In the first part of this I looked at the team’s management and performances in lieu with the subject above. This is the second part, read on as I explore the areas of player recruitment, branding and sponsorship and infrastructure over the last five years.
Yours is the conclusion of whether or not the 1911 founded Oak club has been better or worse off daring to wear the ‘corporate’ look.
If Hearts had to achieve success then they obviously had to recruit the best talents on the local scene to aid their course. New management, new sponsors and more money were the major expectations after joining the Stock Exchange.
The aforementioned factors were meant to make Hearts an attractive destination for the very best of talents in Ghana. But five years on it still remains a dream to see Hearts strike a deal with a club for some of the top-notch talents on the local scene.
Once a preferred destination for great players Hearts of Oak have lost their purchasing power not only to arch rivals Kumasi Asante Kotoko but latter-day saints Aduana Stars, Berekum Chelsea, Medeama SC and other clubs.
Hearts have missed out on a lot of players either due to the club’s inability to meet the demands of the other club or the wage demands of the players. During last season’s transfer window, the official newspaper of the club published a list of players [including goalkeeper Ofori Antwi, defender Godfred Saka] who according to the paper were on the verge of joining the Phobians.
Much to the disappointment of Hearts fans none of those players ended up in their camp. The painful story of Ahmed Toure is one Hearts fans would like to remember no more. Hearts have now carved a niche as a club that recruit talents from the lower divisions of Ghana football, a venture that is yet to yield dividends in both trophies and players sales.
Branding and Sponsorship
The view or is it the truth that Hearts was being managed financially as an archaic club that lived on the pockets of benevolent supporters like Ato Ahwoi, Alhaji Hearts, TT Brothers and other known fans was one of the reasons behind the corporate move.
Hearts wanted to be managed like a 21st century club with strong marketing presence that made it attractive to other corporate institutions. The new owners were expected to brand the club and sign huge sponsorship deals that will be used to run the club.
Detailed information about the team’s huge fan base was to be collected and then used as a bargaining point in negotiating sponsorship deals but that has not been the case in the past five years.
Accra Hearts of Oak is still being managed supposedly from the pocket of its majority shareholder Togbe Afede. Until last season when Ghana Oil Company came on board to sponsor Hearts and Kotoko, Hearts had no official sponsor. Togbe’s Strategic African Securities (SAS) had their logo on Hearts jerseys but sources indicate that they officially paid no sponsorship money to the club.
The supporters meanwhile had been at logger heads with management over under performances. The decision to sack Coach David Duncan amidst protest from the supporters brought some form disconnection between and the supporters.
Kenichi Yatsuhashi’s arrival and outstanding performance in the first round of the just ended league seemed to have repaired the relationship until the team parted ways with the Japanese trainer. The aggrieved Hearts fans boycotted Hearts matches with management doing little to repair the damage.
To add sore to injury, utterances by management members like Vincent Odortei Odotei and Alhaji Akambi have rather widen the gap between the supporters and the management.
From the housing of players, to training ground to a development center for Auroras (feeder team), Pobiman was expected to be the hub of Hearts’ activities. The land was acquired years before the current management took charge of the club but it was expected that with the club taking a new turn the Pobiman dream will become a reality.
Five years on Pobiman still remains a dream. Accra Hearts of Oak can still not boast of their own training pitch not to talk of stadium. The Police depot park and the Legon Ajax park have been the club’s training pitches and on few occasions had to be prevented from training on either of the parks for reasons that include accumulated debt.
The team’s bus christened ‘Phobia bird’ is in a deplorable state and fans have been calling on the owner to buy a new one for the players.
Five years is quite a short time for Togbe Afede and his management to achieve all the above mentioned points but one expects that certain basic and pertinent stuff would have been achieved by now. The decision to go corporate will be seen as a fruitless venture if the club’s owners do not turn things around.