Druk United FC backed out of BPL due to lack of sponsors

Thinley Namgay 

Finishing in the top five in the 2019 Bhutan Premier League (BPL) season, Druk United FC has booked a spot in the upcoming BPL. But the club had opted not to participate.

The club is without a sponsor to ensure its participation in the league. Druk United FC’s president, Indra Bahadur Rai said that without sponsors, his players have signed for other clubs. The main sponsor for the BPL, Bank of Bhutan (BoB) has agreed to increase the sponsorship from Nu 2 million (M) last year to Nu 3M, but it was cancelled recently.

Bhutan Football Federation’s (BFF) media and marketing officer, Phuntsho Wangdi, said that BoB cancelled the sponsorship due to the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic. “In case of a local transmission, the government might cancel the sporting events. BoB would sponsor from next season.”

BFF has to fulfill the mandates for different competitions to get financial support from FIFA.

“For the BPL, we have to complete 90 matches followed by youth and women’s league with 60 and 40 matches respectively,” Phuntsho Wangdi said.

Sports enthusiasts said that sponsorship towards sports is negligible.

Druk Stars FC’s proprietor and coach, Kota said financial constraints compromise quality training for the players. “Sponsors are more inclined towards archery. Some also sponsor religious items for the archery tournaments.”

Kota added that it was important to support sports including players with potential to perform at international level. “Football is,” Kota said.

Lack of sponsorship, meanwhile cuts through all sports federations and associations today.

The minimum budget outlay from the Bhutan Olympic Committee in the financial year made it difficult for federations and associations to meet all the expenditures for coaching and competitions, salaries for the staff, procurements, coach and referee development, meetings and affiliation fees.

Unlike other sports federations and associations, most of  the club owners of 13 registered football clubs under the BFF, had been sustaining the club with income generated through tourism-related business and prize money of the tournaments.

In an earlier interview, Thimphu City FC’s owner, Hishey Tshering said that more than football, they are worried about the footballers. Hishey Tshering is a tour operator and owns a hotel. “Due to my passion, I invest in football from the extra income I get.”

Despite the fewer sponsors, club owners let the players compete in the tournament through self-funding. Kota said that he had requested his friends in the past to support the players with cash or kind. “Only a few do.”

“Many players don’t get a chance to feature in the major clubs owing to less experience. My motive is to serve the country by letting those interested youth to engage in football,” Kota said.

The small population and smaller group of people interested in sports are seen as a hindrance in sponsoring sporting events.

Phuntsho Wangdi said that sponsorship depends on personal relation rather than professional.

“It is difficult to get sponsorship because we have different sports federations, associations, civil society organisations and entertainment centres among others that are looking for sponsorship which confuses the sources. Due to such a trend, most of the sources do not resume the sponsorship contract,” said Phuntsho Wangdi.

Despite the financial constraints, employment generation through sports remains promising.

Different sports federations and associations employed more than 1,000 people. Thirteen registered football clubs under the BFF employed 200 people consisting of players, coaches and other staff.