Let the club handle the issue of officiating

Gor Mahia have raised the red flag with regard to poor officiating in the Kenya premier league. Club official Ronald Ngala says there is too much poor officiating and nothing is being done about it.

“This issue of poor officiating is becoming too much now and it is being caused by unqualified referees. Every time we complain no one lends an ear to our complains,” Ngala told goal.com on Monday.

Ngala also took issue with the fact that four out of seven of the club’s matches have been officiated by one referee.

“We also take issue with the fact that in our seven matches, four of them have been handled by one referee. This clearly shows that there is a big problem.”

An FKF official confirmed that they have indeed received complaints from several clubs.

We have received a letter from Tusker and understand that several clubs are not happy with officiating in Kenyan Premier League.

“One thing is for sure; all referees in KPL are not qualified because they are either retired or those who have not undergone PET test. We will have to look at the issue if we get more clubs complaining to us.”

The official further went on to say that another test will not be conducted until June.

The League’s reputation is at stake

According to the Daily Nation,none of the 16 centre referees, 24 assistant referees and 16 match commissioners drafted to officiate in this season’s league matches are accredited by Fifa.

In contrast, Kenyan referees who are sanctioned by Fifa continue presiding over matches in the Football Kenya Federation Premier League.

The head of FKF’s Technical Committee, Elly Mukolwe, on Monday confirmed that none of the match officials under the KPL roster has undergone the mandatory tests required of top flight league referees, which is a violation of the Fifa statutes.

“They know the truth. I can say without fear that many of those referees have been brought back from retirement. Some failed even the local Member Association fitness test,” he said.

Both Gor Mahia and Sofapaka had reason to be disgruntled.

Poor officiating is a stain on the league’s reputation. If the league is perceived as poorly officiated, the resultant public relations stain can affect public interest, sponsorships and attendance. But even more importantly, the league aficionados should understand that football is an emotional sport and poor officiating can lead to crowd trouble. And this is not unique to Kenya.

And the club officials are best placed to handle this issue. Ambrose Rachier is after all the current KPL chairman. Officials of all clubs have a direct say in how KPL is run and can petition FKF for better referees.

But the club’s reputation is also at stake

It appears that many fans have still not learned from the travails that the club has gone through over the past year. Club officials have gone from one corporate to another seeking sponsorship to no avail. One of the key reasons the club cannot garner sponsorship is precisely due to crowd trouble both inside and outside the stadium.

What is worse is that this time, the people who tossed foreign objects into the field were fans in the main stand and not fans in Russia. You would typically not expect this kind of behaviour from fans who sit at the main stand. These are the fans who should understand the club’s precarious situation.

There are literally hundreds or thousands of the club’s enemies who cannot wait for slightest sign of crowd trouble to flock to social media to besmirch the club. Some of this politically and/or tribally motivated. These kind of people were actually disappointed when the recent mashemeji derby came and went without incident.

The fact that Mathare United recently penned a ksh 75 million sponsorship deal despite not having a fan base and despite not having the history or pedigree of Gor Mahia should have made it obvious to fans now. Mathare got the sponsorship with very little effort because they have an excellent reputation. Media reports suggest that it was Britam who came seeking a partner. Under normal circumstances, companies would be lining up to sponsor Gor Mahia.

Aside from sponsorship, the club could face the real prospect of being punished by losing point or having to play in an empty stadium, something that the club cannot currently afford. There is also the possibility of sanctions from CAF or FIFA.

It is understandable that fans would be unhappy with poor refereeing. Football is after all a sport that can engender all kinds of emotions. But given the club’s current situation, fans ought to know better.


If transparency is difficult, why not outsource it?

The courtroom battles between FKF and KPL have taken a brief reprieve at least for now. This means teams can now get back to the business of playing and addressing other important issues. For Gor Mahia, this means they need to figure out who to meet their payroll.

Avoiding Financial Instability

Before the Bandari match, there were reports of a go-slow by some players with other reports suggesting that some players were ready to break their contract due to unpaid salaries. Happily for Gor Mahia fans, the club chairman has miraculously found a way to pay salary arrears. In fact Chairman Rachier deserves praise for keeping the club afloat for an entire year in which Gor Mahia has not had a sponsor. Vice Chairman David Kilo recently indicated that there are times when Rachier has to dig into his own pocket to bail out the club. Whereas this is commendable, the club must start finding ways to attain measure of financial stability. You never now the next time players will go on strike again. It could be at a critical point of the season.

Officials find it difficult to be transparent

Last year the club engaged in a number of initiatives to try and finance the team. These include the 350100 initiative, the membership drive and the much vaunted fund raiser. All these failed to meet their objectives due to a number of reasons. Chief among these is the perceived lack of transparency. When some fans think of contributing to the club they hesitate. After all we live in a country of impunity and corruption

I have had discussions with various sports officials about this subject and some say that the time and effort needed to put in place the structures required for transparency are too effort and time intensive. Last year Gor Mahia took some tentative steps towards transparency and accountability:  But those efforts have since been abandoned. Perhaps the treasurer ran out of time.

Partner with an external Company

Since providing any transparency is too difficult, the club should partner with an external company. Just like last year, Gor Mahia announced a partnership with Diamond Trust for ticketing, why not create a similar partnership with an auditing company like Price Waterhouse or even with Diamond Trust.

This company would be responsible for soliciting funds from fans on behalf of the club. The company would take charge of initiatives like the membership drive which flopped and is now in limbo.

The auditing company would also reach out to Gor Mahia fans who are based in the diaspora, many of whom have been looking for a way to contribute to the club. Note that Moneygram has recently partnered with Safaricom to make it easy for diaspora based Kenyans to send money to M-Pesa accounts.

A major fault of the clubs recent fund raising activities is that it is limited in scope. For example, when the club conducted a fund raiser last year, contributors were limited only to those who could attend the fundraiser event at Shauri Moyo hall. It comes as no surprise therefore that the fundraiser failed.

Performance based payments

The company chosen would keep an agreed upon percentage of the proceeds as pay. Because their pay is based on how much they collect, the company will be motivated to raise funds.  Fans are more likely to trust an external company like Diamond Trust. But the company can generate even more confidence by creating a website that details how much money has been collected on a month by month basis.

Aside from engaging in a transparent effort, the auditing company would be responsible for creating a sustained effort by constantly reaching out to fans and encouraging them to renew their membership. The ability to sustain an initiative is something that our current club officials are unable to do. They typically start an initiative then it fizzles out. You cannot blame them however as they have full time jobs to attend to.

Evidence suggests that by engaging in this level of a sustained effort with transparency, the club can attain 30,000 paying members within 2 or 3 years. if you have 30,000 fans paying Ksh 100 per month, the club can raise Ksh 3 million each month which is Ksh 36 million a year. This is an amount far higher than what the club was getting from Tuzo. In fact it is twice as high.

The club can also create various levels of membership. For example gold membership with increased benefits can be Ksh 500 per month while platinum members. Lets say for arguments sake that 1000 of the members are gold members and 500 are platinum members, then the club can raise Ksh 4 million each month.

Fans have to be the sponsors.

The rumours that the club was going to get a a sponsorship deal with Molo milk are unlikely to pan out anytime soon. Fans who have been going on social media claiming that the deal is imminent pending a few details are doing the club a  disservice. If fans actually think a sponsorship deal is imminent, they are less likely to contribute. And since sponsorship is difficult to come by, it is the fans who are going to have to sponsor the team.

This is the Barcelona model.

Before fans dismiss membership as an archaic way of funding a club, they should know that this method is commonly used by European teams, most notably Barcelona. A glance at their history page suggests that by 1924, Barcelona already had over 12,000 members. By 1970 they had over 65,000 members and todaay they have over 105,000 members paying an annual subscription of €177 per year. No wonder Barcelona did not have a short sponsorship until recently. They never needed it. In Africa, teams like Zamalek and Al Ahly have the highest subscriber bases

Which off the field reforms would fans like to see in 2012

The transfer season of 2012 has been one of the most interesting in recent memory. Gor Mahia has been a beehive of activity culminating in the arrival  and departure of players and futile pursuance of other players .

Club chairman Ambrose Rachier recently announced that 2012 will be a year of reforms aimed at professionalizing the club. Such reforms are aimed at making this club a continental giant like it once was. So the question becomes: What off the field reforms would fans most like to see ?

One area where the club seems to be lagging behind is in the area of merchandizing. To begin with the only item that seems to be readily available for sale is the club matchday jersey. However sales of the club jersey appear to have plummeted because of fans perception that the club is getting a raw deal. The club gets only 10% of the revenue for each jersey sold. The rest goes to Legea. Its a weird scenario where Legea, an Italian sports equipment manufacturer benefits from both having its name and symbol advertized on the club jersey but also takes off with 90% of the revenue. It should be obvious to all that if this deal were to be restructured, jersey sales would skyrocket, benefiting both Gor Mahia , Legea and also Tuzo , all of whom will gain a lot more mileage as more people wear this jersey around town. Restructuring this deal should be a no-brainer.

Further to that , the club should seriously pursue merchandizing other items. Fans will be buy anything associated with the club. How about a calendar with pictures of past legends and present players. Scarves, jackets that are customized with the supporters name or nickname, umbrellas, soccer balls signed by players DVDs. Sometime in the early nineties, the club started to sell bic ball point pens emblazoned with the text “I support Gor Mahia FC”. They were supposed to sell for 10sh each but some cheeky vendors at Nyayo stadium were selling them for Ksh 20 and pocketing the extra 10 bob. This is the kind of fraud that the club should pay attention to.

Another area that is worth reform is the area of accountability. There have been suspicions amongst many fans that sometimes the announced gate collections do not reflect the attendance. The club should do something to assuage this concern.

Secondly, the club should step up its membership recruitment. The best way to kick start this is to get the club’s accounts audited by a reputable accounting firm. When the club is accountable, open and transparent, people will be assured that the money they contribute to the club is not being misappropriated or embezzled and there will be more people who are willing to become paying subscribers.  The club can set up a system of membership with silver, gold and platinum membership. Platinum members can be those who pay membership dues of above Ksh 10,000 per year. Gold members pay ksh 5000 and silver members pay ksh 1000 per year and so forth. There are also hundreds of Kogalo fans in the diaspora living in North America, Europe, Australia etc. The club should enhance transparency to entice these fans to contribute to the club and also provide a mechanism for them to send their contributions. The vehicle below belongs to a die hard Kogalo fan currently residing in the frozen north. So die-hard is he that his number plate aka license number reflects the club’s name. And this picture was taken in 2002 when the club was in the doldrums battling relegation. These fans can be convinced to support the club materially and financially.

The number plate of a die-hard Kogalo supporter in the frozen North reflects his fanaticism for the club.

A further area worth reforming is the issue of player loans. There are many young Kogalo players whose development is being stunted by warming the bench. Players like Duncan Owiti Macheda, Roy Okal and could benefit by playing every weekend. If you practice every day but do not get a chance to put your training to use on match day, you will never develop. These guys are talented but we will never know how good they are if they only warm the bench. And in the current dispensation with fans demanding immediate results, there will be no opportunity to field them. So send them on loan to another team in the KPL or in the next level so they can build their confidence and sharpen their skills.

The issue of youth development has been covered in depth in a previous article. Its worth adding that Barcelona’s youth team currently plays in Spain’s second tier tus giving the youngstars much needed game time. . Instead of fielding a U-19 only during the KPL U-19 tournament, Kogalo’s youth team should be playing in the lower divisions every weekend. This will give them match experience and build cohesiveness such that by the time they are seniors, they will have been playing together for years and the coordination between them will be superb. Its no co-incidence that the Thika United U-19 team won the inaugural KPL cup. It was not a hurriedly assembled team like most others. It was a cohesive unit that has been playing together. Back in 1983, the Kogalo youth team drew significant crowds whenever the played. Fans wanted to see what they thought was the next generation. The same can happen today.

Thats yours trulys take on which reforms are neeeded. Now over to other bloggers. What would you like to see done in 2012 ?