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Two Way Street
His Highness Sayyid Khalid Hamad Hamoud al Busaidi, chairman and president, Oman Football Association shares his plans to professionalise football in Oman with Mayank Singh

As Mohammed Rabeea, scored the winning goal in the finals of the 19th Gulf Gup between Oman and Saudi Arabia, in January this year, the nation erupted in frenzied celebration. The love and passion for the beautiful game manifested itself like never before. Says His Highness Sayyid Khalid Hamad Hamoud al Busaidi, chairman and president, Oman Football Association (OFA), We realise that to continue winning in regional championships we need to improve the quality of the football in the Sultanate and for this we need to transform our elite league into a professional league. The FIFA (Fdration Internationale de Football Association) and the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) has guidelines for a professional league. The OFA is also looking at countries which have adopted professional standards and have succeeded in improving the quality of the game with the help of the private sector.

The huge following that football enjoys as a sport across the globe means that economic benefits can be derived from an association with the game. Realising the commercial potential of the game, the OFA is also looking at moving in this direction. If we want to continue winning the Gulf Cup or Asia Cup we need to bring in new players and the best way of doing this is by bringing in better coaches and better infrastructure. We cannot do this alone and have to do this in partnership with companies who believe in the value of the game and what it can bring to the society in terms of social, economic and financial benefits, says Sayyid Khalid.

Professional norms
FIFA and AFC lays down a set of rules for becoming a professional league. The OFA is working on a commercial model like setting up a company which will become the clubs representative in the league. This will help clubs which do not have commercial acumen to import such modern knowledge and practices. Such companies can either be publicly owned or be privately held. The idea is to look at football as a business with a balance sheet, profit and loss account etc.

Most sporting clubs in Oman have assets like land (running into thousands of square meters at prime locations) and human talent that would be valuable for any company. There are 18 Omani players like Ali Habsi, Ahmed al Hosni, Mohammed Rabeea, Ahmed Hadid etc playing outside the Sultanate. Ahmed Hadid who plays in Saudi Arabia has a contract value of over $2mn, which shows the latent potential of such players. With the right kind of investments these leagues can produce better players which can in turn generate better revenues for such clubs. Revenues from television coverage constitutes the biggest source of revenue for football clubs globally. Clubs in Oman can capitalise on similar opportunities. Our players are no different from Kaka, Ronaldo or Ronaldinho, it is just that these players were trained and groomed properly and their talent became an asset, says Sayyid Khalid.

There are various models that can be explored in this direction. To become a professional club the existing teams like Muscat Club need to set up a commercial entity like a Muscat Club LLC. Such a club can either be sold to an individual or it can invite potential investors to invest in it or it can generate revenues from the clubs fund base. All the details of the company in terms of its governance structure, shareholding pattern and capital base also needs to be formalised. The OFA is seeking help from the English Premium League, the most advanced professional league in the world to help it in such an exercise. The English Premium League has accepted the offer and will be assisting the OFAs efforts.

A formalisation of the marketing aspects is another important aspect are such clubs going to concentrate on asset development (like people development), merchandising or will they focus on projects like property related development like hotels, accommodation for players, restaurants etc. All such businesses will carry the clubs name. OFA is organising a conference in October in which it will bring in key decision makers from the private sector to share with them the values of the game and the opportunities that football holds for the Sultanates economy.

Evincing an interest
A number of companies like Nissan (Suhail Bahwan Automobiles), Shell Oman Marketing and Oman Mobile are already associated with the game. The value that these companies are getting out of this association is huge. In the past we used to go to companies asking for charity, but today our approach is different, we state that these are the returns that your company will get as a result of the exposure that football gives you, says Sayyid Khalid. Thus football is a win-win situation for the private sector and the clubs.

The OFA has been approached by a number of companies to be either key sponsors or potential partners. The association is also coming up with new products like womens football, youth championship, beach football, under 12, 15, 17 and under 21 years. These formats catering to various segments of the Omani Society will in turn attract the right partners for each of these potential products. In 2008 the OFA closed its accounts with more than one million rials in sponsorships. Emboldened, the association is targeting a better figure in 2009. A sign of the financial potential that football as a game has in Oman.

There are 43 football clubs in Oman. The existing Oman Mobile league is a semi professional league. These clubs work as a social entity under the supervision of the ministry of sports. Their source of revenue is either government support or internal initiatives like developing property. The OFA also gives them financial support out of the partnership agreements that it has with Oman Mobile and Nissan. Any money that we generate from sponsorships, partnerships and media coverage will be routed back to these clubs. The objective is to have 12 clubs in the professional league by 2012. Once the professional league is in place, a company will be set for its management. This company will own the rights, formulate the corporate governance structure for the league and look into marketing and sponsorship issues. FIFA regulation requires a professional league to be managed by a company and clubs need to be companies as well. Says Sayyid Khalid, Our vision is to transform football into an industry and it is something that we have been working on for the last two years. And with the right leadership in place, Oman can look forward to many more winning goals in future.


 


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October - 2009

Cover Story

Digital Delight
Leveraging information technology to suit modern life is fast becoming a reality with the Sultanate of Oman taking a lead in becoming IT-savvy. For a layperson, this translates into getting practically all services at a click of a mouse. Visvas Paul D Karra takes a closer look

Other Headlines

On The Prowl
Swift and timely action by regulatory authorities unearthed fake funds and saved gullible investors from burning their fingers. Mayank Singh reports

Gearing Up
Omantel has been exerting efforts to come up with different and better ways to serve its customers. With competition looming ahead, it is only natural that the company should make such moves to satisfy its corporate customers, writes Visvas Paul D Karra

Demand Steadies Prices
Omans real estate sector has continued to keep up the momentum generated before the global financial crisis and this can be attributed to government spending leading to a growth in job opportunities and consequent demand for housing

Manpower Management
The successful implementation of Omanisation percentages in the private sector involves modifying prevailing working atmosphere. A report by Fatma al Araimi and Visvas Paul D Karra

Grit And Determination
Humayun Kabirs variegated experience across countries and companies has shaped his worldview and paved his way to success. Mayank Singh reports

Effortless Interaction
The need to streamline the interaction between users and machines is now more important than ever. Malcolm Xavier Crasta tracks the ongoing developments in the field to see what is in store for us

Philippines A Business Friendly Archipelago
As an emerging economy, the Philippines provides many opportunities to investors. Its strategic geographic location makes it a strong contender to be Asias largest transshipment hub

Universal Appeal
Vinita Bali, CEO, Britannia Industries and the 22nd most powerful woman in the world according to an Financial Times survey talks about the acquisition of Al Sallan Food Industries and her future plans for the company in an exclusive interview with Mayank Singh

First Things First
Jack Perkowski, a keynote speaker at the Leaders in Dubai Business forum speaks to OER about the economic crisis, poverty alleviation and climate change

Collaborative Effort
Jan Babiak, partner, global climate change and sustainability services leader, Ernst&Young talks about the immediacy of environment protection to Mayank Singh. Excerpts

Road To Economic Recovery
The bouncing of the stock market, rise in oil prices and the completion of many real estate projects in Oman means that the Sultanate is on the road to recovery

Walk A Mile
Brisk walking helps to fight obesity, reduces stress levels and helps one to keep fit. It is also an exercise that does not require a big investment

Labour market challenge in Bahrain
Bahrains labour market faces key shortcomings notably overrepresentation of foreign workers besides the phenomenon of disguised unemployment and underemployment. Certainly this is not sustainable

Hedging for Turbulence
Rezidor Hotel Group, opened the Park Inn Hotel in Muscat earlier this year and is currently looking at opening its first Missoni Hotel in Kuwait. CEO, Kurt Ritter replies to questions sent by OER

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