Opinion: How Gor Mahia can return to African glory

18th century German scientist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg once said: “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”

With that in mind I begin to write today.

My late grandfather was a football fan and a die-hard Gor Mahia fan, presumably by virtue of living within walking distance from Nyayo Stadium which hosted a lot of Gor Mahia matches years ago. In our peaceful tete a tete moments he would try to endear me and induct me into supporting Gor Mahia FC, he would always tell me of the old days when Gor Mahia was a true giant in Africa. He would reminisce over greats like Peter Dawo, Hezborn Omollo and Bobby Ogola just to mention a few. The highlight of those stories would always be their 1987 Mandela Cup triumph over Tunisian side Esperance FC.

After 18 years I was able to witness Gor Mahia win their 13th league title. To me, and to many fans at the Moi international Stadium, it signalled a return to the old glorious days.

K’Ogalo have gone on to win five more league titles since then. And has also attracted sponsors and great players from around the region to in an attempt to become a force to be reckoned with in continental football.

Unfortunately, the successes at Gor Mahia have been blinded by how the club is run. One would think that by participating in continental football that club officials could learn a thing or two and replicate it with the daily running of the club, but sadly nothing has been learned apart from a free geography lesson and more stamps on their passports for the officials who accompany the club. This is why the club has failed to live up to the heights of its peers around the region.

The biggest let down is the lack of structures at the club to help run the club professionally, at the moment the club is run like a briefcase party with the motto being see no evil, hear no evil. The current Chairman, Ambrose Rachier, has been at the helm of the club for several years now, and I will give credit to him for steering the club from the pits to a point of success, but like many African leaders who come to the fold with a transformative agenda they never know when to leave – especially when they have a firm grip on power.

The other officials also are not exempt from the blame. The current crop of leaders have turned the club into mockery failing to be accountable to the fans on the financial situation of the club. It is common knowledge that before any CAF Champions league campaign the club must call for a fundraiser to help the club foot their bills, this has also been an opportunity to ask for handouts from politicians. Many have been accustomed to Gor Mahia players going on strike multiple times during the season not to mention the shoddy transfer dealings at the club and on the club merchandise.

Gor Mahia has had sponsors before so lack of sponsorship cannot be the problem nor the solution, they have enjoyed the political goodwill by the government footing for their continental bills, the fans have always come to their rescue financially when called upon so the club has all the support they need to be better. But the prevailing circumstances cannot allow for a proper running of the club.

Many have suggested elections to be the solution but I believe Gor Mahia cannot conduct a transparent election, and that they will end up with a charade disguised as an election.

My solution to this circus, which I know will be unpopular with many, is for Gor Mahia to drop the community tag and turn it into a Public Limited Company (PLC). This will allow serious investors, companies and fans to buy stock in the club which will bring infusion of cash to help in the daily expenses of the club.

This move will necessitate restructuring in the club and bring to the fold professionals in the running of the club and declare the busy bodies and cartels within an around the club redundant and by virtue of being a Public Limited Company they will be forced to lay bare their yearly financial records to the shareholders in their annual general meetings and not the usual meetings at Jukwa lounge in the name of AGM.

Once transparency is achieved sponsors will come on board. Gor Mahia is a brand and many would want to partner with them but the lack of accountability and the secret financial dealings remains a stumbling block for many sponsors.

I know the idea of change normally scares many but change is inevitable and like Heraclitus the Greek Philosopher said: “Change is the only constant thing in life.” More and more organizations today face a dynamic environment so it is up to the incoming office to look into this and embrace change so as to steer the club into greater heights of success and sustainability.

There are case studies in the world and even around Africa of PLC owned clubs which are doing well financially. Simba SC in neighbouring Tanzania can be sighted as an example, since they transitioned from a community club success has come their way and they have leapfrogged their arch rivals Yanga who are still stuck in the past and have failed to embrace PLC.

When you go down south you have Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns. In West Africa you have Horoya AC and Hearts of Oak and in North Africa you have Pyramids FC. All the clubs mentioned have gone on to challenge in their leagues and reach the continental club tournaments because of the professionalism at the clubs and their financial muscle.

Gor Mahia in my considered opinion deserves better and should be in the same tier as the clubs mentioned above. Gor Mahia should be self-sustainable and not dependant on handouts. Players shouldn’t need to go on strike at Gor Mahia. In fact they should be attracting the best players in the continent and not be losing players to Simba every season and the only way all this will be possible is by embracing shareholding.

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Peter Drucker