Essam Serag El-dein, the manager of Al Ahly Sports Club’s marketing, has revealed that the club has future plans to develop and invest in the sports field. He spoke about the club’s accomplishments and the obstacles that faced it during the period he worked with it.
Obstacles of sports investment in Egypt
Serag El-dein said that there are not enough sports investments in Egypt even though research and studies undertaken stress that it is highly required in Egypt and important for national income. In 2008, in the US, sports investment brought the country an income of $212bn—a number that exceeded revenues from some major industries. This is why countries are racing to organise large leagues. Brazil, for example, achieved a great economic leap through arranging the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Its economy also grows by 5% every year thanks to its professional players around the world, estimated to be 20,000 in 2008.
“In Egypt we demanded keeping up with what is happening around the world and the importance of having an item in the constitution that obliges the state to give attention to sports. The 2017 constitution allows sports investment, but it is too general, and it must be precisely stipulated in the law like the rest of the sectors. The current situation scares investors, and it is noteworthy that the sector is rather new in Egypt. Political stability and encouraging laws, however, will change that,” Serag El-dein said.
Investment system and Al Ahly resources
In terms of the investment system and developing the resources of Al Ahly, Serag El-dein said it is the specialty of a committee formed during the administration of Mahmoud Al-Khatib, and it includes Farouk Al-Oqda, the former CBE governor, businessperson Yassin Mansour, and Mohamed Fekry, the chairperson of a bank. They are individuals with distinct investment mentalities, with Saad Shalaby, a professor of marketing and sports economy, as marketing supervisor.
The main accomplishment of the committee is brining investors to Al Ahly’s planned sports city, which will cost EGP 8bn. It will include investors from the UAE, KSA, and Egypt.
“Al Ahly SC has an integrated plan to become one of the largest clubs in the world. We are serious about the upcoming period to enable the club to achieve this leap, and we will be able to see its impact within two years,” said Serag El-dein.
Al Ahly channel, academies, and stores
“I believe in the concept of specialising in terms of managing the club’s facilities. It is important to have large specialised companies that ensure the quality of the products sold in Al Ahly stores,” Serag El-dein said.
The club’s channel has not achieved what was required from it up until this moment, he said. “We are working to develop the channel over the upcoming period through suggestions Saad Shalaby is working on. The same thing is true for Al Ahly stores. We have proposed new idea for development,” he added.
The club’s 11 academies spread the club’s brand name, Serag El-dein said. These academies aim to widen the fan base of the club, and hence, increase its financial revenues. “We are currently undertaking a study to understand our current situation and what we can plan to do in the near future,” he said.
Facing the issue of spectators’ absence
The absence of spectators, according to Serag El-dein, has a negative impact on the number of broadcasted matches. The presence of fans increases viewership rates.
“We try to overcome this issue through being present domestically and abroad through increasing the number of academies and organising sports events. For example, we have organised Africa’s Handball Championship and three sports channels broadcasted its matches,” Serag El-dein noted.
Football bringing the largest income
Serag El-dein explained that football is nearly the only activity that creates revenues, while other sports cost more than they bring. This is not the case in Europe, for example, as the sports in all large clubs bring income, he said. Football is the club’s main source of income alongside its membership fees.
“We seek to establish Al Ahly Football Company, and this is currently under study. We aim to separate football from the rest of the sports as is the case in Europe,” he said.
Misr El-Makasa, Enppi are best in football investment, Degla best in performance
The marketing manager of Al Ahly believes that the clubs Misr El-Makasa and Enppi are distinguished in terms of football investment, while the Wadi Degla club outperforms the rest in terms of sports performance. Both Misr El-Makasa and Enppi have great experience in brining players that shine over the course of a season or two and are then sold for high prices. “But performance-wise, we have Wadi Degla, which managed to establish many branches across the country and provide special packages for members,” he said.
“The spread of football investment in Egypt and the presence of marketing committees in clubs is related to a professionals’ league, obliging clubs to ensure that income and expenses are both equal,” Serag El-dein added.
Evouna’s deal changed vision
Serag El-dein spoke about the largest deal to move a player in the history of Egyptian clubs, resulting in Gabonese Malik Evouna moving to China’s Tianjin for $8m, and the role of this deal in changing football investment concepts in Egypt. According to Serag El-dein, the deal has changed a lot in terms of investing in players. Negotiations started at $4m and ended at $8m. Afterwards, Ramadan Sobhy’s contract was sold, followed by the contract of Hegazy. The moving of these two players is the equivalent of a sponsorship contract for an entire season, he said.
“The vision has changed. Now, clubs do not mind selling their players to increase their resources,” said Serag El-dein. “However, in Al Ahly, this is difficult because of the club’s wide fan base and the pressure and rejection of selling the club’s players. I am against this idea, as the club never really relies on a single player. If we have distinct players, we sell them and we bring other ones as an investment.”
Serag El-dein continued, “investing in football has specific standards and controls. Not all players can be sold abroad. In Al Ahly club, we always teach players to be number one, so we look for players who would be able to travel without causing issues because we take the future into consideration and the conditions of reselling a player.”
The youth sector in all Egyptian clubs, Al Ahly included, requires development, Serag El-dein said. “It is important to pay attention to players, trainers, administrators, and doctors. This will enable us to find a treasure and create players we can benefit from. These players can also be invested in through selling their contracts,” he added.