Why the African way…pull him down?!

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 6.47.57 PMWhy the African way…pull him down?!

Kotoko 1 Okwawu 0

Playing at Nkawkaw is always tough. This year our players responded in style. Even though I was in the UK I received a blow by blow account as the game progressed. The torrential rains before the start of the match did not help and it was a testament to the commitment of Middendorp’s boys that we were able to grind out this victory.

The goal scored by Shilla and set up by Oduro was grafted from the hard work of the whole team. Team Kotoko showed that they were prepared to die for each other and for Kotoko too! The Middendorp formula is firmly now a part of Kotoko!

Now we can go to South Africa as league leaders and in the knowledge that the players who stay behind will be looking after our home! All four matches will be played as a total team and I shall make sure that all bonuses will be shared between those who go and those who stay!

36 Kumasi Asante Kotoko A team players
We are going to South Africa for the Vodacom Cup and we shall be honouring our league matches. Those players who do not go to South Africa shall be an integral part of the team that plays the league. Some of the players who go to South Africa shall also return with Coach Middendorp to honour the league matches! No stone shall be left unturned. The four matches we shall play in total, shall be played in honour of both the dead and the living. Kotoko is taking all assignments seriously.

The role of the players who do not go shall be more important in many ways than those who go. I have decided with management that winning bonuses  earned in South Africa (in whatever currency) shall be shared with players who play in matches against Kwaebibirem and Hasaacas! The benefits shall be the same for all players!

As it is Godwin Ablordey, Isaac Owusu and Osei Boateng will be joining others who will be in Kumasi preparing to defend our honour and secure the six points that we are seeking!

Both teams can be viewed as Kotoko first teams. It will be a case of wo kum apem a, apem beba! We planned this a while ago when it became clear that the jealous elements in the FA would seek to try and frustrate us!

The Porcupine and the Oak in the Vodacom Cup

I sat in London and listened to the negativity that spewed out of the
various orifices of the “against” factor. The threat to take court action (credited in a sports paper to Ghalca “boss” J.Y. Appiah although he denied it to me) if the league were suspended or our matches rescheduled.

Kojo Fianoo making illogical, misplaced and infantile commentary about the two clubs not owning our stadiums (he sounds very much like ET Mensah and Col.Brock!).

Kwesi Acheampong makes statements to the effect that both Kotoko and Hearts did not consult the FA before signing the contracts. He also said that Kotoko and Hearts could not hold the other 14 clubs to ransom!

Kwesi is a man I have always respected and whom I expected more from. His public retorts were both petty and unproductive to say the least and I can only presume they were made from the comfort of knowing that his club sponsors allegedly pay some US$200,000 a year to support his club Goldfields!

Before I left for South Africa I spoke with the FA to see if they could get a definitive date on when the league would resume. We at Kotoko were all for a quick return to football BUT with a programme of respect and support for the dead and their living families. I did not believe that one minute’s silence would be enough to give respect to those departed I believed that we should make some token donation per match which could be set aside for some pre-determined purpose (related to the tragedy). I later learnt that the FA were waiting for the go-ahead from the Vice-President’s office!

The sad fact of the matter is that when the FA (rightly) suspended the league it was done in an open-ended manner. When we had our memorial service at the Kumasi Sports stadium it was announced that Kotoko would be trying to bring teams like Chiefs and Pirates to Ghana to play in honour of the dead!

It is now somewhat ironic that Harry Zakkour travelled on the same plane as His Excellency President J.A. Kufour and the Honourable J.H. Mensah, Hackman Owusu Agyemang and Dr. Apraku, not to forget Kwabena Agyepong and D.K. Osei etc. I say this because we both attended their press conference at the Holiday Inn and briefed some of them of our mission.

It is ironic because clearly the FA had been in dialogue with the Government and NOT the clubs (as they should have!!!!) and by chance both the Government’s and the Vodacom press conference took place on the same day within 2 hours of each other in the same city in South Africa!

By the time I was in South Africa I called to see whether there had been any decision and I was replied in the negative. Life and football must go on and this is the point that we made! Before my return I even spoke with Owusu Ansah and invited him to the tournament in the knowledge that no plans to resume the league had been discussed or passed on to us! He declined on the grounds that he may have to go Argentina tournament where our U20s were playing!

I only heard productive commentary from a few quarters and this I found saddening but all too predictable! It seems that it is rare for us as a country to look positively at any situation. The “pull him down syndrome” is it would seem, is part and part of our national psyche!

Kotoko and I believe Hearts are definitely going to South Africa. We are committed contractually and morally. As a club who were directly involved in the May 9 tragedy and as a chairman who was directly and personally involved I am also spiritually committed to uniting on an International forum to honour those who died. I would have liked to have organised a series of matches and or events in Ghana to mark this tragedy. This would have taken the form of inviting the likes of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates to Ghana as well as building monuments at both the Kumasi and Accra Sports Stadiums (Dr. Billy Annan’s suggestion). The problem is that our football in Ghana has not been built up to attract the human and even the commercial side of big business! In plain speak…there is not the money to support playing matches in Ghana at present and without cost!

At the top of the FA tree

Owusu Ansah- I had cause to call the acting Chairman of the FA and voice my objections to his and the behaviour of the FA. I pointed out to him that since they had written to the clubs indicating that the league would continue in our absence and that if our players did not respond to the national call they would lose their places in the Black Stars, their action to further seize their passports was an act of cowardice and disrespect. If the FA had said the players were obligated to play that would have been one thing. They probably did not because ultimately the decision of whether one wishes to play for his country is the player’s and not the administrators’!

The FA could have shown maturity in so many ways rather than exhibiting an insular and apparently negative stance. If this was not a case of pull him down syndrome then I do not know what is!

I pointed out to the acting Chairman as I have to many others that communication is the key to ensuring that this situation does not occur. I have always made it a point to communicate directly with Owusu Ansah and his predecessor Alhaji Jawula on matters before they become incidents.

Indeed I would even communicate with ET Mensah on matters irrespective of the state of our relationship! This respect I have always given to them! They did not reciprocate to me!!

Ben Kuofie-I spoke to this gentleman for the first time last week. I called him myself from the UK and was pleasantly surprised to hear his maturity. Maturity not in age but in application to what was potentially a tricky situation. Unlike “other” FA members who were threatening legal action and misquoting their understanding of FIFA statutes Ben Kuofie wanted dialogue. He did not offer a position necessarily in support of the two clubs but he did recognise their size and the need to sit and find a compromise! If this is his approach to dealing with human beings then all is not lost in Ghana football!

I understand that at the meeting between the clubs and the FA last Friday both Kotoko and Hearts officials were impressed with his negotiating and people skills!

Agrah- I understand that was on Carl Tufuoh’s programme on Joy FM last Saturday when the Ministry was again put in the dock. The reason being their apparent interference in our local game (sounds like the year 2000 and before).

The Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports called into the programme and alleged that it was Agrah who had told Government that the Wednesday was free for Hearts to travel to Burkina with Abedi Pele. If this was so I will be interested to see what is done. The integrity of the Government in terms of interference has clearly been debated and if Agrah is at fault then something must be done. Sound administration is the key to all business and someone who knows what is going on when it matters is key! Their communication skills must be taken as ceteris paribus!

Osam Duodu-Ernst Middendorp and Osam Duodu did what the entire FA could not do. The technical men had been talking all along and even when the FA were issuing infantile and contradictory letters the two coaches were talking and had already decided on which players would be given to the Black Stars. It is sad that the FA members did not.

Is Corporate Investment In Football Worthwhile?

My good friend Danny Jordaan shares my views on investment in our national game. As the former CEO of the South African Football Federation. He saw the need to work to increasing the revenue stream into his local game.

Although independent of Government he worked with Government, big business and the SFL to bring his league to this point! I have attached a quotation from something he wrote as follows;

“Football is a global phenomenon. There is no other sport on the planet with the economic power, the cultural richness or the political clout of football. Given this enormous endowment, it makes sense that football is quite so seductive to the corporate sector. I am afraid that the question as to whether corporate investment in football is worthwhile, is really passe… the sheer growth of the investment , the world over, is testimony to the allure of football, and the viability of the partnership.

Lets unpack the reasons why:

Firstly, the universality of football is its most bracing attribute. The simple, minimalistic game is standardised across the world, under the stewardship of FIFA ( with over 200 members… a touch more populous than the United Nations, I might add!). The game is instantly understandable, and has cross-cultural appeal. It is enjoyed with as much verve in downtown Ouagadougou, as it is in upstate New York. Why, even the term ” soccer mums” is recognisable demographic category amongst market researchers in the United States.

This global reach has ensured that the game of football has become a mega billion enterprise. Prominent business journals now have dedicated staff writing about the business of sport, with football getting top billing.

Speak to Patrick Harvorsen of the esteemed Financial Times of London – he’s their sports business guru. Even the stuffy Economist magazine has condescended to doing a survey on the business of sport, which will appear on June 6 – in time for sports biggest event this year.

With football’s easily understood format, it has become a willing consort of media… and perhaps its’ naturally telegenic appeal has become the single biggest multiplier. The advent of this commercialism, and the subsequent listing of clubs onto stock exchanges has ushered in a new era. Why, even phrases like ” market capitalisation” or “price-earnings ratios” has entered football parlance. Football has been changed forever. The challenge is not to fight change, but to mediate positive developments in football with the support of the corporate sector. A partnership between football and the private sector is required. In South Africa, where the annual budget of the national Ministry of Sport & Recreation is only $ 10 million, our federation has had to forge close relationships with the private sector. Etched into the mission statement of our organisation is the promise to:” create mutually beneficial relationships with the corporate world, while
engaging in a pro-active dialogue with the government in the recognition of football as a national asset”

We manage this tripartite relationship between business, government and football. We are all aware that the next step in the commercialisation of football will be the emergence of global brands. Just like the golden arches of McDonalds strides like a colossus through the fast food industry, so too will multinational brands like Juventus and Manchester United in the football arena. It is very likely that we will see in a few years time a Chelsea, for example, in the English Premier Division, as well as in the J-League, the South African Premier Soccer League and the Australian First Division. These teams will be supported by global brands that operate in all these countries.

Football is really a common language that multinational companies can utilise as their “lingua franca”, as they articulate their benefits to people around the world. And it is not an them and us circumstance. There is ample latitude and scope to fashion common goals for football and the corporations…. really, a win-win exercise.

A few provisos though….

It is important for business to have an empathy for, and an understanding of football. The game cannot be sacrificed on the altar of commercial expediency. There must be a mutual respect for each other’s assets. It is therefore important for football administrators to understand the subtleties and nuances of business.

Indeed, the complexities of business in the 90’s …calls for greater versatility and multi-skilling. With the increasing contribution of the leisure sectors to GDP’s, it is important that both the corporate sector and the football federations countenance the realities of the 21st century economy.

Companies need to take sponsorship seriously. It is important that their football investment, is integrated into their marketing mix. Their involvement in football should not be seen as an adjunct to their core business, but rather integral to it. This is the only way for companies to elicit maximum promotional and marketing capital. All too often a company’s involvement in football is constrained to the level of ‘awareness”, instead of being leveraged to the status of being a viable driver of sales.

Furthermore, a framework for ethical conduct in the business of football must be drawn up. There are a number of avaricious marketing agents that ride roughshod over the football field. There are no serious barriers to entry to aspirant sports marketers… anyone can call themselves sports marketers. It is imperative that some regulatory guidelines are developed, or else Klondike will have nothing on the football rush!

I call the intersection of the Venn diagram between football and the private sector, the CUSTOMER ZONE. This is the prime real estate from which football and brands must be leveraged.

In South Africa, we have created a hospitable climate for this to be fostered. Legislation is soon to be passed that polices ambush marketing. The government is all too aware that sports can be a serious contributor to the GDP.

Prof Vladimir Andreff, an economics guru at the Sorbonne, has done some landmark studies on the economic impact of sport in 13 countries in Europe, since 1990. We have looked at these benchmark studies. In South Africa, we hope to grow the contribution of sport to the GDP from its current 1.7% to at least 3 % in the next 3 years.

This is doable. From a football perspective, we will play a significant part. By contributing to Africa’s ascendancy in world football and through the hosting of major events in Africa, we hope to become a leading football nation. A centre of excellence in global football.

All of this needs to be mediated with sincerity, honesty, passion and verve. And football will be the winner. We love the game.”

Ghana Football!

When I hear people like Danny speak I wish they were here in Ghana. We desperately need people who recognise that the bottom line is money! The need to take care of the bottom line and to grow for the future depends on money. Given that governments cannot provide and are not encouraged to do so by FIFA it is up to the FA to better understand big business and vice versa!

We the administrators need to not only work together but also try and set the agenda to ensure that we protect ourselves and our joint interests as far as soccer is concerned. The issues that affect our bottom line are rarely debated through these mediums. They get a mention on a couple of programmes and it is therefore imperative that we take the matter further!

It is my belief that those of us who are responsible for the bottom line need to be better listened to. The fact of the matter is that when the commencement of the league is delayed, when VAT is introduced without consultation with clubs, where we are not invited or allowed to register for VAT and where we have not been able to debate the levels of punitive deductions made against us, it is the clubs and the custodians of the bottom line who suffer.

In fighting for “home team takes all” some of us did so in the hope that it would serve as a platform to enable us to market our matches and ensure that we could and would benefit from the fruits of our labour! There was also the issue of avoiding the almost inevitable perception of cheating when gates are shared with opposing teams.

We claim to have a professional league in Ghana and yet there are so many areas of our operation, which are certainly not professional.

Given the fact that our governing body has been unable to support clubs with effective sponsorship deals etc, there is a need for us to look very carefully at our weekly operations to ensure that we at least find a solution to our dire financial positions.

Most clubs only have “gate receipts” and the meagre and hopelessly inadequate contributions (c45m) made from the FA sponsor Ghana Breweries.

We therefore tend to and have to concentrate on the contributions made by our supporters!

One only has to look at the yearly turnover and budgetary figures for most clubs to realise that we are fighting an uphill battle. Some teams may be bigger than others but as in life the bigger the outfit the bigger the costs!

I believe that we need to look at the way we want to position the professional league. It is no good and rather defeatist to say the league is professional in name only. We the administrators have to move things on.

The big men at the FA can make the changes required immediately. They can consider new structures and employ the kinds of people who can take matters to another level!

We at Kotoko have put a number of structures in place to help us maximise the revenues on all matches. Our marketing, PR and publicity skills have been yielding very positive dividends. We have also been reasonably successful with kit and club sponsorship deals. For the equation to work we need to close the gap between expenditure and revenues. I still believe that we are heading in the right direction.

Running soccer & running clubs

The Clubs have been tied down in terms of what they can do with respect to the marketing of games and sales! The football system has put an elaborate and totally inflexible system in place to ensure that they can monitor the running of football. That is the problem with rules and administrators who  are reactive rather than proactive!! It is perhaps best if I explain the basis of this statement.

1. The tickets for all matches are printed and controlled by the GFA/NSC. We have long since advocated for the tickets to be printed and handled by the home teams. This would have put the onus on the Clubs to market and sell the tickets. At some venues not enough tickets are printed.

2. The price of tickets are fixed and monitored by the PLB. They are completely insensitive to the laws of supply and demand. At a recent meeting they argued as if all matches, people and venues are homogenous. By this I mean that there is no match which may attract more interest than others and therefore the “system” must be maintained!

3. The same FA and its assigns do not encourage ingenuity. They do not reward hard work. They operate in an almost communist/socialist fashion/manner to people and clubs. The fact that some clubs like Asante Kotoko are willing and able to market their matches is not congratulated and rewarded. It is penalised. They operate on the basis of you can do what you want but….don’t change any of the above and make sure you give us a slice of the fruits of your hard work!

4. The FA has joined other naive parties in looking at the clubs as a means to make money. The clubs are currently taxed as follows; PLB 5% (of the gross)

VAT 12.5% (of the gross)

Share due to GFA/PLB 12.5% (of the net)

Hiring of playing field 10.0% (of the net)

Share due to GHALCA 2.5% (of the net)

CCC payments 7.3%*

Kotoko share balance 55%

The picture is not good and we have to focus on how we do the following;

Reduce the deductions to more acceptable levels

FA to petition Government to allow clubs to register for VAT

The point is that because the FA is either out of touch or does not care they allowed the VAT to be introduced without providing any support for the Clubs.

Indeed in a letter signed by the GFA in March 2000 they gave the go ahead for the NSC to register for VAT and not the clubs. In so doing they ensured that the clubs would not be able to register for VAT and offset their own legitimate expenses from the tax!

5. The lack of promotion for matches on the part of the FA is a serious indictment against them.

Given the fact that the disposable income available to supporters has waned their attendance at all league centres has also diminished greatly. We see no effort on the part of the governing body to effectively promote football in the country for supporters to come to the stadium!

6. The absence of a centralised marketing plan for the league is truly unfortunate. It is interesting to note that around the World other sporting bodies have devised marketing plans to assist all their members. This ensures that sales, merchandising, secondary merchandising and general marketing is taken care of. Their members can then utilise their players and special events to fill their stadias!

Football needs to be shaken up so that all clubs can benefit. People may not like change BUT the general public asks and deserve the change.

Fixed inflexible structures for the modern progressive state are a regressive thing of the past! The communist states in order to survive had to change!

The wall went down in Germany and the memory of Tianamen Square in China is now etched in our minds as a reminder of the bad old days! In more simple terms (and I argued this in one of my University papers) you cannot attain a socialist platform without first undertaking some form of capitalism. This is because there will be nothing to share and no progress to be made! In recognising the rights of individuals we must recognise their right to choose!

In the meantime…

Rumour has it that there are some that are unhappy that Kotoko did not send a delegation to Burkina with Hearts. Since no formal invitation was ever extended to Kotoko I cannot understand this rumour. If the organisers had wanted Kotoko to participate in any way I am sure they would have written formally to Kotoko for the matter to be considered!

The inability of FA members to communicate when there is a difference of opinion is shameful. I find it lamentable that they do not believe they have to and even more lamentable that they think they can misuse their powers because they are in office! Whether they like it or not Kotoko and Hearts will be there long after they have gone and the 10 million people who follow the two teams are and will always be more important than them!

We at Kotoko have started to debate the relevance of our continued participation in Ghalca. I do not see the benefit in any way and at present I am leaning to a withdrawal from the organisation. Times have changed since the need for Ghalca in its present form was established and I believe that the time is nigh for change. This decision will be rendered before the middle of July and communicated to all involved with the game at home and abroad!

I wish to apologise to all those who have not been able to get copies of the Express recently. Sales have been soaring and we need to increase our circulation and improve our distribution. At present Kobina and his men are printing from three different sources. We have to relook our operation. Please bear with us if you have difficulty in getting your Express.

Fabulous – the greatest!

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