Ferwafa recently appointed Jerome Dufourg as the head of marketing and communications, a new role at the local football governing body. The Frenchman is expected to bring in sponsorship for next season’s topflight league and national team engagements.
A Fifa Master Alumini with working experience in Dubai and Kenya, Dufourg is optimistic that he will turn around the current situation where the topflight football league in Rwanda has no sponsor to a sea of opportunities.
Times Reporter Usher Komugisha caught up with the 28-year-old this week to discuss his plans and expected projections.
Congratulations on being appointed head of marketing and communications at the Rwanda Football Association (Ferwafa). What are your plans?
I am the head of marketing and communications so I have to find a balance between the marketing side and the communications side and since I arrived everyone is focusing on the marketing because that is crucial for the federation.
We receive money from Fifa and Caf but no one is sponsoring the league so there is a problem of money. So people count on me to bring in money so that all the other departments – technical, finance and grassroots can run smoothly.
There is no sponsor for the league, no TV sponsoring and broadcasting the National Football League, there is no one broadcasting the national league and the grassroots leagues.
So this is my focus and when we have sorted all this out then we can divert some funds to regional centres where we shall have U-10s, U-13s, U-15s and U-17s but all this needs money.
What is your time frame?
Well, we have the Peace Cup and that will be very important. I do not know the budget but it is something I have to get from the specific departments. How much do you need for the Peace Cup? Okay, if you tell me that we need Rwf50m, I need to know that. That will be the bottom line.
For TV rights, it will be for the 2015/2016 league season, but the company I will select whether it is Supersport or Azam TV or Tele 10 or any competitor in the market, I would like to bring them probably for the Peace Cup for free so that we can see how they work and people have an idea of what can be achieved and then we start getting the money for the following season.
For sponsors, it is the same. I want everything to be done by August, September or October depending on when the league will begin.
The Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Sports and Culture is the biggest funder of Ferwafa activities, how do you plan to attract the private sector on board to sponsor football in Rwanda?
Everyone is aware that Chan 2016 is happening in Rwanda. That is the core of the marketing and communications proposal. We have the corporate sectors so you tell them we have Chan and share with them the strategic plan….. so maybe they will start coming on board.
You know when someone is weak, which was the case with the previous management, you can accept anything. Bralirwa comes and gives you Rwf171m, and you say fine, and you take it, why? Because we are weak so we accept any money you are giving us but now that there is proper management, things are different.
If you want to come here and promote your brand then you should put money on the table. It is not like before where Turbo King says that they will increase the sponsorship by 22% per year and then they give the same amount of money for several years. So you also have to consider the inflation rate, if it is 8% and then you are giving me the same amount of money for years, it doesn’t work!
You worked in Kenya with FC Talanta two years ago as the Executive Director; However, it is a completely different situation in Rwanda. There is not much sports marketing here, how are you planning to achieve your set objectives?
Well, there is something in Rwanda that we have to exploit. It is the crisis of football management in East Africa. In Tanzania, Jamal Malinzi is doing a good job, Somalia crisis, Eritrea nothing, Djibouti nothing, Uganda, you have seen the crisis, Kenya FKF and KPL are fighting and Burundi, we are stronger than them.
Twenty years ago, you could have said that Burundi is stronger than Rwanda, today, Rwanda is far above Burundi. Who can compete with the Rwandan market today? I think the market is receptive like when you are in a football club and you are trying to get a sponsor! But this is a national governing body, it is Ferwafa.
There is no one above Ferwafa in football in the country. It is funded by Minispoc, okay but they fund all sports. No one is above Ferwafa so Ferwafa is the window for all the corporates. As I said before, the former management was weak.
Today, we have a strong team and the corporate companies not only want to promote their brand but they want to be linked with a stable management and that is what we have to sell to them.
For Supersport, we can bring them to Rwanda because of the stability. As we have seen in Kenya and Uganda, there is a lot of fighting right now and so they will be interested in Rwanda.
It is a bit more difficult than in the bigger countries because even in Europe, when you are in France, England and Germany, it is a big market but when you are in Slovenia, Moldova or Andorra, it is a small market, it is difficult to bring the brand. Well, here we have to harmonize the corporate world and sell the vision and sell the unity in football.
What I know is that there are many companies that sponsored Rwandan football before and want to come back now because they know they have made a mistake.
I want to use the competition; someone approaches you and gives you a token because for me Rwf171m is a token. If you want to sponsor and you want to promote your brand then you have to invest money.
With the competition, you have the prices, the demand and the market, if you have several companies from the same sector, the one which is making the best offer will win depending on their commitment, if it is one year, or two or three years.
And what I want to do for the clubs is to invest in coaching education. I want to oblige all the clubs to make sure that all the coaches in the division one and two have the Caf C licence and then the Caf B licence.
How exactly do you plan to sell the TV rights?
First of all, I do not know if I am going to sell the TV rights as one package or I sell to different companies! Meaning, we give to one TV the league, the other the qualifiers, the other national teams or I give everything to one television. This will depend on the money that they will put on the table but I prefer to give them to separate companies.
Rwanda is going to host Chan in 10 months, how is that going to be an advantage in helping you get sponsorship?
Chan is the second biggest football tournament in Africa. In 2016, there is only the Euro in Europe and you know corporate companies, they need visibility. Chan is the core.
You have Chan and you will sell the TV rights for the league, the friendly games and the youth leagues. Rwanda has successfully hosted two previous tournaments, the African Youth Championships and the Africa U-17 championships but this is bigger. Brands need visibility and will get visibility from the TV broadcaster.
It has to be successful first and for that we have a good marketing team and an events company. It is only about visibility.
Brands need visibility and if you give visibility to a TV, they will show the organization, how safe it is, how you market it, how much revenue you get, the support, everything is intertwined.
So for me, Chan will be my first big event but I worked as a volunteer at the 2011 Euro U-21 in Denmark and I saw how everything is done. It is about logistics.
Chan is the core. You can sell everything through Chan. If you sponsor the national team, you bring one telecom, one bank, one TV, you have 25,000 people watching them and the whole nation watching the brand, the scouts from abroad will take the players for trial in Europe, it will be good for the nation and qualification for Afcon 2017 and the 2018 Fifa World Cup.
The Ministry of Sports and Culture has a partnership deal with Italian company Errea where they get a 40% discount on equipment, are you going to maintain this relationship or get another shirt sponsor? What about availing replica jerseys for sale to the public? This has not been exclusive to Ferwafa in the past.
I have been in touch with Puma and Adidas, so I am also trying to attract the technical sponsor but it will be difficult, a technical supplier will be easy. We shall give them money and get kits but we shall also get replica jerseys to sell. So we shall have a technical supplier for the first year but depending on the Chan results, we shall probably get a technical sponsor.
If we qualify for the 2018 World Cup, be sure that Nike, Adidas and Puma will fight to be the sponsor of Amavubi.
They will not give us $30,000, they will give us $300,000 and give us kits, provide replicas and everything because there will be a market. Rwanda participating at Chan, Afcon or the World Cup is visibility for them.