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Part 1: The Opportunity for Local Sports to Improve Their Position in the Market?

Written by Gary Rathbone

In our first part of our series in which we sat down with Gary Rathbone, a sports media expert, we discussed the opportunities that exist for the smaller, local sports and how they can cease them.

It is undeniable that local sports have a future within the Africa media landscape because there is a demand for local sports to fill the gap in the growing media landscape. But if it’s going to make that leap, it has to be more attractive to broadcasters and advertisers. Below are 3 areas that are key in order for local sports to improve their position in the market.

1. Make What They do More Commercially Attractive

They have to find a way to make it more interesting for sponsors to come on board. Sponsorship can come in at the bottom level, bring the money in and that in itself will make the sport look a lot better, as sponsors add a veneer of glamour to anything.

Now imagine the World Cup without any sponsorship attached to it, it’s not exactly the same. We’ve all read a few things about sponsors, but actually, when sponsors come and say they want to sponsor something, it means that there is something good there. And if sponsors don’t want to touch something, it makes other potential parties and sectors question why they should also get involved. So sponsors do add value in those terms and that makes a big difference.

2. Pay More Attention to how They Structure Themselves as a Business

Too many federations and associations, are run by people who are from amateur sports organisations and don’t have that business acumen which is really what’s needed. We need a much stronger business attitude towards running federations and associations, so people can start realising the potential of these properties as businesses. It’s not just about arranging your fixtures, managing your referees committees and making sure everybody gets oranges at Half Time. You’ve got to actually look at the commercial possibilities and making sure that everybody understands the way that sport can be run as a business and run it that way.

For example, I remember what we did with the KPL (Kenyan Premier League) when I was at SuperSport. What we originally set out to do back in 2008 was to go in and transform it completely. We really helped them build their commercial structures.

So the first thing to do was to show how things were going to be:

  • You need a CEO. It wasn’t going to be a club chairman who gets elected who will be in charge, no. A club chairman runs and chairs the committee, but he doesn’t run the day-to-day business of the league.We took the KPL CEO to the Sports Administrations MBA business school for a year, so he learnt that and then put him back in his position.

Image of the Nigerian Football Team from WAFU 2017 Semi Final between Nigeria and Benin

  • We took the key stakeholders and the league executive to Germany to spend some time with the Bundesliga, to see how the Bundesliga gets run and how they manage things like the media; club licensing systems; their stadiums and fans, all those kind of things to see how they can be more effective and efficient in the way they built their business.

So we invested in all of that to try and help them and in the first few years it worked well. By 2012, a lot of The Kenyan Premier League games were being covered, stadia were full, the coverage was fantastic and it was really exciting.

So I think this is important, to have this business acumen in the leagues to make sure things are run properly and efficiently and not from a partisan point of view.

3. Having Good and Well-Run Facilities

This is important because nobody wants to go and see a match where stadia and pitches are poor, with no fans in attendance. It doesn’t work nor does it impress anybody. So you have to invest in your infrastructure and venues, again whether its volleyball, chess or football. Whatever you do, you make sure that the environment is great for spectators to come and engage with the sport. At the end of the day if you have a property where the venue looks good, there’s a lot of people there, the advertisers are engaged, its well run and its exclusive on a certain platform where people can reach it. You’ve got a good business and you are making money for your sport and people then want that. If its exclusive and its working, then the other party who hasn’t got exclusivity, when that deal comes to be negotiated is knocking on your door and saying, ‘whatever they are paying you, I’ll pay you double because we see how good it is.’



About the author

Gary Rathbone

Gary Rathbone is the founder of Sports News Africa, an endeavor to create new and relevant sports programming for African broadcasters and advertisers looking to bring engaging sports content to viewers across the continent.

With over 30 years experience in African football as a journalist and TV producer for African sports shows inc the first pan-African football show, The African Soccer Show, Futbol Africa for SuperSport and helped create and manage the CAF African Player of the Year Awards event between 2001 and 2005.

He won the SAB South African Sports Journalist of the Year award for Best TV Insert in 2006 for his piece on football and reconciliation in Rwanda, produced for his Futbol Africa show.

He also has good relationships with many of the major role-players and sponsors involved not only in African football but other sports, most notably Nigerian basketball, Kenyan athletics and Kenyan and Ugandan rugby. As well as in Rwanda, Zambia and South Africa.

LinkedIn: Gary Rathbone

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