Over the course of two days, the Ethiopian Premier League (EPL) Share Company presented a report titled “Multidisciplinary Evaluation Study and Development Roadmap” to club presidents, coaches, referee and player associations, and other stakeholders.
The study was carried out over a year and a half by Gashaw Abaza (D/r), an associate professor at Towson University, and a Face Corner consultant. The study focuses on club licensing, club ownership, and player salary management in order to help clubs run professionally.
FIFA has created club licensing criteria that outline the minimal standards that clubs must satisfy in order to compete in league competition. Gashaw’s research interests are in marketing communication, with a focus on digital media sponsorship, ambush marketing, branding, and relationship marketing.
The Reporter’s Dawit Tolesa sat down with Gashaw to discuss the future of the Ethiopian Premier League. Excerpts:
The Reporter: What is the basic requirement for club licensing?
Gashaw Abaza: Well, the Club Licensing Guidance Package aims to enable clubs to be run in a professional manner. FIFA is a body that has the authority to decide on international issues related to football and transfers its authority to the confederations to implement them at the continental level.
FIFA published the Club Licensing Guidelines with this hierarchy on October 29, 2018, for member nations to implement.
To enable clubs to be run in a professional manner, FIFA has prepared the Club Licensing Guidelines, which outline the minimum requirements that clubs need to meet in order to participate in league competitions.
The Licensing Handbook suggests that, given that the capacity of clubs varies from country to country, the amount of pressure placed on departmental performance may vary from continent to continent. For things that are decided at the national level, the confederation gives its power to national football associations and federations.
Can you tell us about the main standards that need to be fulfilled by the clubs?
The guidelines that will be implemented in Ethiopia are based on CAF’s guidlines. There are five standards. The sport infrastructure development, human resources, legal, and financial aspects are mentioned first. Maintaining the integrity of club competitions, improving the level of professionalism, promoting sports values, and basing decisions on the principles of fairness are among the basic objectives of club licensing.
Facilitating safe match platforms, increasing transparency in the financial management of clubs, and creating transparency in the ownership of clubs were also among the basics.
The research also focused on Ethiopian football club licensing and the legal framework. What did you find out about the licensing legal framework in Ethiopia?
Even though the guidelines have been passed down from FIFA and CAF, the basic requirements were set by the Ethiopian Sports Commission in 2005.
In 2005, the commission approved Directive No. 1/2003 to determine the status of the establishment of sports associations, and Article 14 of the guidelines contains nine points on establishing a club.
However, the study recommended that it is the responsibility of the national federation and the league to force the clubs under the Premier League to comply not only with the FIFA and CAF Club Licensing Guidelines but also with the 2005 Sports Association Organization Guidelines, which are the governing guidelines in our country.
The success of the Premier League’s development plans depends on how well the guidelines are implemented, from the international to the national level.
It is stated that 90 stakeholders participated in the study. What were the stakeholders’ perspectives regarding club licensing guidelines?
CAF received the guidelines from FIFA, prepared them in accordance with the continent, and presented them to the member countries. The Ethiopian Football Federation states in its regulations that it is subject to this directive.
But interviews with stakeholders who took part in the study showed that the leadership is not committed to implementing the directive, and some participants explained why the federation isn’t taking strict action on the implementation.
What was the study’s finding for the reason for the lack of commitment?
One of the reasons was that the federation did not take serious action and exert strong pressure. Banning clubs that have participated in CAF club competitions on behalf of the country harms the national interest, and when clubs are told that they do not meet the requirements, the high officials of each area personally approach them and plead with them to meet the requirements in the future.
Another issue raised in the study was about club ownership. Can you tell us about it?
The current situation of the EPL Share Company was explored from the top management down to the lower club management. It’s important to look at the opinions of the people who have a direct impact on football in the country in depth and from many different angles to find out what’s going on.
As the EPL Share Company was founded by a coalition of clubs and is an institution that is starting its development, the current conditions of the league are a reflection of the problems that the clubs have faced for many years.
The clubs are financially dependent on the government, their board leadership structure is subject to significant government intervention, their institutional status is weak, and they are ethnically profiled.
What is the experience of club ownership in other countries?
In different parts of the world, the ownership of sports clubs has changed throughout history. There are two types of football club ownership in Europe’s 54 leagues. There are two types: private and community (public). In the 2019/20 season, there were 712 clubs in Europe, 54 leagues owned by members, and eight of the 54 leagues were fully privately owned.
Meanwhile, 12 leagues have fully community-owned clubs, and the remaining 34 leagues host both community- and privately-owned clubs. Apart from Europe, there is a third type of ownership that is recommended by Africa. That is, it is owned by the government. Thus, there are three forms of ownership in Africa: private, community, and government.
It is common to see community- or publicly-run clubs in various parts of Africa. The community clubs have at least 51 percent of the voting value, and the profits of the club are invested for the development of the club instead of being distributed to the members.