Sports business a virgin land yet to be exploited
Posted Sunday, April 26 2009 at 19:29
Manchester City have planned a three-game summer tour of South Africa in a move seen in England as towards establishing a global brand and gaining ground on Manchester United’s worldwide popularity.
Touring South Africa is clearly a City’s raid on United territory. The country is a Manchester United hotbed.
City have accepted an invitation to take part in a three-game tour in July that will see them face Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs in Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria.
The news is highly significant for Kenyans because this country does not lack ambitions of developing into as a hub on which staging of world class sporting events can rotate.
The wheels of the popular English Premier League must be moving pretty fast even for one enigmatic Kenyan with a staggering record of bringing some of the greatest world sportsmen off all time to play in Kenya and staging spectacular events with fantastic world appeal.
In 1996, Sharad Ghai burst into a breathtaking limelight of managing Kenyan cricket, leaving everyone dumbfounded by his tactics.
Between then and 2005, Ghai bankrolled the professionalising of talented Kenya national team players giving them a semblance of the status of others in the leading nations.
He also galvanised incredible sponsorship for the country to host every great cricket playing nation and bring to Kenya the entire cast of world cricket stars playing in that period.
Amid all the glamour and associated big money business Ghai acquired detractors. Three officials of the Nairobi Province Cricket Association (NPCA) John Moyi, Tom Tikolo and Sukhbans Singh, lodged a case in court saying that Sharad Ghai’s sports management company, Media Plus, had failed to pay the Kenya Cricket Association (KCA) $3.3 million (approximately Sh233 million) after a four-nation tournament involving India, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya in 1999.
The NPCA said they were affiliates of the KCA and were concerned that KCA had been deprived of money by Sharad Ghai’s company. But only Moyi, in the end, was available to give evidence and said that KCA did not receive the $3.3m they were entitled to. Tikolo and Singh did not avail themselves at the court over several sittings.
Eventually, in the Chief Magistrate’s court, Nairobi, on the criminal case No.698 of 2005, CM A.O. Muchelule said: “I find the accused has no case to answer…and is accordingly acquitted.”
Chief Magistrate Muchelule said there was evidence that the KCA had no complaint against the accused in regard to the alleged $3.3m. The magistrate sited the KCA chairman, Jimmy Rayani’s evidence that the agreement with Media Plus provided for how the KCA was to benefit from the agreement and indeed benefited leaving them with no complaint.
All that is water under the bridge for Sharad Ghai but the ramifications of his ceasing to take part in Kenyan cricket reverberate to this day. After ending his contractual obligation to pay the salaries of Kenya cricket players after the end of the shenanigans in 2006 the country’s performance has been dismal.
But the indefatigable Ghai, a former Kenya table tennis international, could as well have been weaving his business magic in any other sport outside cricket.
He has a passion for all top-flight competition -- from rugby football, swimming, volleyball and football. In a short stint, he involved himself with the national football team, Harambee Stars, hoping, then, to put the players on the same professional status as the cricketers. Familiar Kenya Football Federation lack of foresight put breaks on Ghai’s venture.
He has an interesting plan for volleyball and his dream is to turn the talented Kenyan women’s national and club sides -- the best in Africa -- not just aspirants for intermittent participation in the world and Olympic championships.