On January 2, The Kenya Ports Authority, announced that they will cede control of Bandari Football club and turn it into a community club. Interestingly, when FKF chairman Sam Nyamweya first hinted that Bandari would become a community club, current Bandari officials, perhaps fighting for the survival of their jobs, trashed Nyamweya’s claims. The news that Bandari would be turned over to the community was received well by the football public. The success of Kenya’s premier league largely depends on community teams which are capable of drawing public support unlike sterile corporate teams. Tusker FC, are a prime example. Despite their success at national and regional level for four decades, they have never built a fan base and typically draw less than 100 fans to their games.
Lessons from Coast Stars FC
In 1998, the folks at KFF came up with an idea to create a community club to represent the then Coast province. Thus Coast Stars FC was born and promoted directly to the top tier league. Throughout its existence, Coast Stars was a mid table team however it was slowly and surely building a passionate fan base. These fans were heartbroken when a broke Coast Stars started not showing up for matches and was eventually disbanded in 2004.
Unfortunately Coast Stars had no competent officials, nor did it have any structures that would enable it to survive. Despite a potential fan base that spanned the entire Coast Province from Lamu in the North through Mombasa to Vanga in the South and Voi in the West, Coast Stars were unable to sell the club to the football mad Coast public. They missed out on basic opportunities like merchandizing that might have helped sustain the team.
At one point, the club gained a sponsor but the sponsor insisted on changing the name of the club to Dubai Bank which in effect negated the whole idea behind creating a community club. With a name like Dubai Bank, the club could not connect with the public and started to spiral downwards in popularity.
A good start is important
One of the most important things that KPA can bequeath to the new community team is a a solid foundation as follows:
1. A Modern Constitution
A modern constitution and not the archaic constitutions that are used by Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards that involve electing a chairman, several vice chairmen and 2 or 3 secretary generals. Instead the new club should elect only a Chairman and Vice Chairman. The remaining positions should be filled by highly competent individuals.
2 Hire the Best
Officials should be hired via a thorough vetting process and put on performance contracts. A job description should be drawn up.The process should be transparent.
Ideally a general manager should run the team. His pay should be based in metrics such as attendance, merchandize sales and overall revenue. A technical manager should be hired and paid based on the team’s performance.
The inability to hire competent individuals is one of the primary reasons Coast Stars flopped.
3. Start building an asset base
KPA and or the governor of Mombasa should give the team a piece of land that should be immediately fenced off to prevent invasion by squatters as has happened with the land given to Gor Mahia and AFC. A training ground will save the team hundreds of thousands in fees. The money saved can be invested in slowly building an actual stadium.
4. Its all in the name
There has been some talk that the club should maintain its name. This would defeat the whole purpose of turning it into a community team. In order to build a solid fan base, the club needs to change its name to something that appeals to its target fan base. Names like Mombasa Stars have been floated.
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