Bralirwa’s ground breaking deal with Ferwafa represents a paradigm shift on how sports management is conducted in Rwanda.
The deal confirms the fact that, given a chance, new approaches of ‘doing business’ within sports can lead to an improvement in the sector. However, I must add that ‘doing business’ within sports is a new concept locally. This new concept will need sensitization.
While I am writing this comment there are several companies that I know which are ready to come on board in the spirit of give and take to sponsor local football.
It beats logic that Ferwafa has been unable to secure sponsorship for the last three years.
The main challenge seems to be within the mindset of the sports administrators themselves. A certain section of the Ferwafa top management are still held hostage to the old way of looking at sponsorship.
This school of thought looks at sponsorship in the same light as normal aid-in effect free money.
Because they are still trapped within the mind set of aid being free-they argue that the same applies to sponsorship. This simplistic reasoning is very wrong.
They are yet to appreciate the fact that sponsorship is a cash boost by a private sector company given to benefit a particular sport in which both parties benefit under certain terms.
I say this because hardly had the ink gone dry on the Bralirwa-Ferwafa historic deal than one official from Ferwafa started issuing conflicting statements to the media on this new form of partnership.
This points out the fact that the change of mindset will be the biggest challenge needed in unlocking the seemingly huge potential local sports has.
The Ministry of Sports needs to educate sports administrators on the imperative to shift their thoughts and approaches while handling sponsors. Otherwise there is bound to be no progress. Once Bralirwa had made the commitment I knew that there would be several sponsors waiting in the wings.
A classic sponsorship deal for the second division can be worked out with a very similar value to that of the Bralirwa deal. That is quite possible.
For instance, the second division has huge hidden potential that can assist various corporates to push their products within rural Rwanda. This is the hidden value that Ferwafa needs, to entice a potential second division sponsor.
Ferwafa needs to be reminded that there are still several avenues of bringing in huge cash into local football. There is the kit sponsorship in which clubs can be used principally as adverts in exchange for cash.
Just in the same way companies pay for advertising space in newspapers or on billboards. There is also naming rights for stadia in which for instance Stade Amahoro can command millions of dollars every year in naming rights fees.
These can then be channelled to the struggling clubs. Lastly we have TV Rights purchase from pay TV channels which can bring in even more millions of dollars.
My conclusion is that Ferwafa should know that local football can be turned into a multi-million dollar business. Bralirwa has just shown the way in this regard. The only challenge is changing the mindsets of those in charge.
Sports administrators should be taught to appreciate the fact that in the corporate world nothing is for free. In the private sector world it is quid pro quo that determines who gets what.
Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah is a journalist with The New Times