The Kenyan football carnival- the absent crowds.

In the wake of the official release of total amount collected for the Nairobi Derby from the gate collections alone- It’s a sad state of affairs as it’s clear the greatest derby in the Capital would only attract slightly a figure below the 8000 mark. While it’s on this same forum that I wrote about the hype not being really felt by the masses, it’s not just the Nairobi Derby alone, several fixtures this season have seen a sharp decline in numbers.

While pitch side analysts, football bloggers and writers, sports administrators just to mention a few may want to depict the football league in Kenya as having attracted back fans to the stands- it’s only right to note even the few who were attracted earlier might be getting lost by the day.

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Clubs

If football is described as a religion, Clubs as churches and the beliefs and way of operations as doctrines then trust me- our clubs aren’t doing justice to the religion of football.

It should be known; most football clubs in this league didn’t start the other day and have been around for a while now. While times have changed and much more taken place over time, our clubs need to strike a balance between satisfying the hard-core support while attracting a much younger audience it has fast lost to TV.

Let’s not forget- most football clubs are still semi-professionally run, but even to those who might boast of a proper structure of doing things, much more still needs to be done. While grants given by the league body at the beginning of the league may excite a few- the demands of the game have far much risen over time and secondary sources of income form the financial base of most clubs.

The quickest route out of this financial hullabaloo for any club would thus be the fan base it attracts. In a case where the clubs has slightly less than two hundred fans watching it’s home matches, secondary income in the name of match day collections, supporters trusts initiatives or even sponsorship money- financial doom ruins the day.

Clubs thus need to sell the product to the people. What’s the product, where do you sell it, whom do you sell it to, how do you sell it?

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I’m not a marketer myself but in my economics class I learnt that the ability to sell several units of a good/service for a lower price  (small margin of profit) but will attract more buyers than selling fewer units of a good at a higher price (more margin of profit) but fewer buyers. The same would perfectly work with footballing crowds.

Match Day Tickets

While some Gor Mahia officials would claim that the ksh 500 gate entrance fee was targeted at maximising profits for the Derby day- it should be noted that several constraints hindered the realisation of this vision.

With 40,000 match day tickets printed- a few hours (probably 6) to have them sold and the distance of the stadium from the city centre- 500 shillings per ticket would have roughly brought the club around 20M(100%), 16M(80%) and even 12M (60%) none of which would be a bad figure.

But now look at it on the contrary- should the tickets have gone for around ksh300 or even ksh 250- it would mean those who were able to afford the ksh 500 attend and then those who of course are used to paying Ksh200/ksh 300 for match day tickets attend too.

The simple mathematics above thus point out to the fact that since the clubs in Kenya are yet to have a solid hard-core support, the best way to have them come to the stadium in droves is to have an affordable rate of ticket pricing. While then the fan-base builds, the prices can then move slightly higher but cautioning the need to keep the hard-core group as you attract new fans.

Connecting the Product to the fans

While this might borrow heavily from the economics above- the product the club sells to the fans matter a great deal. Every single football fan, claimed or unclaimed, loves to be associated with success.

Success on the pitch is the surest way of attracting more support to your side as more and more people will want to get associated with the brand and its way of play. This calls for lots of investment in the teams, proper structures and an on field and off-filed experience.

While financial prudence may more than often take prudence over improving the team it should be noted, it’s not just a business- the 90 minutes needs to be an experience that spills over to the other days of the week, it should then turn into a lifestyle for the fan.

Perfect case example again (Using the Derby) would be what the public perceived of the game. A few days to match day, most of us expected chaos at the event, rowdy fans battling police and even referees being chased all over the place- but as seen that wasn’t the case. The clubs (knowingly or unknowingly) have sold the idea to the public that at times it gets ugly and especially for such matches. On the contrary, TV right holders, without having to necessarily say it- have sold the product to the fans that no matter where you are, you can catch the game on your mobile device or the comfort of your sitting room.

See the conflict? As a fan then, why would I not sit at a bar, buy a few drinks at Ksh 100/200 and enjoy the game without fear of flying stones over my head or get my mobile device and stream the game as I visit the car wash.

At the stadium, with no fans it would be an empty environment. At the stadium with a dormant stadium big screen it would be no excitement if I missed the goal replay and had to wipe my seat all on my own. At the stadium it would be no excitement if I constantly lived in fear that if the referee makes a blunder, I might never be able to get into my car and drive home.

So many questions unanswered, so much more to be done and even further- so many seats need to get filled beside you on every match day. While we might talk all day and night, the safest way at the end of the day is how best (the product) is packaged to the fans and always seeking ways to surpass excellence.

Leave a Reply

  1. My sentiments finally…I see career people just work but always wonder if they care if their work is really working…Local football officials and sports journalists just working away for the cash without caring if its attracting the fans.Great piece

    • Thanks Nyagoal for reading- attarcting fans adds up the spice as you rightfully put it. hopefully every person involved in the process will help achieve this,

  2. How about the actual fan experience. Do Kenyans really want to pay 500 KES to sit on a hot concrete slab, have smelly toilets and no refreshments and watch a product that they could follow in a cosy pub, with a beer and some food?