New Platinum Stars coach Peter Butler and chairman Cliff Ramoroa. Photo: Aubrey Kgakatsi, BackpagePix

Money and sentiments don’t go together. If you insist on mixing the two you will end up broke and heartbroken.

That’s what Thanda Royal Zulu owners were trying to avoid by selling the club’s status to AmaZulu, much to the disappointment of the people of Richards Bay and uMhlathuze municipality. 

This is what the Platinum Stars owners are guarding against in their revelation that Dikwena are up for sale. 

They are trying to mitigate the financial demands that come with running the club before it takes too much strain on their pockets.

Stars chairman Cliff Ramoroa said he would like Dikwena to remain in Phokeng and continue using the same facilities after its sale. 

That “clause”, of keeping the team in the region, is fuelled by sentimental reasons and might not materialise as whoever purchases the club might have other ideas. If Stars were to be sold and they move from Phokeng and the North West, it would be sad for the people of the region.

But you could argue that those people also brought it upon themselves because of the little support they offer Dikwena. 

An empty Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace is an all-too familiar sight when the club is in action even though they’re the only side in the Premier Division from the province. 

Winning two trophies in a season, playing some beautiful football, finishing second and even reaching the group stage of the Caf Confederation Cup - all that couldn’t change the poor attendance in the past couple of years.

This decision by Stars further shows how hard it is to run a team in the Premier Division. One chief executive told me that a mid-table club could spend as much as R4 million a month on salaries, flights, accommodation, administration costs and facilities. 

That’s R2.5m more than the R1.5m monthly grants they get from the Premier Soccer League (PSL). This financial strain is behind the growing number of team’s statuses being purchased in the Premier Division and the National First Division.

Football is big business that requires commitment and, importantly, deep pockets. There is no room for sentiments as running a club with your heart and not your brains is an expensive exercise that could leave you bankrupt. 

But some of the struggles that clubs go through could be avoided.

It’s a sad indictment that only a handful of them have sponsors despite playing the country’s most popular sport. Average rugby and cricket teams have sponsors, even though they mostly play in front of empty stadiums with low viewerships. 

But the difference is that their marketing departments are handled by marketing people, not the owners’ children. 

It’s easy to set targets and have that person work their butt off to meet them when they are just an employee because they know if they don’t perform, they will get the boot.

I don’t think the same would apply to someone in that position who wouldn’t meet the targets working for their parent, even if they have the qualifications to do the job. 

I am not doubting people’s competency simply because their parents own teams. I am just saying that the demands and expectations would be different.

A sponsorship expert told me another problem is that clubs don’t know what they’re selling, which is why they struggle to get sponsors. There is also the obsession to get six-figure sponsorships instead of a number of smaller ones making financial sense once they all add up.

For all their flaws, Baroka FC have done a great job of “selling” themselves.

Not everyone will be sponsored by giants like Coca-Cola. If you don’t have the marketing pull of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to start locally and sell yourself to businesses there.

It doesn’t even have to be for money in return. It could be for accommodation or transport to alleviate some of the financial burden. 

It’s about time our clubs stepped out of the ancient age and started looking at innovative ways to sell themselves so that they can compete in this financially demanding environment. 

If that doesn’t change, Dikwena will not be the last club sold due to financial difficulties.

The fans must also come to the party. If they aren’t speaking through the turnstiles by supporting their team, then their voice doesn’t carry much weight when the owners decide to sell their team because it doesn’t make financial sense.

Saturday Star

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