Low income, not high debt hurts Turkish football
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Turkish clubs need to shift their focus from spending levels to income levels in order to deal with their high debts, said an expert. The big three historic clubs could design a regional branding strategy to increase their incomes, Mete İkiz told the Daily News.
Q: Turkish Banking Association (TBB) and the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) are in talks to restructure the debts of the football clubs. How bad is their situation?
A: Clubs especially their subsidiaries running the football activities are hugely indebted creating crucial financial bottlenecks.
There is an image that Turkish football is in a state of bankruptcy. I don’t agree that this is the case.
The total debt of 18 clubs competing in the first league is at around 9.5 billion Turkish Liras and 86 percent belong to the big four, according to the TFF.
So, the ones with the mounting debt are the “big four,” Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş and Trabzonspor.
But these are clubs competing for years in UEFA champion leagues; in European cups. When you look to their competitors you would see that the budget of the smallest is four or five times bigger than theirs.
In order to compete in these leagues you have to set up a strong team and that means spending. This is the rule in the world.
However, our shortcoming is this: While setting up the right team we do not generate enough the income that this team should generate.
We keep concentrating on the expenses. But no one questions why the income is not high enough. Today, instead of talking on Turkish football’s debt, we need to talk about how to increase the income.;
Looking at their history, at their past contributions to the Turkish football, it is actually very easy for them to get out from this stalemate.
Q: Do you mean to say that clubs have not made mistakes in their spending strategies?
A: Look at the world’s biggest clubs; they have made wrong transfers as well. And by mistake I mean transferring a player who has not fitted in that club’s DNA. That can happen and our clubs have the same problem. But one should not see that as reckless spending.
The rule of the game is to bring star players from abroad. Yet we need to remember to train players from the infrastructure as well. But that requires patience and that is what is lacking with Turkish football. There is no patience at the Turkish media. Once a coach whom we have written eulogies about, looses 5 or 6 games the media starts calling him to resign.
Infrastructure is very important and that starts with good coaches.
It is very rare abroad to have managers in the infrastructure to go train the main team. We do not have such distinction. So we need to train the coaches in the infrastructure. The number of coaches working with big teams in Turkey is also a handful of people; they are from the same generation and that is also a problem.
But today it is good news that out of the 18 teams in the first league, all have Turkish coaches. This is happening for the first time and that means the younger ones have a good chance for a successful career.
Q: Is the media the sole responsible for the impatience in the Turkish football?
A: Supporters are right to say; “I am spending my time and money and want my team to become champion.”
A club cannot clinch the title every year. But every club management start the season by saying “we will be champion this year.” As the club management, you have to manage expectations, explain to your supporter the basis and then to the media that you might need time to reach your target.
The problem with club management is that they are elected for two or three years. They change too quickly. In addition usually the composition of the board of directors is decided at the last minute; which means members do not know each other. They are chosen of people whom the chairperson thinks can bring votes for him to be elected. Most of the time, the chair and the board members do not even know each other well. They come together for the first time when they are elected and problems start from day one.
We need to have board of directors made of people who know each other for some time; made of people who are the best in their profession or in their expertise. The second problem is that professionals working for the clubs are not qualified enough.
At any rate once elected the management promises championship to their supporters and that’s a wrong communication strategy.
Turkish league is very competitive compared to other foreign leagues. In addition to the big four Başakşehir as well as Bursaspor is also competing for the championship. That makes one third of the teams in the first league. That’s not the case at all in Spain or Germany.
Q: So you say instead of increasing their income clubs resort to the easy way of borrowing. How can they increase their income?
A: In an effort to save the day club managements neglect long term strategies.
I have to talk about the big three which are the historic ones supported by millions and not only in Istanbul but by fans in all cities in Turkey. You don’t have this for instance in the U.K.
They need to have a regional strategy. Manchester United started a branding strategy to promote and market their name throughout the World. They started holding their training camps in the Middle East or in the Far East. They play with the local teams. They opened stores and coffee shops.
Turkey’s big three might not be global brands but they are regional brands. Turkey’s biggest advantage is for instance to have 4 million Turks living in Europe. And they have reached a certain income level. Most probably a significant number among them support one of the big three.
Q: So the clubs fail to cash in this support.
A: Galatasaray has opened a store in Azerbaijan. But it is not enough to open a store; you need a strategy to support it. Is there any plan for Galatasaray to go and play in Azerbaijan?
The same is valid for other Turkic republics like Turkmenistan or Kazakhstan. There is a high interest to football. Their teams are not that successful so when they are longing to support a team will they support a German team or Turkish team?
That can be the case for the Middle East with which we have a historical and cultural affinity. For all this you need a business plan. But we neither have a business plan nor a branding strategy.
Q: What do you think about the current talks to restructure the debts?
A: I cannot comment about the substance since the details are not clear yet.
So independent from its substance, it looks like a positive step. Clubs need some time in order to design the long term strategies I am talking about. If it will be designed for the clubs to take a breath; it is fine. But we need to look what will be asked of the clubs? Will the banking association ask to be represented in their board; what kind of a monitoring system will be foreseen; etc. All these are important.