Morris Mpala, MoB Capital Ltd
SOCCER used to be a social sport undertaking but now it is a business with so many facets. Soccer administration has taken a new twist to a more knowledgeable full time job and much more complex scholarly science. It would be folly to think otherwise. This industry is employing and generating a lot of numbers to be neglected and treated like a sole trader.
Mind re-orientation is long overdue and it is do, innovate or die scenario. It’s advisable to have a working relationship with other soccer institutions both regionally and internationally. That is a conduit for future talent exploitation and you also learn from already established teams.
One needs to appreciate that soccer clubs are brands that need cultivation, nurturing and that is where the big bucks are. Create that image, mystery and you have value, which will translate into dollars and cents. Build a culture that has a comparative advantage, a generic product that other won’t cut.
This is a commodity that needs nurturing and monetising. You need to invest into these players. Buy low and sell high. Mould them. Incubate these young stars for your consumption or exports. This includes introducing financial literacy.
Invest in infrastructure
Invest in strategic club houses, stadiums, gymnasiums and so forth. Get into partnerships to build operate and transfer and reduce overheads. If it is a community club let the community build such infrastructure otherwise it’s the owner’s responsibility. Seek investors into such big undertakings. Think tomorrow not yesterday.
Punish hooligans. Plaster their names on the back pages of their local papers and ban them from any future matches. Campaign for free violence at matches. If all else fails take legal recourse to recover fines it’s about the profit and loss account of the club.
Innovative gate takings, for example, season tickets, advance tickets; discounts etc and plug all leakages. Why do you want to charge $5.00 and get 2 000 fans when you could even charge students $1 for 2 and get 30 000 spectators into the stadium? Hiking gate charges at derbies or so called important matches is retrogressive. Incentivise attending fans and reward loyalty. No free entries period.
Merchandising and image rights
Tweak this avenue to move volumes. Clubs are sales and marketing organisations that also need innovation so they are cunning, bold in moving their club merchandise. Don’t re-invent the wheel or cut and paste. Protect your image rights. Patent them for future commercial use. Be creative and go wild if possible. Be unconventional in your approach because the normal, usual tired approach won’t cut it anymore.
Players’ commercial rights
Tap into the value of these employees as a future revenue stream. With great players you can invest now and reap rewards later. Structured players contract can have a portion of their future earnings paid to clubs after huge initial contract deal with players. Insurance and assurance are also crucial. So, be cunning and insure your commodity (players) to mitigate risks. This is an investment that has huge rewards on star players. You can also be an agent for these service providers.
Let there be owners to these clubs to increase accountability and responsibility. Community clubs are a cheap pseudo ownership concept that lacks real ownership. Such clubs are reduced to begging the owners, the community never take full responsibility of the club even if it’s theirs. A few community based clubs have shown sophistication but that has come with sophistication from the community through a barbed wire ownership (private and community interests) structure.
The potential for partnerships from the demanding corporate world is huge but that potential has to be realised. Organised clubs attract huge strategic corporate gains. Be the marketers’ dream by doing and looking attractive to potential suitors. Also invest in research and development. Use other people’s money to build world class clubs.
Fan base and social media
It needs maximum exploitation as fanaticism is revenue. It is critical mass for all products, services that the brand wants to commercialise. It is ready market. You ride on the fickleness of the fans. Fans will die for a winning club. Social media is now the most effective platform for marketing, selling and real time communication. The platform increases reach and brand awareness to sedentary fans base.
Exploitation of ICT to bring value to brand is required. Online magazines are cost effective.
Chief executive officer
Who says this crucial executive has to be a football person? You just need a chief strategist. In a billion dollar business you can’t have a narrow mind like that for someone who brings all stakeholders together. World over he/she is considered a networking officer. A strategic thinking leader with a business mind is key and not negotiable. Gone are the social soccer days. This is modern football, which worries about balance sheets and profit and loss accounts. A rich diversified CV of a CEO will bring economic value to the brand. It goes without saying that other employees (board included) need to have the requisite skills. Vibrant, very smart working and selfless staff is critical to bring about world class standards to the club.
Junior policy and sponsorship
It’s a value chain that needs backward integration. Invest in the young and reduce your capital outlay on buying expensive players and at times unsuitable ones. Instill your own values and stabilise your culture to bring brand uniformity. Academies are a must. Get many non competing sponsors to reduce overreliance.
Selling products/services on behalf of third parties taking advantage of fan base is encouraged. Abuse the fan base and the popularity the brand enjoys.
Since I managed to tantalise your thinking buds do your respective homework, best wishes.
IF YOU LIVE IN BYO PLEASE CONSERVE WATER. IF YOU LIVE IN ZIMBABWE PLEASE USE ELECTRICITY SPARINGLY: SOS (SWITCH OFF SWITCHES) IF YOU LIVE ON PLANET EARTH PLEASE PRESERVE THE ENVIRONMENT
Morris Mpala is the managing director of MoB Capital Limited, a Bulawayo-headquartered micro finance institution with footprint across the country.