Gor Mahia Must revitalized And Restored to Greatness-SG Elect Sam Ocholla

Gor Mahia secretary-general elect Sam Ocholla poses for a photo with his election certificate outside his office in Kileleshwa, Nairobi on August 6, 2020.

Newly elected Gor Mahia Secretary General Sam Ochola has promised to instill professionalism in the running of the club.

To kick-off his tenure, Ochola wants the team’s management to furnish him with all audited financial statements for the past three years to ascertain whether there was transparency and accountability in usage of club funds.

The task ahead of him will, however, be unlike anything he faced in the media. To achieve its potential, Gor Mahia needs to achieve overdue promises of building a stadium, securing meaningful sponsorships, creating an organized membership structure and collecting regular fees and improving its brand to be among the world’s best.

More immediately, it needs to stop losing it’s best players to other leading continental clubs. It baffles many pundits how a club of Gor Mahia’s stature continues to hit the headlines over non-payment of salaries and allowances.

Sad stories of players being locked out of their houses for non-payment of rent have shown just how dire the situation is. While the problem runs deeper and is a pointer to the overall state of Kenyan football and the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League, fans hope that Ochola will at least make a difference at K’Ogalo.

A tough-talking  Ochola told Nation Sport that current financial woes at the club must have been caused by misappropriation of funds from former sponsors SportPesa since 2018.

He said he doesn’t understand why Gor has been struggling financially yet it has enjoyed sponsorship since 2011.

“Gor has always had sponsors who can foot its bills for the whole year, including when they are on recess like now. But due to mismanagement and lack of transparency, all this money has been disappearing,” said Ochola.

“I am demanding to see the club’s audited accounts for the last three years, to ascertain how funds were used by those who have been in the office,” he added.

In 2011, milk processing firm – Tuzo signed a Sh38 million two-year deal with K’Ogalo, which they extended for another year for an improved figure of Sh29 million.

Betting firm SportPesa then came to their rescue in 2016 with a five-year deal worth Sh65 million per annum. However, the gaming company cancelled the deal and several other sponsorships in the country in August 2019, after the government withdrew their operating license.

With Gor facing a biting financial crisis following SportPesa exit, Agro Chemicals under their brand Patriot gave Sh1 million to the club ahead of their first round Caf Champions League return match against Algerian side USM Alger..

Defender Joash Onyango’s exit to Tanzania’s Simba last week increased to seven the number of players who have ditched K’Ogalo this transfer window.

Others are goalkeepers David Mapigano and Peter Odhiambo who have joined Azam FC and Wazito respectively, Dickson Ambudo who signed for Dodoma Jiji FC in Tanzania and speedy forward Boniface Omondi who crossed over to Wazito.

Captain Kenneth Muguna, Jackson Owusu and Ugandan import Juma Balinya are also on the verge of leaving the record Kenyan Premier League champions.

Coach Steven Polack has also announced that he will be traveling to his home land  Britain this week raising fears that he may not come back just like Hassan Oktay, Frank Nuttal and Dylan Kerr who left under similar circumstances.

With the mass exodus of players likely to affect Gor’s performance in future, Ochola who was elected unopposed has assured that he will be keen on how Gor manages its transfers. He says improving welfare is one way he intends to retain key players.

“To ensure clubs like Simba reduce their free will raid on Gor, moving forward we shall take better care of our players and make sure all their salaries and benefits are paid in time,” Ochola said.

In June, Gor got a new lease of life when Bet High Kenya Limited under their flagship brand, BetSafe agreed to sponsor them to a tune of Sh55 million per season for the next three years.

And the club will also receive Sh8 million per season as grants as part of Sh1.2 billion sponsorship from BetKing for the top tier league announced by Football Kenya Federation for the next five years.

Ochola said that to ensure the funds are not misappropriated, a system to enhance accountability must be put in place.

“The reason why corrupt practices have found their way in Gor is because of lack of structures. With a leaner Executive Committee (EC) team, we are putting governance and proper communication channels in place to close the loopholes that some former EC officials were capitalising on to cut dirty deals for self-satisfaction,” he said.

“As the head of the Secretariat, it is my duty in consultation with my colleagues in the EC to establish structures that will not allow room for corruption,” said the media mogul.

He also took issue with the club’s failure to generate revenue from player transfers. “We have sketchy contracts and dubious agents who sign with us for one season or maximum two seasons then somehow, players end up leaving the club as free agents giving us a raw deal in terms of earning revenue, through sales of the players to other clubs. This has made us lose millions of Kenya shillings that could easily supplement the sponsorship revenues we are getting today from betting firms,” lamented Ochola.

While revealing that some top foreign players will join the club by the end of August, Ocholla said that moving forward, they will seek to strengthen the youth team to provide them with replacements for players who are leaving.

He stated that he intends to achieve that by creating a department in his office to monitor the progress of the youth team and also ensure that it receives 20 percent of all the club’s sponsorships, as enshrined in the constitution.

“Our sponsors also have to support the youth team. There is always a 20 percent provision for the youth team in Gor’s constitution,” said Ocholla, whose media company – Dala FM in Kisumu – sponsored the youth team for three years.

Ochola also wants the club to adopt a business model as a way of ensuring financial independence.

“We will be deliberating on the process of building a business model that will see the club become a full commercial entity, as well as retaining its wonderful character of a fans-based club like Barcelona. This will however take time to establish, but we remain keen on actualising it.”