Now that Gor Mahia have landed a much needed sponsorship with reputed betting company Sportpesa, fans, players and officials can breathe a sigh of relief. For the next few years at least, fans might not have to worry about player strikes or go-slows and will worry less about players and coaches being recruited by Tanzanian teams and perhaps even Zambian teams. That is all dependent on whether Gor Mahia can maintain the sponsorship for the duration of the contract.
Gor Mahia officials in particular chairman Ambrose Rachier are to be commended . Ever since Tuzo announced the end of their sponsorship of the club in February of 2014, club officials have been pursuing other sponsorship deals while also pursuing other avenues with which to raise revenue including the 35010 pay-bill number, club membership, the Gor Mahia SACCO and the Gor Mahia bread initiative. The officials have had to explain away the negative publicity the club has received while also battling the political intrigues that have prevented the club from garnering sponsorship.
There is a danger that club officials will now sit back and relax. This is precisely what happened when Gor Mahia first signed the landmark sponsorship deal with Tuzo in 2011. Club officials sat back and did not pursue any other avenues for revenue. When Tuzo left, the club was left flat broke, destitute and with nothing to show for three years of sponsorship : No assets to fall back on and no plan B.
It is interesting that fans and officials often urge players to plan for their retirement years because too many players are often broke and destitute when their playing days are over. Yet this is the position the club found itself in when Tuzo left. Indeed this is the situation the club has found itself in for most of its existence.
It is indeed true that the current sponsorship team is scheduled to last for five years. But there is also a possibility that the deal can end prematurely such as if Sportpesa goes bankrupt or cannot meet its obligations or there is a breach of contract by the club. Were any of these to happen the club will once again be left with no plan B.
Continue to pursue other revenue streams
The club should learn from recent history. Rather than sit back and relax, the club should continue to aggressively pursue other avenues for revenue including the existing ones. The money offered by the new sponsors Sportpesa will go a long way to paying player dues but it will not cover all expenses including travel to tournaments like CECAFA nor hosting Africa champions league teams. This is why the club should not rest on its laurels but must continue to pursue the aforementioned initiaves : the 35010 paybill number, club membership, the Gor Mahia SACCO and the Gor Mahia bread initiative. As things stand now, the SACCO which was announced to plenty of fanfare and which promised professional management has gone moribund. Club membership is as paltry as ever despite the club having announced aggressive membership recruitment numerous times.
Despite how valuable the shirt and kit deals have become for Europe’s top teams, they still remain a relatively small portion of total annual income. Below is a graph comparing the combined value of each team’s shirt and kit deals – to total revenue
Secure the future with appreciating assets
With the financial cushion available, the club can now plan for a future without a sponsor which is still possible. Some have suggested that a team bus should be purchased to replace the one that was repossessed due to outstanding debts. But that is a vanity project largely for showing off. And a bus is a depreciating asset that costs a lot of money to maintain, requires a significant amount of insurance. It may make more business sense to lease a bus from a reputable company.
A more prudent investment for the club would be to obtain a training ground. First of all land always appreciates in value. The training ground would alleviate the colossal expenses involved in renting training grounds at Camp Toyoyo or City stadium which charges Ksh 10,000 per day. Having a piece of land is the first step towards building a stadium. The training ground can be leased to other clubs for use, perhaps even the Nairobi county league. The money generated can be used to build terraces and eventually transform from a simply training ground to a stadium. But again such projects will only be possible if the club continues to pursue other financial avenues besides the sponsorship.
Ambrose Rachier has promised for several years to build a stadium for the club. A training ground of its on would be a good starting point. The club owns land in Embakassi that is currently occupied by squatters. Perhaps they can work with the county government to get a hold of that land.
Use sponsorship money to deter hooliganism
Ambrose Rachier knows best why Gor Mahia lost the sponsorship with Tuzo. Some say it was likely due to hooliganism. Tuzo for their part complained that among other things they were not generating enough money from jersey sales. Since hooliganism is a clear and present danger that could cause the club to lose its sponsorship now and in the future, then the club must invest a significant portion of the money from sportpesa to enhance security inside and outside the stadium. This could mean hiring more police and placing them strategically among the crowds and hiring plainclothes policemen who can arrest fans who choose to misbehave inside or outside the stadium. This also means extra police for away games. The excuse that the home team is responsible for security will not work when the club’s reputation is at stake.
Going two years without a sponsor should have chastened fans about hooliganism. But do not count on it. Therefore the club must continue to educate the fans about the importance of good behavior whether it is by addressing them directly at stadia or through the branches. And here the club must really listen to its sponsors. In the past, fans openly resisted buying Tuzo jerseys instead preferring to buy the jerseys labeled as “Gor Mahia”. This was one of Tuzo’s complaints. This time the club must do whatever it takes to ensure only sponsor approved jerseys are available for sale and educate the fan base on why it is important to purchase only approved jerseys. And the club can still generate revenue by selling other items be it calendars or pens or jackets.
Counter bad publicity with public relations exercises
There will inevitably be cases of hooliganism from fans which many media types will be eager to highlight partly for political reasons and partly because it makes for interesting television. The club must therefore be proactive in terms of promoting its positive aspects. There are a number of fan groups who participate in public relations activities such as the Mater heart run, visiting children at the Kenyatta children’s ward and so forth. Yet most people in the public sphere are not aware of these good deeds because the club does not highlight them. Such activities are often never reported on by the major media outlets.
Whenever the club is announcing its new signings, the club is able to ensure that the event is well covered by all the major media outlets with numerous cameras and armies of journalists covering the event. So why can’t the club do the same for public relations events? Why not have players actually visit the Kenyatta hospital childrens ward and make sure TV cameras are there? The key is to highlight good public relations. Every hooliganism event reported by the media, should be countered with several well-orchestrated and well publicized public relations activity by the club in conjunction with the sponsors. This will help build goodwill amongst the public such that when the Sportpesa sponsorship ends in five years, other companies will line up to sponsor the team.
Hire a competent CEO / General Manager on a performance contract
In the past the club hired Lordvick Aduda as CEO. His duties were not properly outlined and he was later accused of being a Sam Nyamweya stooge upon which he was either forced out or resigned of his own volition.
What the club needs is a CEO with the appropriate background in football management, understands FIFA laws and FKF statutes, understands transfer rules, has a financial and marketing background. This professional will be in charge of initiatives like membership drives. His contract should be based on how much he or she enhances gate collections, memberships subscriptions, SACCO membership, Gor Mahia bread sales, jersey sales, merchandize sales and so forth. Basically the more revenue that this person can generate, the more they should be paid. A classic performance contract.
This arrangement will ensure the corruption that happens at the stadium gates where many fans enter free do not happen. This person will assuage fan concerns about accountability by publishing the club accounts. This person will ensure compliance with FIFA rules and the sports act. This person will be responsible for building the club’s asset base and planning for future rainy days such as losing sponsorship.
The club needs a full time employee especially now that the chairman is busy as KPL chairman and is busy campaigning for the FKF chairmanship. The club secretary general Chris Omondi has been missing in action while the other EC members while some of them are hardworking, are not full time employees. Most of them have other jobs they must attend to.