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Opinions of Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Columnist: Abdul Rashid Zakari

Response to Gary Al-Smith's take on Asante Kotoko SC/ Herbalife deal

Good day chief, Hope you doing good. I read about your take on the Kotoko/Herbalife deal. You raised very good issues but I must say it's not always about protecting credibility and reputation as far as partnership and deals in sports, especially, football is concerned.

Fast forward!

Question: What do Nigeria's STERLING BANK and Swiss luxury watchmaker JEAN RICHARD have in common?

Answer: They are both official sponsors/partners of Arsenal football club and have paid huge bucks to be associated with the famous name and mons meg crest of ARSENAL FOOTBALL CLUB.

These 2 distant companies and many firms sponsoring sports properties (Club, tournament, players and structures) appear to have little to do with football but they come on board with specific intent of probably generating awareness and recognition or for fans to act favourably to its products and services and ultimately have their brands soar more by associating it with these popular football clubs and sports properties.

I can tell you for a fact that, Arsenal have no fewer than 21 companies listed as partners/sponsors, with each contract worth between £500,000 to £1M annually.

THE BUCKS IS THE MAIN THING NOW.

Lately, there is a ploy by Arsenal and many popular football clubs to regionally have partners/sponsors on regional basis (country-by-country/continent-by-continent) and hence, the reason Manchester United has an office in Hong Kong, Arsenal in India, Bayern Munich in America.

This new strategy quite clearly tells that the extra income is the main draw for these clubs.

Eg: It is more than a stretch to claim Manchester United and Malaysian based Mamee, the club's official noodles partner for Asia, Oceania and Middle east are natural bedfellows.

Yes! they are so much concerned about their credibility/reputation and that of prospective sponsors/partners. Many football deals have collapsed due to reputational issues but generally, there is an attempt by these clubs to grab anything that come their way. Which is as a result of the debts, loans being serviced by these clubs and their huge operating costs. I strongly believe you will agree with me that Kotoko is not an exception to these issues.

SHELF REPUTATION: ITS BUCKS OVER CONTROVERSY

In July 2010, Liverpool FC signed a 5 year shirt sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered Bank and 2 years later (2012), the bank was branded a "rogue institution" by US regulators for covering up $160 bn worth of illegal transactions with the Iranian government. $6bn dollars was subsequently wiped off from its value on the American stock exchange. Liverpool being a historical and reputable club based in a country which happens to be an ally of the US and an ardent critic of the Iranian govt, they could have easily advised themselves on the deal and go separate ways, but chose to stay because of the money being paid to them is too good to be turned down.

Russia and world largest gas company, Gazprom have been indicted and charged countless times by authorities like Berne and Greenpeace, an environmental pressure group institution, on their operations as far as oil and gas spills are concerned. In fact, it's known to be one of the most notorious and controversial companies in Europe, but it pays $30m annually to Gelsenkirchen's Schalke 04 and London based Chelsea football club for exploitable marketing opportunities. Gazprom keeps paying megabucks to be an official sponsor of the UEFA champions league and UEFA super cup. Till date, they are being investigated for several wrongdoings but does any club care! NO!

Even if they approach United/Arsenal for a partnership I'm not sure they will be turned down, provided the money is good.

These and more examples tell you it's all about the money and not so much about the credibility and reputation.

BACK TO THE ISSUES YOU RAISED

1) I'm still wondering whether the pyramid scheme operations of Herbalife goes against the laws of Ghana. Because there are many companies operating in this country that operate on a similar scheme. Egs include Edmark, Meilun Co limited, Tiens Ghana and Jimon.

2) if reputable clubs like LA GALAXY, PSV Eindhoven and Olympiacos still see nothing wrong with the operations of Herbalife USA and sticks with them amid these controversies, I don't see the reason why it should be a worry for Kotoko. After all, in Africa we hardly care about reputational images or credibility of football clubs.

So in the nutshell, this shouldn't be an issue Kotoko should be worried about at all in the first place but rather be celebrated and received as a welcoming news for the club and our league as whole. There is more room for improvement as far as the marketing and commercialisation of our league clubs and the league is concerned. I say, Congratulations to Kotoko for this new partnership and hope to see more.

Thank you