Q. Beyond the statistics, do you think the two big clubs have been innovative about to make most of the fanbase and maximise revenue?
A. “Thank you very much Sitso, thank you everyone. Ermm, the first point is that, data is good, and when I say data is good, we need to mine that data, we need to identify the data. Basically, there’s been this talk of Kotoko and Hearts having over 10 million supporters without having any data to back it. It’s as simple as that, if you ask any of the two groups, what is your number? Give us data to back it, they can’t do it. And so, when I came in at Kotoko, one of the first things that I sought to do with my management was to institute the Fabulous Census Project and for a year now, together with the National Circles Council, we’ve been working very hard on the Fabulous Census Project
The Fabulous Census Project seeks to register Kotoko supporters into a centralised database, where we can mine that data, our sponsors can mine that data. It is one of the reasons why the sponsors have bought into our philosophy and they’re coming on board. So, if you ask whether beyond the gate proceeds, we’ve taken advantage, I’ll say no. I always say that, how many people can you take into the Baba Yara Stadium? not more than 40,000, same applies to the Accra Sports Stadium. But you can reach many more people, millions on matchdays, and that is where pay per view also comes in. Because if you look at boxing, look at football, a number of people, I mean there are clubs in England, in the EPL, who don’t even command more than 20,000 capacity but on every match day, they have millions across the world watching the game, and they are not watching for free, they are paying for it. So, the first and foremost thing is for us to recognize that we need the data, and we need to mine the data. At the end of the day, if you approach any sponsor and you say, I have a following of 10 million supporters, and you cannot even demonstrate 1 million following on social media, you cannot demonstrate 500,000 following on social media, how do you convince the person about that number. So, we need to go beyond the rhetoric and prove with data. I mean what Mr.Teye said is fantastic, everything these days is about data, that you have the data and that data needs to be accessible to you, you need to tap into that data. If you are ordering replica jerseys to price that replica jerseys, you need to go into your data to scientifically to understand the purchasing power of your fanbase who can afford, let’s say the price is GHC 200 and you have, say 1 million recognizable supporters and out of that 1 million, 955,000 or 990,000 cannot afford GHC 200 and then you just order it based on the knowledge that you have 1 million supporters, you are going to make a loss. So going into that data and understanding the dynamics of that data is very important. I have been in for just a year and I can assure you that Kotoko we’ve done great, we’re making great strides into gathering that data, and making sure we mine that data very well. It is something that I will encourage all the clubs to do. There are clubs that may not command physical numbers, in terms of fan base, but on social media, they can command those numbers. Because you can have following who are not necessarily your supporters but are following. They can see what you post and can be marketed to. Therefore, those clubs who do not have physical numbers should pay more attention to the numbers on social media and I believe it’s always possible to do it, but you need to take data very seriously, it’s very important”.
Q. Were they other considerations, beyond footballing reasons for signing Gama and how are you leveraging on the popularity…?
A. “Yeah definitely there were other considerations. We came in and I said our squad configuration was going to be 4 (goalkeepers) -8 (defenders) -8 (midfielders) 4 (strikers) – 4 (youth team players) -2 (marquee signings). So, Fabio Gama came in as a marquee signing and there were commercial considerations. We wanted to bring in players who could attract commercially and I can tell you that the very moment we brought in Fabio Gama, it attracted one sponsor. One of the reasons why CEEK agreed to join Kotoko, an international company like CEEK was also due to the fact that we had brought in an international player that we could market to push their brand. So definitely the commercialization of football or sports cannot be underestimated. First and foremost, we must understand that football is business. It has moved from the recreational stage to the business stage. And for you to even enjoy the recreational aspect of football, the business side of football must work effectively. It must function, otherwise there will be no enjoyment. So, you need to have those considerations at the back of your mind.
And we also had to dig deep into Fabio Gama, of course it was a huge risk. This is a player with big history. He played for Brazil U-17, U-20, couldn’t make it to the very top as expected. He was playing in Europe, Sweden, had never come to Africa, you know you need to dig to find out whether he will adapt, his adaptation. And if you remember, when Fabio Gama came in, there was a lot of pressure on us to play him. Because some said he was a carpenter, some said we had brought in a farmer. But we had to be patient to give him at least one month of preparation, despite the pressure to ensure that he had trained properly, he had adjusted to the weather, and then he was ready before we unleashed him. And you realized that when we unleashed him, it paid off. It could have gone wither way, but we weighed the risk factors and we believed that we had about 75%-85% chance of him performing. One of the things we had to do for Fabio Gama to succeed was to bring his family with him. He had to come with his wife and his child. That meant extra cost that could have put us off, but we felt that for him to settle, and also not to have destructions, it was important that we did that for him, and it paid off. So, in terms of the commercialization in every decision we take in Asante Kotoko, you cannot take it out. Every step is well calculated, we don’t always get it right but because we are very meticulous and very considerate of these factors, most at times we get it right”.
Q. According to the report, fans prefer viewing match at the stadium…how is a club like Kotoko improving the stadium experience?
A.” Thank you very much, every matchday is an event in itself. It’s not just about the 90 minutes. There are about two hours before the game and more hours after the game. So, it is important for clubs to understand that you need to let the fans enjoy coming to the games. You need to let them enjoy, not just the football because the football result could go either way. It could happen that you win, it could happen that you lose, it could happen that you draw. But at the end of the day, one should have enjoyed the whole spectacle of being there. So, first of all, we make sure that, you know we are unlucky that my administration in its first year did not get to play in our home venue. We had to play away from home for an entire season so we could not control the match day experience very well. But this season, what we are doing first and foremost is to ensure that our sponsors take advantage of the matchday experience to activate their products and services, the fans get to interact with the sponsors, they get to have that feel as well and also, we’ve already started giving prizes, introducing live draws during the games so that the fans can win prizes from the sponsors as well. Going forward, we are going to introduce what we call, The Legend’s Time, where every match we bring in legends of Kotoko, we have video footage of let’s say 1983 Champions League final. You have somebody who was there live playing, he takes you through the experience, how it felt like and all that. So, there are several things we are going to ensure that the matchday experience is something that will make somebody want to come back.
However, to divert a bit, as I keep saying, we cannot have all our fans in the stadium. Baba Yara can only take 40,000 full capacity. And if we say we are in Kumasi, let’s say 2 million fans, all of them cannot come to Baba Yara, so we need to ensure that these fans still enjoy Asante Kotoko on match days, and this will be through paid tv. So going back to what Prince was saying, I feel that there need to be a proper collaboration between the clubs and the right holders, let’s say StarTimes. Because for me as Asante Kotoko, if all StarTimes gives me is $30,000 for the year, whether 100,00, 1 million, 2 million Kotoko fans watch on the day or not, that’s all I get. I am not going to go out of my way to push fans who are not coming to the stadium to watch StarTimes, I don’t see how that benefits me. However, if there is a mechanism to share proceeds where I know that if every match day, I am getting 200,00 people or 500,000 people to watch StarTimes and that is going to translate into revenue for the club, then I will take it upon myself to educate my fans, to push my fans to go and watch, so that StarTimes gets revenue, and I get revenue. So StarTimes and the FA need to have a relook at the model. For instance, we are doing the virtual CEEK challenge, and we understand that they only allow only 25% into the stadium. We’ve looked at it, the 75% is going waste. Okay, just take a seat and donate something, and it’s fetching us some revenue. So, the right holders need to engage the clubs, especially Hearts and Kotoko, with the numbers, and ensure that there is some kind of arrangement that makes us want to push our fans to watch and subscribe to their channels. Otherwise, they’re not going to make the return on investment they require. Because, I don’t see why TV money is to be shared, it’s a controversial topic but the TV Rights money cannot be shared the same across board”.
Q. Whose responsibility is it to promote the GPL…?
A. “It’s a collective responsibility, however there need to be a clear leadership in terms of that responsibility, and I think that leadership needs to come from the FA. In other places, the league is not managed by the FA. In other jurisdictions, there are independent bodies running the league. But here is the case, we have a system where the FA, apart from taking care of all the National teams through qualifiers, at the same time run the league. And so, if you look at just before the Premier League kicked off, a lot of the concentration of the GFA, I believe was on World Cup qualification, and therefore it’s definitely going to affect the league. So, if you look at this particular league, I didn’t see the promotion at all. There was a time that even we as participants were wondering if the league was going to come off. A lot of us were thinking it was going to be postponed because we were not seeing anything until there was a large one Thursday that the following day, the League was starting. We didn’t see the promotions; we didn’t see much. So, ones the FA leads that call then definitely the rest will also collectively throw their shoulders to the plough. At the end of the day, we as clubs can only promote our clubs and the games as at when they come. But the responsibility to promote the league as a brand lies solely at the doorstep of the FA who run the league”.
Q. What are you doing to bring the Kotoko fans from various groups nationwide together?
A. “I believe every WhatsApp group has a certain number of participants that they can take, and you know at Kotoko, we have huge numbers so I will not discourage different groups springing up. But what we are doing is to create a centralised database, that is the Fabulous Census platform where every Kotoko fan will be on it, where you can access stuff from the club. You can do your monthly contributions if any, and also patronize various products of the sponsors. But in terms of bringing all WhatsApp groups together, I don’t think it is feasible. We encourage them to even have more groups. However, when that centralised database is created, when everybody appears on there, that is where you have your membership cards. I can say here now that the membership cards are also going to be VISA Cards and you can continue doing your trading with that. As you continue to do your trading with that, Kotoko gets a percentage. So, we are trying other means to raise revenue for the clubs and we cannot do that without the fans.
Q: What are your final comments?
“Thank you very much for having me, I would like to commend ASC for this initiative, Prince, well done. I would like to thank fellow panellists for the insights, I’ve learnt a lot today. I will just conclude by repeating myself again that, football is a serious business. We need to take it seriously, and as football clubs we need to understand that our passionate fans are also our customers and we need to treat them well as customers who will continue to purchase our products. Ones we seem them in that light, then definitely we are going to succeed. I always say without a doubt that, Kotoko is one of the companies with the greatest customer base in Ghana, and therefore we will continue to cherish our customers who are the fans, who happen to be the owners of the club. We treat them as owners, we treat them as customers and give them the best. Always remember that the customer is always right, so we will always make sure that they are happy to patronize our products so that we can together develop the club. We cannot do it without them. So, I thank our fans very much for continuously and passionately supporting us. Thank you very much.