The President of Al Gezira Sporting Club Amr Jazarin, has revealed that there are several projects the club’s administration has been working on, since he started his tenure in November 2017. Daily News Egypt sat down for an interview with Jazarin, whereby he talked about the crises he faced and his future plans. The transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
How do you evaluate the period the board of directors spent under your leadership since November?
Things were very difficult since we started leading the club. It needed restructuring and there were many financial issues, however, we dealt well with them. I always tell the board members that we could spend four easy years without issues, but we truly want to improve the club. The board members and members of the club feel like the club is falling behind. It used to be a pioneer in all fields, and we have promised ourselves that it would return to that position again. We are very determined to reach our goals.
What were the issues you managed to address successfully?
Everyone is talking about development of resources, and as the board of directors we saw that this starts with controlling expenses and revenues. A large portion of the revenues do not enter the club’s treasury, such as some of the revenues of the gates, restaurants, shops, and sports trainings. After organising the documentary session, the revenues increased significantly. For example, the daily income of the restaurant was EGP 10,000 and now it amounts to EGP 17,000. The gates’ revenues reached EGP 200,000-EGP 300,000 monthly. There are more revenues by nearly over 60% compared to before. This, however, does not mean that there are no financial fiascos at all.
What is the reason for these issues?
The reason is mainly administrative. There are some violations by some employees. There are over 1,500 employees in the club and most of them are distinguished and respectful, but this does not mean that some people in security staff and restaurants have not committed violations, in light of the absence of censorship and standards that control similar issues. We have also increased the quality of products through our keenness to purchase raw materials at the lowest prices and highest quality. We have two kinds of restaurants that we own and manage, in addition to a rented part. We have had issues in the rented outlets due to the accumulation of debts owed by the renting party, up to EGP 700,000. Our revenues from the restaurants we lease reached EGP 250,000. There was a large part with debts owed and pending electricity bills. Orange, for example owed us money. We had to schedule their debts and give them another chance. Additionally, there are many buildings that require restoration. We restructured and included new employees with distinct abilities, whereby they can add more and help us achieve our ambitions and turn this into a reality.
What are the most important projects that you are working on?
There are several projects. Some of them are under implementation, and some are for the future. There is the gym hall that got burned down. We signed a contract with the Military Production Ministry to reconstruct it for EGP 60,000. We obtained the necessary licenses to start and the drilling has already started. We also have a children’s playground that we are working on. There is also a contract we signed with a German company to supply tools with a cost of EGP 8m.
Additionally, the club’s wall has completely collapsed years ago and we had an issue in terms of obtaining its licenses until we got them. We will start working on that soon and we have already allocated about EGP 1.5m. There is also a villa that was built at the time the club was established. It is registered in the Antiquities Authorities, where the British manager was staying. We will try to maintain its architectural design and resort it for EGP 850,000.
There is an ambitious plan to restore the main tennis court to match the standards of international tennis courts, while still maintaining its identity. Businessperson Naguib Sawiris made an offer to pay for the project in case there was a bid and the unavailability of a company that wants to put its name on the club (like a sponsor) in exchange for a financial amount the club benefits from. After the work team carried out a study on the court and presented a great design, there is now work to turn it into geometric drawings. According to the study, the value of the renovation will cost EGP 35m, taking into consideration the fact that he did not request putting his name on the court, however, if he requested that, it would be his right.
Are there any updates on the Sixth of October branch?
It is a huge club on a space of 50 feddans. It is one of the largest clubs there. We have signed a contract for its land in 2006 and work there is still not finished yet. The former board took some steps and we are going forward with their plan. We will open the new phase in early 2019, and we have allocated about EGP 80m. The total cost of the club is estimated to be EGP 800m, with a work plan of two years until it is completely finished.
What is the value of a membership there?
We have allowed memberships for EGP 250,000, following the general assembly’s previous decision to set the amount to be EGP 400,000, however, we carried out a marketing plan and found that the current capabilities of the club do not require this amount, however, in the future it might be possible, so the price will increase gradually. We have ambitions to accept 4,000-5,000 new members during the upcoming period, but I believe the number of memberships might amount to 6,000.
Are there any banks participating in scheduling membership fees?
We have made a bid to open branches of banks on an area of 250 metre in the Sixth of October branch for 10 years, after getting the necessary approval from the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Eight banks are participating, including CIB, HSBC, UNB, Credit Agricole, NBE, Banque Misr, and EG Bank. We are awaiting the offers to be made on 24 September. The bank that wins will be the one with which scheduling the payments is made exclusively to.
What are the most important projects to be established in the Sixth of October branch?
The first phase will include a large swimming pool, a social building, four pitches, a walkway, then a swimming pool complex, a gymnasium, a covered lounge, and a tennis court complex. There will also be academies for all the games, as well as several outlets. Some will be rented and others we will manage ourselves.
Does the club have a project for academies?
The club has 28 games in Zamalek branch. We seek to have the same number in the Sixth of October branch. We give special attention to children of members. Some academies we manage ourselves and some we give others the right to manage them. We had the Real Madrid academy for football and the contract ended with it before the new board came. We are keen on signing contracts with high-level trainers, including foreigners and Egyptians. Our current philosophy is to manage our academies ourselves and choose those who can achieve the goal of those academies and cover our expenses.
How much is the budget of sports activities in the club?
It is nearly EGP 65m. We are one of the clubs that give the most attention to sports activities. Some team based sports, such as basketball, require a lot of spending because we compete to win in leagues. Its budget is EGP 12m. Over the time, we create champions and professionals, unlike the case in individual games where we lease our courts and make revenues. We try to develop resources through sponsors and ads.
Do you have sponsors for sports in the club?
We already have sponsors and we are about to launch a major bid in early 2019. We have plans to exceed EGP 20m in revenues. The sponsorship contract signed by the former board ends in 1 March 2019, which gives as a chance to think better and achieve larger financial revenues. Tennis and equestrian are two of the main sports within the club.
How do you explain the current state of decline in these games?
These two games form the identity of the club and we are willing to make great effort to go back to being leaders in them. Regarding tennis, its budget is EGP 6m. We have a project to establish another major academy in the club based on international standards. We are about to sign a contract with a foreign trainer, especially that academies cover their own expenses unlike large teams. We own 28 tennis courts and we have what it takes to regain our leadership in sports again. Our role is to always create champions.
As for equestrian, there is a great decline in it. The race has completely disappeared, but we are aiming to bring it back and renovate the track. An amphitheatre was built since the era of the king and many concerts were held there, now it is suffering from deterioration. The horse track’s administration is joint with the Youth Care administration. We give great attention to the academy of equestrian and we even have a project for a pony academy, where we will rent 10 trained ponies that children would love. This will be the start of new breeds we plan to include. There is a full project to be presented to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and by 2019, we hope that the project would start. In the Sixth of October club, we will purchase a piece of land to establish a horse track on 6 feddans area. We have made a request to the Ministry of Housing in this regard.
Do you have a certain plan for the return of horse racing?
Together with the board of directors, we have prepared a plan to enter into negotiations with Saudi and UAE investors to bring horse racing again, especially that we have a license for betting, which is very rare. We contacted those who are interested to enter into a partnership and we are awaiting their response. We may name the track after them.
Currently we are preparing the studies necessary for the projects and we are providing the necessary tools. They manage the track for an amount of money. We support the horse racing committee with EGP 1m, but in vain. A random race is done once a month and results in the legs of horses being broken.
In light of the sports investment attempts in Egypt, do you have a plan to establish a company for the club?
Over the past period, the issue that took most of our attention was bringing back the club into leadership and finish constructing the branch in Sixth of October city. Establishing the company is not one of our priorities, and we still have not seen a project interesting enough to be presented to the general assembly, but it certainly is one of the things we plan to give attention to after the current phase.
How do you see investments in sports?
I see that foreign investments with non-Egyptian capital are present such as is the case of Pyramids Club, is very healthy. The country can only improve through foreign investments and sports are an industry like other industries, and such investments in sports open doors for profits.
How big is the club’s budget?
It exceeds EGP 200m. The club’s general assembly is composed of 54 members. We issue about 105,000 IDs. The most important revenues come from the gates, restaurants, courts, organising concerts and contests and renewing memberships. In the branch of October we will rely mainly on new memberships. So far we have over 600 memberships and we have an ambitious plan to take the number to 1.5 billion. We will leave a great surplus for the upcoming board. There was a deficit in last year’s budget, and we still aimed to achieve this surplus of over EGP 3m.
Has the club lost the lustre it had in the past?
There is a change in the population map. The new generations are headed towards Sixth of October city, the Fifth Settlement and new cities, hence, it is natural now that they look for clubs close to their homes. We must admit that it has taken us too long to develop and provide services, which resulted in us now wanting to bring back Al Gezira Club as we knew it. The proof is that the demand on the new branch memberships is worth EGP 1m and currently on a hault. There is development and in less than a year the club will go back to its great position.