sponsoring the NPL. I totally agreed and said it was a brilliant idea, but it would require policy formulation and change via the august house, etcetra.
In the light of the foregoing, I propose that all stakeholders in football convene to advocate for policy change and formulation whereby corporate world would be required, law being passed obliging them to sponsor sports club within their respective regions or towns.
It might take time but it is worth advocating for such moves and I strongly believe it is doable, yes why not if not? We have many corporate companies of Namibian origin, foreign origin, etcetera, who are making millions of dollars but have no desire to plough back their money into the very same community that services their deep pockets – a total disregard for the triple bottom line effect.
Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine recently sponsored N$280 000 to Coastal giants, Blue Waters FC, and it speaks volumes. This is a step in the right direction and I sincerely hope it will not be a once off gesture and should be there for a longer period. This comes at the right time and provides a challenge to other Mining giants to follow suit in terms of football clubs sponsorship.
We have got Ohorongo Cement, B2Gold, Dundee, Tshudi, Epangelo, Rossing, Namdeb, De Beers Marine, Areva, etcetera. Obviously, they do not operate in isolation since they are based closer to certain towns or in towns and these towns also boast football clubs.
Imagine a massive difference in terms of changing the landscape of domestic football as we endeavour moving towards becoming a fully professionally managed and spotless run football leagues/clubs – ultimately turning our league into professional setup.
We are talking about sponsorship in significant value of money and not only playing gear and water bottles. The mining companies and other corporate need to align their social responsibly policies towards the need of the people and not what they opt to sponsor. We need a paradigm shift in this regard and a damn serious one for that matter.
For these reasons, I am advocating for policy formulation and change so we can have these companies sponsor football. However, in order to do that, all stakeholders, NFA, NPL, Sports Commission, club owners, supporters, sympathisers and everyone who have the interest of football at heart should be able to talk in unison the same language with the same objectives to take our football to next level. Lets us stop the usual backstabbing that are only destined to derail plans and ideas.
Equally, it is also about time we put in motion the good plans we serve if we are going to witness tangible results and no performances without action.
If we can have everything in order starting from the grassroots level in terms of sound football administration at club level, regional level and national set up I don cannot see any reason as to why the corporates would be hesitant to come on board for sponsorship.