By Bonface Osano,
“Over the years we have closely monitored events at the union (Kenya Rugby Union) and highlighted our growing concerns with the lack of transparency and accountability of certain members of the board whose actions have brought the game into disrepute: a situation which jeopardizes the Safaricom brand and which makes our continued sponsorship impossible,”
The sentiments were made by Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore head of the the biggest company in the region in terms of profits and it relates well with the situation in most of our soccer clubs and pretty much sums up why securing sponsorship deals for Kenya Premier League clubs remains a daunting task.
This article will focus on two of the most successful KPL sides; Gor Mahia FC and AFC Leopards specifically the former, a club I have followed closely in the recent times.
Despite the two boasting of the biggest fan bases locally, an attraction to any corporate organization seeking to market it’s products, thanks to the live broadcast of most of their matches across Africa, the two clubs have struggled to secure sponsorship deals.
Acts of hooliganism by a section of fans of the two most storied clubs in Kenya has been time and again cited as the biggest hindrance in their quest for such partnerships, rightly so,maybe, but I believe Bob Collymore’s views represents those of the corporate world and why they never touch the two giants.
Gor’s last sponsor “Tuzo” walked out early 2014 after three years of turbulent relationship that was marred by accusations of lack of transparency in how the club was managing the funds, and the sales of replica jerseys that was also initially part of the deal.
It is sad to note that Gor with all the history behind it, does not keep books of accounts, most, if not all of their transactions including paying players’ salaries and allowances are done in cash which gives leeway for under hand dealings.
This can only be explained by the fact that Gor does not have a fully functional secretariat to run it’s daily operations. The office they have at Nyayo Stadium is more or less a “Kibanda” for selling club merchandise which are never in stock.
Those in the know will attest that most organizations that have shown intentions of partnering Gor Mahia thereafter, have been turned away by the mere fact that the club can’t show their documented financial operations.
Gor’s treasurer Kennedy Otieno on May 7, 2015 shocked the soccer community in Kenya, when under pressure from Gor fans on social media, he gave a shoddy account of how gate collections of a home match against Ulinzi Stars was recieved and spent on the spot after the match, without first being banked.
There had been a week long outcry from fans who were accusing some club officials of colluding with ticketing firm “Earth View” to steal gate collections. This gave a general overview of how the club manages it’s funds in an opaque unstructured manner.
That Kenya Revenue Authority has been on the trail of the two clubs and other KPL clubs for unpaid taxes amounting to millions is no secret and this explains why they resort to direct payment of salaries and allowances and not via traceable bank process. Compliance with statutory requirements is non negotiable and it’s something I wouldn’t wish to discuss here.
All these put together would scare away anyone willing to invest his/her hard earned money in the two clubs even if it’s a corporate social responsibility.
The two giants must make themselves attractive for sponsorships by first managing properly the little they receive from loyal fans and building reputable brands that can relate well with values of the serious companies like Safaricom.
Britam Insurance shirt sponsorship deal with Mathare United worth 75 million shillings and UAP Insurance partnership with Ulinzi Stars earlier this month, give hope that all is not lost and that with proper management structures that emphasize on transparency and accountability sponsors will come however small your fan base mybe.
The launch of Gor Mahia Savings and Credit Cooperative ( SACCO ) on Sunday 17th and the previous unvailing of Gor Mahia Bread,are great strides in the quest for self sustainability of the club, but minus “transparency and accountability” the two noble ventures may just add to list of failed undertakings like the members recruitment drive.
Find me on twitter @bonfaceosano