Football must be treated like a business - Rayon sports CEO

The last few weeks has seen football take centre stage within Rwanda’s sports fraternity. With the resumption of the Primus National League, all eyes are set on new look Rayon Sports as it seeks to regain its glory of its yester years, a prospect  which has promises of raising  the stakes within the league. The implication is varied depending on how one looks at it. However,  Rayon Sports new CEO Jim Ford Angulu while talking to Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah of The New Times says that raising the stakes is meant to ultimately raise the competitive levels  within local soccer.
CEO Jim Ford Angulu
CEO Jim Ford Angulu

The last few weeks has seen football take centre stage within Rwanda’s sports fraternity. With the resumption of the Primus National League, all eyes are set on new look Rayon Sports as it seeks to regain its glory of its yester years, a prospect  which has promises of raising  the stakes within the league. The implication is varied depending on how one looks at it. However,  Rayon Sports new CEO Jim Ford Angulu while talking to Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah of The New Times says that raising the stakes is meant to ultimately raise the competitive levels  within local soccer.

Excerpts

Give us a background about yourself.

I am a kenyan with  an IT background. I have worked for several notable ICT companies in Kenya. I managed to come to work in Rwanda when Albert Rudatsimburwa was given my contacts by someone. At that time Rudatsimburwa was facing some challenges within his Contact FM radio station. I discussed with him and I ended up coming to Rwanda. I must add that I have  a love for football. My passion for football dates back to my high school  years when  I used to be  a player. Since then I have seen how, football matters, especially in  my home country have been run. In Kenya it is a fact that the talent is abundant but challenges still remain that serves to stifle further development.

It means that you have only played but not managed football as stakeholders want to see good experience in terms of getting Rayon Sports out of its past quagmire. I must add that you have been handed over a very big team in Rwanda for you to manage. Don’t you think that it will be a big challenge for you to handle?

I agree with you on the issue of managing Rayon Sports being a big challenge. However, l  must counter your arguments about my experience. Look at Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid. Has he ever played football? Look at what he has done .Look at his CV right now and which club he has managed.

So you want to be Jose Mourinho of Rwanda just the way Rudatsimburwa is the Abramavich of Rwanda?

No no no (laughs out loudly).....I cannot be. I cannot compare myself with Jose. However what I am trying to say is that in football, it is all about the game. How is it that you manage it. In the context of Rayon Sport the game of football must now be treated like a business. That has never been the case.

So what are your credentials in business if it is at all  about the business of football you are talking about?

I have done a lot of sales and marketing of ICT stuff in both Kenya and Rwanda. That being the case I must add that currently football has to be seen to be managed as a business. We cannot afford, anymore , to run football in a traditional manner. For  football to succeed in Rwanda it has to be run commercially.

That being the case, do you have a business plan for Rayon Sports?

Yes we do have a business plan. Within this plan we want to conquer the region. We want to ensure the full come back of Rayon Sports as it was before. And that once that is done Rayon Sports is here to stay.

That is very good ambition. But I must add that ambition and actualizing an ambition are two totally different things
Be rest assured that while the ambition is clear , we will work very hard to  actualize it.

My basic mathematics tells me that your plan entails spending around Rwf 200 million annually to run Rayon Sports to that level you are talking about. If this assumption is  true,  then it is a very refreshing prospect. That being the case, kindly tell us where funds are coming from

It is good that you have mentioned it so I need to make a clarification. What we want to do is to have a partnership that brings together Rayon Sports and Contact FM as two distinct entities. However,  we are both setting up a different company that will run Rayon Sports.

Let me interject by asking  that , with the incorporation of this new body corporate,  that you are talking about, where are  the sources of cash coming from?

While contact FM wants to replicate its growth pattern experience over the years over to Rayon Sports, let me make it very clear that we have not merged. Replicating this enriching experience is Albert Rudatsimburwa’s dream which is to transform Rayon Sports into a model like Contact FM. When it will come to funding and stuff like that , we will set up a body complete with  a board of directors to oversee its operations.

You mean to say that you have not set up these new structures?

Very soon we will.

So these are promises?

These are not mere promises.

But the  league is on going

We had to sort out  some of those very urgent issues afflicting the club but we are getting to sort out the bigger pictures issues very soon. I must add that things are working in the background. It is not that you must see things working in the foreground only.

So how are ownership dynamics going to work out?

Contact Sports Ltd a new entity will own 70 percent of Rayon Sports. The balance of 30 percent will be owned by the committee that previously owned Rayon Sports.

Now that it is  a 70-30 split, let us talk about capital
Contact Sports Ltd  will provide seed capital of between Rwf 200 million to Rwf 300 million.

Let us talk about the players you are targeting. Now that Rwanda is part of the EAC , are you casting your net even further? 

First all I must say that our current crop of players are our main strength. This entire cast is made up of very young  players. They are aspiring to be football stars. From the reports I have received from the coach, all of them are fit for the encounters coming up. Meaning that the missing link for a fact was the lack of  motivation arising out of lack of being paid on time which served to dog Rayon Sports for quite some time. Things were not in a good state. Now that things look promising, definitely, the situation will get much better in terms of performance.

One thing Rayon Sports  arguably has the biggest fan base in Rwanda, which Albert  Rudatsimburwa , as a shrewd businessman , must have seen a huge opportunity to make a difference. Looking at how European soccer is managed, how is your management going to utilize this fan base to make a difference?

Rayon Sports fan base is  in excess of a million fans. Branding will be brought forth to tap into this fan base and we will start by talking and practising the very basics of branding. Again I must add that such a thing has never been done in Rwanda in terms of football. We will spearhead this new move to show other clubs the way. We intend to unveil an emblem for the club very soon. Once we are up and running then, yes, we will have  to involve the fans more closely in terms of building the club’s core strength. We are organizing a better engagement forum  with all fans from a situation when such engagements never used to exist. We are going to formalize this engagement through opening up branches for the fans all over the country. We want our  fans to be closely involved. Especially when it comes to stuff like merchandizing that will arise out of the branding of Rayon Sports. This is one area where we want to capture their interest. When we engage them that way we want them  to generate some income for the club.

Let us talk about the titanic clash with arch-rivals  APR FC which is just coming up. Ever since you took over , you must have had time to reorganize things at Rayon Sports

I know that APR FC management must be seriously thinking about Contact FM’s move into Rayon Sports. What I want to say is that APR FC should brace themselves for tougher competition for years to come.

That basically and by extension it clearly means that you have raised the stakes within local football
Yes.

That being the case,  I must add that you have raised the stakes so much, so high that you are daring , in broad daylight , 13 time national league champions,  that you will squarely taken on them starting this season?

Yes we want to take the bulls by the horns.

Let us now talk about the larger ambitions once you  have raised the stakes in such a manner. Do you intend to take Rayon Sports to the continental levels just like TP Mazembe from the DR Congo has done?

First we want Rwanda to know that Rayon Sports is back. Our deal  with Rayon Sports is for 7 years meaning that we have the time and commitment to deliver on our ambition.

It means that you have done this deal in tandem with Vision 2020?

(Laughs out)………..7 years is more than enough time to take a club  to a level where any one would wish it to be. We are changing things for now. You can never know we may be at the CAF championships next year.

For that to happen,  you need very deep pockets
I must react to that by saying that within football anything can happen. While we may need the deep pockets that you are talking about, you can never know where they can come from. We have  the fans.7 years is more than enough. However the starting point is at the domestic level where we want to kill the trophy drought.

Tell me about the new faces at Rayon Sports

We are bringing in someone who will oversee the management of Contact Sports Ltd. Together with myself we will report to the board of Rayon Sports. A new team manager is also expected plus a team doctor, a  physiotherapist and  a nutritionist to turn Rayon Sports into a fully fledged professional club.

What are your concluding remarks

I want to tell Rwanda, Africa  and the whole world that if managed well football can pay returns of a varied nature and to a diverse constituency. In other parts of Africa such as South Africa things are working quite well, why not us? We want to show people that things  can be managed in a particular manner that is beneficial to all. And that local Football can be  a career for African players right here in Africa. We just  need the support of the larger stakeholders. Let it be competitive. The end result will be the national team Amavubi will benefit by tapping on to more quality players that will ultimately enable Rwanda to participate in bigger competitions. There is a lot of room for improvements. 

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