Following Black Africa’s announcement that it will terminate all the players and technical staff’s employment contracts, which caused quite a stir within the local football fraternity, the club’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ranga Haikali (RH) this week sat with New Era Sport’s Otniel Hembapu (OH) to unpack what remains a scary development in the eyes of many.
OH: What prompted the bold decision to terminate contracts of players and technical staff of the club?
RH: Look, first and foremost, when I took over Black Africa Sport Club back in 2008 I immediately registered the club as a Proprietary Limited Company, commonly referred to as ‘Pty Ltd’ in business structures. This simply means Black Africa was now registered as a company, know as Black Africa Sport Club (Pty) Ltd and with such structures comes a fully-fledged Board of Directors and certain financial expectations and obligations. Now to answer your question, obviously in a business context, I would say yes, terminating the employment contracts of the players and technical staff was the best possible decision we had to make and within the best interest of both parties. That is why we said that after we terminate everyone’s contracts, we will then renegotiate with each and every player and member of the technical staff and mutually reach certain agreements so that nobody lose their jobs.
What we must all understand is that Black Africa is not just a sport club but a company with certain short and long-term success targets, so considering the club’s current financial difficulties that started affecting the club’s operations in various departments, this was the best decision to be taken.
OH: How was the overall reaction from the players and technical staff members when news of terminations broke?
RH: When we communicated the decision to the club’s entire staff, we were all in agreement and equally agreed that it was the best decision for the club at the moment. But even if they didn’t show their unhappiness right there that time, I’m sure there will obviously be a few different opinions but to us it is not about individualism but about the club.
Another aspect that we must also take into consideration is that Black Africa haven’t won the league title and NFA Cup for the past two seasons and that also obviously affected the club’s income streams negatively. The issue is not just about the players’ contracts but about the club’s financial well-being as well. For a club of Black Africa’s magnitude not to win the league for two consecutive seasons will definitely put you in a tight position and thus what became evident in the last few months was that the operational costs of the club escalated to unsustainable levels, where the income decreased significantly since we had won nothing for two seasons and that also meant no extra income for the club.
Like I earlier indicated, Black Africa is a (Pty) Ltd, meaning it’s a company, and I therefore had many other options such as declaring the club/business insolvent and to shut down all operations which would have been beneficial for me in saving my company from unwanted legal battles or implications with players, and that would have also meant players losing their jobs, but I chose not to go that route – thus we said we will terminate all employment contracts, restructure the club and then renegotiate with all the club’s personnel.
OH: Why was the club unable to win the league in the last two seasons? Did the departure of coach Brian Isaacs, who steered to the club to four historic league titles, have anything to do with it?
RH: I would say it was a combination of factors. Firstly, it was huge pressure from the side of the supporters who were overly demanding for results at every intersection, despite the fact that the club was doing fairly well under trying circumstances. Secondly, I would say it was also the players – some just permanently lost form and some key players suffered big injuries that sidelined them for extended periods, while others joined clubs outside the country. But I also have to be quite honest and admit that losing a veteran coach such as Brian Isaacs, who has a lot of experience and equally understood the club’s culture, also had a huge negative impact on the team’s performance. So in a nutshell, I would say it was a combination of all those factors.
OH: As far as the club’s growth and sustainability are concerned, besides the FNB sponsorship, what are Black Africa’s other revenue streams?
RH: Besides the FNB sponsorship that has carried us through over the years, which we highly appreciate as a club, Black Africa does not really have fixed or big revenue streams besides a few good partners that came on board to assist the club in various capacities. Some of the sponsors or partners that assist Black Africa are companies such as Morgen Cargo, PC Centre and other companies. But this is not like your usual sourced sponsors as most of these companies that I mentioned, it’s either I own them or I’m a shareholder, so they additionally came on board to assist in their own little ways but it was really not substantial sponsorship.
OH: From where you stand as a club owner and a football administrator in your own right, what is your general take on the funding of football in Namibia? What is to be done?
RH: We just have to get the basics right first. Namibians are always surprised to hear that A and B clubs haven’t paid their players but how do you expect clubs to function fully when the country’s football does not even have a FA Cup and other cup competitions such as the Standard Bank Super Cup that we also had a few years back. In Namibian football, without cup competitions such as the Bidvest Namibia Cup and the Standard Bank Super, there is no way club football can survive solely on monthly grants from the league. Thus, let’s first start there, let’s get these competitions back on board which will then help bring a new lease of life in Namibian football. If the league and NFA can play their part to that extent, I’m confident the clubs will go the extra mile in doing the rest.
OH: Still on the issue of funding, what would you say has been your overall investment in Black Africa Sport Club to date since taking over in 2008?
RH: If I have to include last season, I have invested over N$8 million in Black Africa. To be honest with you, when I took over Black Africa it was never really about me making a profit but my aim was to turn the club into a sustainable football brand that will subsequently lead the way in transforming Namibian football. And I’m confident to say we partly achieved a few of our targets as the club owns a few assets such as busses and a few other vehicles which help in the day-to-day running of the club, among other things.
OH: Considering the club’s current financial position and the persisting economical slowdown that has had a tight grip on Namibian football in general, are we still likely to see your involvement in football going forward?
RH: For as long as I can, I will be with Black Africa and assist Namibian football in whatever capacity I can. Like I said, I really have so much passion for Namibian football and provided that there is sufficient sponsorship to at least make our league semi-professional, then I will stick around for as long as I can make a contribution through whatever way.
OH: Finally, do you have any regrets investing in Black Africa?
RH: No, not at all! [laughs]