Kenyan football clubs lose revenue to counterfeits
Popular football clubs in the country are losing substantial revenue to crooks who sell counterfeit merchandise. Officials of the country’s two biggest clubs, AFC and Gor Mahia have been left to ponder ways of dealing with the menace that has seen revenues fail to match the soaring popularity even with fans donned in club merchandise in the stadiums. Merchandising the world over has become the financial lifeblood of sporting professional clubs; but not so in Kenya. On average, a Gor Mahia match will attract between 12,000 and 20,000 fans. This is a small number compared to the legions of fans countrywide that will follow the match on television. A huge number of them wear the club’s jersey, wristbands, polo-shirts and carry club-branded items like umbrellas and bottles. According to George Bwana, the club’s secretary general, numerous outlets in the city sell the club-branded items without the club receiving a cent. This revenue loss runs into millions. Ardent fan Paul Agonda says the shops have textile printing machines that they use to print the club’s name on imported, green and white Adidas jerseys. They also have a supply of the club’s badge which is sewn to the shirt whereupon the shirt is ready. These jerseys will go for as high as Sh1,500 with a fan’s name on the back costing an extra Sh500. Other merchandise like the popular Kogalo helmet are also being produced with alarming alacrity by opportunistic profiteers. “For a long time we’ve not been able to patent our logo but we finally did it and now by law anyone using it without our consent is violating a right,” says Mr Bwana referring to the recent registration with the Kenya Industrial Property Institute.
This may be the beginning of the end of the pirates. In May this year, the club officials, fans and police arrested four traders in Eastleigh for unauthorised sale of club merchandise. Although the number may be small, it sends out a powerful message that the club is ready to take on the unregistered dealers.
AFC organising secretary Timothy Lilumbi says that areas like Gikomba are notorious for selling jerseys illegally but they intend to reign in these pirates soon.
“We don’t have a shop where we stock our merchandise but we intend to establish retail partnerships with recognisable outlets like Uchumi, Nakumatt and branch outlets to sell club ware once the secretariat is in place,” he adds.
But AFC fan George Situma blames the clubs’ managements for their woes saying they ought to make sure that merchandise is cheap and readily available.
By KIARIE NJOROGE