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Overcoming Financial Hurdles in Ghana Football: Solutions to Secure the Future of Clubs

A discussion with Frederick Moore

The state of football administration in Ghana has been a source of concern for many fans and stakeholders in recent years. There have been numerous reports of mismanagement and poor governance within the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and many of the country’s football clubs. This has led to a lack of investment in the sport and a decline in the standard of play. However, there have been recent efforts by the government and other stakeholders to reform the administration of football in Ghana and improve the state of the sport in the country. One can point to the numerous state-sponsored Astro-turfs being constructed in some areas, as evidence of infrastructure development, as well as the FA’s drive to support clubs with footballs and boots as examples.

Football club administration relates to the management and organization of a football club, including the management of its finances, personnel, and operations. This includes tasks such as budgeting, contract negotiations, player recruitment, and overseeing the day-to-day running of the club. The ultimate goal of football club administration is to ensure the long-term success and stability of the club. This success is often mirrored on and off the pitch. In many cases, on-the-pitch success translates to off-the-pitch and vice versa. The International Football governing body, and its sub-agencies  on various continents, as well as many European universities, have implemented programs in academia and practice on football administration to guide interested persons on the business of sports.

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Despite these efforts, challenges persist especially for developing economies where football and sports in general, is a means to address growing inequalities. Ghanaian football clubs have for some time now faced grave challenges, which has seen them fall down the ranks of Africa’s best teams. Clubs like Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko have been left behind by their peers in Africa. In terms of infrastructure, performance and star power, Ghanaian clubs have lost the plot. The key to unraveling this challenge is to address the myriad of financial challenges that plague these clubs. To address this will require a surgeon’s assessment of the problems, in order to provide adequate solutions removed from the hypotheticals of everyday discussions.

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This primer provides an in-depth discussion of the financial and administrative challenges faced by Ghanaian clubs, and how they can carve a way out. The discussion is held with Frederick N. K Moore, a financial consultant at the GFA and former CEO of Accra Hearts of Oak. Mr. Moore’s knowledge on finance, coupled with his experience in sports administration in Ghana makes this discussion worthwhile.

 

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Full Transcript of Interview

In your experience with sports administration in Ghana, what are some of the key financial challenges that clubs are confronted with?

  1. A proper revenue structure. In most jurisdictions, clubs have adequate revenue from gate proceeds, sponsorship, and disbursement from their Football Association through TV rights.
  2. Quality and availability of sports infrastructure
  3. Quality of players and technical team

Do you think the ownership structure of clubs affects their operations financing and consequently, their management?

I am not sure the ownership in itself is a problem. In the Ghana premiership, there are various ownership types so I suspect the generality of the challenges suggests the problem is likely bigger than just the governance structure with the ownership. But then, there is a general Ghana business challenge across.

Given the present economic climate in Ghana, do you think Ghanaian clubs stand a chance in competing with other clubs in Africa financially?

No

 

What practical options of funding/financing exist for premier and division 1 clubs in Ghana? Are these options also available for academies and colts clubs?

There are various funding formulae used by various clubs in various countries and I believe many of these could be applicable to Ghana football, for example:

  1. Sponsorship through government tax initiatives. However, the government needs to understand the impact football has on the economy.
  2. TV rights
  3. Stadium attendance: There are various challenges with stadium attendance, starting with inadequate transport links to the stadium compared to other jurisdictions, the cost of the tickets v economy, the quality of the football as a spectator spectacle etc
  4. Branding and marketing by both the clubs and the organizing authorities
  5. Support from the media. The tribal nature of the media landscape means we only discuss failings rather than successes.

What role do fanbases in Ghana have in providing a financial edge for the clubs, beyond stadium attendance?

The fans are one of the main stakeholders. Attendance at the stadium is one of the biggest challenges and this is a major heartache experienced by all clubs. Whilst you did not ask what could be done, I am still going to make a few points:

  1. Transport links to the stadium are a must.
  2. Minimize the negativity because it scares sponsors.
  3. The USA model: Clubs can invest in improving the facilities, entertainment, and customer service at the stadium to make attending games more appealing.
  4. Offering incentives: Clubs can offer discounts, special promotions, or loyalty programs to encourage fans to attend games.
  5. Engaging with fans: Clubs can reach out to their fan base through social media, email, and other channels to keep them informed and engaged with the club.
  6. Creating a sense of community: Clubs can create a sense of community among fans by organizing events, groups, and forums to bring fans together.
  7. Improving the team’s performance: By fielding a competitive team, clubs can create excitement and interest among fans, leading to increased attendance.

There has been talk of a corporate Ghana partnership, where major companies own some football clubs and stadia. Do you see the potential for such a model in Ghana? What are the short- and long-term implications? 

Personally, I do not see ownership structure as the biggest challenge, I accept big corporate bodies could bring in the money but money is not the only challenge in Ghana football. There are other stakeholders who sometimes drag the clubs backward. A new determination and a change of mindset is probably important to get the football in Ghana to move forward. The idea that the media reports bad news more often does not help football. We have all seen referees in EPL make mistakes and most times it is considered mistakes by VAR yet every weekend the stadiums are full. Their stakeholders do not abandon the sport because a referee made a mistake. What we need in football is clarity of objectives that all stakeholders can buy into. Then a comprehensive plan to meet the objectives with clear short-term timelines and KPIs in addition to a continuous improvement plan to meet the agreed objectives.

In the case where stadium attendance remains low and sponsorship is uncertain, what other means of revenue can club management come up with?

Apart from preparing for doomsday. There are a number of proposals that can be reviewed and a fit fount for each club. As you will be aware the clubs are not all the same and even though they might face similar challenges the gravity of these challenges might be different. A couple of suggestions:

First, the club must agree on clear objectives to understand destinations and their pathways. Secondly, clubs have to develop their planning skills, set goals, and have a 5-year plan.

  1. The clubs referred to as business clubs may have an academy to develop young players for the international market.
  2. Build a strong brand for partnerships with the high-net-worth individuals and or the local/major companies
  3. Create commercial partnerships for revenue generation eg the Star Life model. This model is much more prevalent in the EPL and Europe
  4. International Competition during the off season

To what extent is club expenditure and financial management responsibility for the financial challenges faced by the clubs? Can this level of management deter sponsorships and partnerships?

I suspect what impacts clubs most regarding sponsorship is inadequate corporate governance and lack of transparency. The real cost of club management and expenditure is not excessive, if it is this then there is a problem of financial controls and accountability. The reason why it is financially draining is because of the lack of fair and adequate revenue.

 

It is rumored that, during your time at Hearts of Oak, you encouraged the board to explore share diversification and engage major football investors from outside the continent. Would you advise this for other clubs? What are the benefits and challenges with this approach?

I never discuss specifics of job roles I have been entrusted; I see every role I have been lucky to have as a great opportunity and an honor. The only thing I will say is that the board chairman of Hearts of Oak is an investment specialist.

In summary, if you had absolute control of a premier league club with a fanbase of 10,000, what strategies would you deploy to improve the club’s finances?

Hypothetical questions are easy to ask and easy to answer but do not solve real-life challenges because talk is cheap. First and foremost, we would need to agree if it is a traditional club or a business club.

a)     understand who are these 10,000 fanbases, that is their aspirations, economic power etc

b)     Create our goal and objective.

c)     Develop a 10-year plan to meet these objectives.

d)    Agree modus operandum for monitoring the plan.

But it can be done and done very successfully, there are many such examples in Ghana. Unfortunately, I don’t believe one can really talk about success without having an objective and KPIs.

 

 

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