Good governance is essential for a football club or association to be managed effectively and to demonstrate transparency and accountability.
Values are at the core of good governance, but it is brought to life by leadership, direction and supervision —by the people who have the right skills and experience for their roles.
Good governance needs to be formalised in robust and thorough policies and procedures which must be continually reviewed.
By adopting the principles of good governance, football associations and clubs benefit much in terms of engaging the trust of all stakeholders and we are in need of that in Zimbabwe as a matter of urgency.
It is in the interest of the game that clubs and associations adopt and can demonstrate good governance. Good governance will not in itself ensure success, but it should improve an association’s and a club’s management, support their reputation, and most importantly, help secure their future and sustainability.
With good governance, our football teams, Premier Soccer League (PSL) and the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) should be financially independent and disaster prepared in a bid to mimic top leagues in Africa as closely as possible.
How will an effective executive body provide good governance and leadership?
An effective executive body will embrace its values and behave with integrity by safeguarding and promoting the reputation of the association or club and the game.
The most invaluable assets of a business are its brand name and reputation. Indeed, an organisation’s brand and reputation is often synonymous to its success. A strong brand has various positive implications, for instance, customers are not willing to pay for an organisation’s product but they are also happy to pay for the overall experience.
Gone are the days when Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United used to attract the best players from Mbare, Mzilikazi and Highfields because of their strong football brands but it is a different case today because the current executives are failing to take advantage of their clubs’ popularity to reclaim the dominance they used to command.
Conflicts of interests are not a stranger in every organisation and reveal in greater extent the values of individuals or organisations and the executive body has to act in accordance with the best interest of the association or club and game.
They have to identify, understand and manage conflict of interests that may arise and in the process maintain high ethical standards to ensure they (conflicts of interests) are properly disclosed and dealt with.
We have had cases of conflict of interests at the ZIFA during Phillip Chiyangwa’s tenure as president, when he moved the offices of the national association from number 53 Livingstone Avenue to his personal offices along Enteprise Road.
The suspended ZIFA Board member for finance, Philemon Machana, was also caught in the conflict of interest debacle after the forensic audit unearthed alleged loan payments made to a company, Conduit Investments —where he was a shareholder and director. There were no records of declared interests on the transaction with ZIFA.
The PSL Board of Governors is another example where club chairpersons have conflicting interests in trying to serve the interests of their clubs at the same time serving the interests of the league.
Can we expect them to make decisions that affect their clubs or their positions at those clubs so as to satisfy good governance practices?
We have another scenario at Dynamos, where two sons of the club’s board chairman, Bernard Marriott Lusengo, are part of the technical team handling the newly created kit manager position when it was initially the team manager’s role before.
Failing to deal with a conflict of interest may not be illegal, but it is certainly unethical and can cause real damage to the club, as well as the reputations of the individuals involved.
The executive body has the mandate to set the culture and ethos of the association or club, along with how they operate and ensure that the association or club upholds the principles of equality and diversity.
Culture refers to the set of values, ethics, and beliefs that define the day-to-day operations and atmosphere at an organisation.
Now more than ever, football associations and clubs should be working to stay true to their ethos —specifically the essential elements that remain when everything else evaporates. After all, it is this culture that drives the support and passion a team earns from its fan base.
It is vital not to get tricked into thinking that fans only follow silverware. Don’t get me wrong, it helps —but being a ‘winner’ alone is not enough because we have seen clubs and associations with no or few silverware but have passionate fans.
As the business-side of the game becomes ever more important, it is key that the club or association understands the emotional engine that powers it and its fan base.
The literal definition of a club’s or association’s core ethos is more important than ever.
Often, quite perversely, fandom is not earned by success. Instead, the bond is formed by what the club represents to you personally and how it connects.
That’s why the Leicester City story, when they won the Premier League in 2015/16 despite pre-season odds of 5000/1, gave every fan hope, and that is what enabled the Chicago Cubs to last 108 years with an empty trophy cabinet.
Oftentimes I hear club administrators in Zimbabwe telling fans not to say anything about how their clubs are being run because they are just mere supporters whose duty is to pay to watch matches and sing for the team during matches. This kind of mentality has taken our football to where we are because we have failed to realise the importance our fan base to our football success story.
Leadership, direction and supervision.
They (football administrators) have to understand their role and responsibility in relation to being aware of the skills and experience required for carrying out this role.
Working in football administration involves dealing with lots of different professionals across specialisations hence your people management skills have to be up top. This could be legal experts, marketers and sales professionals, trainers, financial experts, medical professionals or the press.
As a football executive, you are the facilitator, meaning you must exercise your people skills to ensure that everyone stays on schedule and delivers tasks to a high standard in order to keep all stakeholders happy in the process.
Time management is key to a football executive at any level because all things work with time frames and have to be completed on time. You must therefore ensure that the people you manage are in the right place at the right time to make sure end consumers are satisfied.
We have a lot to learn on time management issues in football as most of the time appointments are not met and some clubs and even ZIFA promise to have replicas and other products at a certain time but nothing materialises hence destroying the trust the stakeholders had before.
We need to know that when things are not going according to plan, always communicate with the stakeholders so that they know what’s transpiring.
Another factor that needs to be mastered is communication, which is arguably the most important component of a successful business environment. Without it, football executives can’t establish effective relationships with business partners and other stakeholders.
Internally, poor communication causes confusion among teams and damages productivity.
Am sorry to be using more Dynamos examples but they are the closest to some of the issues, and last season they suffered a setback in their title challenge due to poor internal communication after their executive was divided and suspended coach Tonderai Ndiraya with the team on top of the log and ended up finishing third.
It is also key that the executive body applies the law and football’s rules and regulations that apply to the association or club.
Any member of the executive should be appointed in accordance with the rules or articles of the club or association. Clubs and other football bodies may develop a recruitment policy that include equal opportunities, safeguarding considerations, application procedures, examination of CVs, obtaining references, interview procedures, application of the national football association’s owners and directors test if it is available in Zimbabwe. If it is not available it’s high time we have one to protect our football from vultures bent on destroying the game.
It is the duty of the executive to safeguard the assets of the association or club and that they are used only to further the agreed objectives of the club to ensure sustainability. Assets of an association or club include both tangible and intangible.
Players need continuous support because they are key in the success of any football institution since most clubs in Zimbabwe have a reputation of abandoning their players when they get injured or not paying their current players because their contracts will be about to expire. You can’t expect to lure good players with such a reputation.
The club or association needs to continuously make sure their employees are developed to be relevant in the ever changing football and economic market.
The football industry rewards those who are brave enough to take risks —be that on the pitch or in business for them to stay sustainable and this requires a working business model.
For this reason, working in football business and management requires an entrepreneurial mindset and a willingness to ask questions, challenge the status quo, be curious, and view change as a way to unlock new opportunities for growth.
Bulawayo Chiefs were closer to that but not sure where they missed it as they couldn’t take advantage of their social media popularity to turn it into revenue hence a missed opportunity and now find themselves in a financial mess.
Having the ability to take measured risks and manage the risk assessment process is essential in competitive marketplaces such as football.
The executive also has to be open and accountable by ensuring open communication that informs people about the association or club and its objectives. For every organisation to succeed, they have to know who are its stakeholders and have to consult them on significant issues and football associations and clubs are not an exception.
In communicating and consulting with their stakeholders, they have to ensure that they listen and respond to their views.
A successful executive of an organisation is seen by providing a clear direction to its members and effectively delegating tasks. Directing and delegating work for your team as an executive is one of the most common skills essential for daily management.
There is a set of general principles of supervision that support your efforts to effectively provide direction to your team.
On employment, a comprehensive orientation provides individuals with a clear understanding of their roles, job description, access to resources, and policies/procedures.
When providing direction to others, it is helpful to explain the rationale for the activity or task and how this work will have an impact on the big picture, or overall results.
Delegating involves assigning authority to an employee to carry out specific activities. Effective delegation requires careful planning to ensure a smooth transition in handing over authority to someone else to carry out specific activities.
We have situations where those in positions of authority do all tasks alone and do not feel comfortable delegating some activities for fear of losing power. Clear direction and delegation can help develop your team to become more effective as a group.
In addition, team members develop and grow personally when they are successful in their work and take on new activities. This motivates the team as they meet new challenges and develop a sense of responsibility and receive recognition. As a coach one can decide to delegate some duties to the captain during the match so that they develop as coaches for the future.
Policies and procedures
An executive body of any football organisation has to formalise policies and procedures, and exercise effective control by understanding and complying with legal, regulatory and football requirements.
These include the production and filing of annual accounts, the holding of annual general meetings, maintaining and providing access to the register of members. These have been a panacea to Zimbabwean football decay as the national association, PSL and most clubs in the top-flight league do not comply with these.
It is the duty of ZIFA to make sure PSL provides their annual accounts and also the duty of the PSL to ensure all clubs produce and file their annual accounts.
A club or association needs to have good internal financial and management controls. Some of the key controls include making sure that authorised signatories are agreed upon by the executive body and regularly reviewed.
All payments must be approved by an authorised signatory before payment, full monthly bank reconciliations and also ensure full reconciliation of all income.
Regular checks of all club merchandise inventories, expenditure that require executive body approval to have two or more signatories, all loans to the club or association to be documented according to the rules of football, and that all employees must have up to date contracts of employment.
The football authorities in the country should also make sure all clubs publish the identities of the ultimate owners of each significant interest (that is 10% or more in the club).
During the production of annual accounts, the clubs provide an opportunity for the executive body or its chairman to address key issues in relation to the club including the names of the members of the executive and their respective roles.
There should also be a statement that in the opinion of the executive body the club is a going concern, the financial performance for the year highlights trends and the current financial of the club or association.
At least annually before the start of each accounting year, the executive should consider the main threats to the performance of the club or association and their ability to achieve their financial, operational and compliance objectives.
Appropriate arrangements should be made to manage the impact and likelihood in the event that the threat materialises.
Nonetheless, special mention should be given to the likes of Chicken Inn, FC Platinum, Ngezi Platinum and other company or individually run football teams that have shown us that it is possible to practise good governance.
This is certainly the future of our football and has been evident to those countries and clubs that have embraced good governance practices.
Dynamos has been in the courts with various factions trying to control the club as a result of lack of transparency on the actual ownership structure of the club. The current board chairman, Marriott, is alleged to have fraudulently awarded himself a controlling stake of 51% and awarded other seven individuals 7% stake each without their knowledge.