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BFA intervenes at last!

The Botswana Football Association (BFA) National Executive Committee has decided to intervene in the commercialisation of clubs debate, which has so far seen clubs ailing over the power struggle.  


WeekendSport has learnt that the NEC is working around the clock to consult with relevant stake-holders on what model local teams can adopt to traverse the route of professionalism.


To date, three so- called big teams in the elite league have adopted different models of running their clubs but lately indications are that the styles of running the clubs are attracting serious back lash.


Three clubs that are faced with this conundrum include Gaborone United, who boast property developer, in Nicholas Zakhem as financer; Mochudi Centre Chiefs financed by another business property mogul, Said Jamali; and Township Rollers who roped in Indian tycoon, Jagdish Shah.


However, the three teams have, of late, found themselves fighting a bitter war regarding control of the clubs. The chief catalyst igniting the unexpected fires is, in the eyes of many, the inability to dissolve societies. From time immemorial, the local teams have been administered and controlled by groups of people who in many times are sacrificing their finances to better the clubs.


While the noble act dying off, such famous teams opted for financiers to help them drive the commercialisation blue print.  Gaborone United is currently at war, with many plotting to push out Zakhem, with a view that he has turned the “money machine” into his own business entity. On the other hand Township Rollers stands on the verge of collapse as the brutal war between the two major shareholders Jagdish and Somerset rages on, intensifying with each passing week. Mochudi Centre Chiefs also has their fair share of problems, which too are ocean deep. The team is caught up in an identity crisis after realisation struck that the team had two societies registered, while another idea of forming an independent trust is raising eyebrows.  


Kitso Kemoeng, the football association’s talented Chief Executive Officer admitted that the NEC is busy consulting to try and find a better model of club ownership. “Yes, there has been that issue of commercialisation. Our own clubs are in danger after attracting financers, we are consulting and we want to help them grow better and bigger,” he said.


On the available models, there is one known as membership make up. This is the model the BFA is likely to pursue, according to informed sources. This mould sees card carrying members of a club electing a board and a president. The members have a certain fee they are expected to pay in each and every month.  This model of governance has four key strategic areas.


The first area is the prioritization of sporting success, with the playing and football management team rebuilt and refinanced with positive results. The other strategic area is the reassertion of member democracy and improvements in transparency of club governance, and the establishment of a campaign to increase club membership as a vehicle to build the financial strength of the club.

The third area is the implementation of a commercial strategy designed to generate increased revenues from off-field activities and improve financial performance while an aggressive commercial strategy, the implementation of an innovative series of corporate social responsibility initiatives as part of a carefully crafted strategy designed to demonstrate that it is indeed an institution that explicitly recognises a set of wider social and cultural obligation comes as the fourth key element. The association is expected to furnish its clubs with the best possible model before long.

BUT CAN OWNERSHIP MODEL BE REPLICATED IN LOCAL TEAMS?
Since the elevation of Jamali, Zakhem and Jagdish in their respective clubs as financers, the supporters and management at the football teams have embraced a new era of commercialism, and accepted the need to operate in the global market, and expand commercial activities by appealing to new markets such as Africa in order to achieve success on the field and commercial success off it.


This may seem ironic, given that one of the reasons Somerset Gobuiwang and Jagdish Shah, for instance, are at odds over each other is because it is felt that the club is becoming too commercially oriented and there is a worry that it is becoming a privately owned company rather than a members’ club.


 However, where the business model at such clubs differed from their infant stages is that the commercial driven model is based on strong cultural and social principles. The commercial strategy, according to the eye of observers, is finely balanced with maintaining the traditions of the club, such as member democracy and corporate social responsibility, while at the same time achieving sporting success.


This model of ownership appears to indicate that the relationship between member democracy, commercial strategy, corporate social responsibility and sporting success is symbiotic.


 The model of ownership will therefore epitomize a well-run football club that aggressively markets itself around the world as the very embodiment of sporting excellence and cultural sophistication with all the associate romance of an institution that is truly owned by its members and that stands for something.


However, there is still a question as to whether this model will really work in local teams. It is widely practiced by high flying clubs like Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona- the same clubs that the CEO mentioned, not once.


It is still blur when assessing the reason for the ultimate wars coming with these business men. It will appear that they seek to remodel the clubs as a modern corporation. Shah, for instance, is in many ways typical of the new breed of businessman taking charge of football in the 1990s. In style and management he seems to be echoing the political ambition of clubs that keeps the core of players for too long.


However, the answer to this question may be that while no large premiership club may voluntarily convert to such a mutual ownership model, bankruptcy at a major club as the country moves out of global economic recession, it may well create an opportunity for a well-organized group of supporters at clubs like Extension Gunners and Township Rollers, where there is a strong fan culture and sense of tradition and of course, moral ownership.


What the this model demonstrates is that there is nothing inherent that disallows the development of teams capable of participating more champions league or of building a sustainable financial strategy independent of the need for equity/shareholder investment.


What is required as football analyst, Jimmy George will contend is the ability of the local football supporters to organize themselves into a democratically accountable and disciplined body capable of taking over a large club. “It is very possible and we need to be organised and disciplined and the opportunity to engage in such a takeover will be simple,” George said.

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