In this week’s Know Your Owner review, we look at the history, people, and money behind Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club, commonly known as Hearts of Oak. The Phobians as they are known by their fans, are the oldest surviving football club in Ghana and were once ranked the 8th best team in the world

The origins of the club can be traced back to the middle of 1910 when some young men from Ussher Town in Accra came together to ponder on how to challenge the only other team in Accra at the time, The Invincibles. The group led by Christopher Brandford Nettey, later Asafoatse Nettey, formally founded Accra Hearts of Oak Sporting Club on November 11, 1911 and appointed Ackom Duncan as their first captain.

In 1920 the Accra league championship was organised with the Sir Gordon Guggisberg Shield at stake. Hearts of Oak won six of the twelve editions of the competition, namely in 1925, 1927, 1929, 1933, 1935 and the last edition in 1953.

Sir Gordon Guggisberg

In 1956, Ghana’s football pyramid became organized, with Hearts of Oak joining what is now known as the Ghana Premier League, winning the league at the first attempt. In terms of Ghanaian league and continental records, Hearts of Oak have a number of records that many clubs will find hard to match including becoming the only club in Ghana to have won the league SIX consecutive times, between 1997 and 2002. In 2000, they set a continental record when they became the only club in Africa to go unbeaten in a CAF Champions League campaign.

Arguably the clubs best ever team was Cecil Jones Attuquayefio’s class of 2000 who won the Ghana FA cup, the Ghana Premier League and for the first time in their history the CAF Champions League

Hearts 2000 CAF Champions League Winning Side

Off the field, the club have gone through a number of interesting periods. In 2011, the one-time chairman and long-time servant of the club Emmanuel Martey Commodore-Mensah, led the club on an audacious plan to list the club on the Ghana Stock Exchange. Hearts of Oak hoped to raise GH¢ 10 million from 20 million shares at a unit price of 50 pesewas but the Initial Public Offering performed poorly. The club only raising GH¢700,000 ultimately led to the listing being abandoned after multiple extensions for the public to register their interest. Out of the floated shares, Strategic Africa Securities (SAS) holds the majority which is 39.09% followed by Strategic Initiative Limited (SAL) 29.42%. These two companies’ combined their interest to get 68.51% thus the controlling interest in the club.

The two companies are controlled by Togbe Afede XIV. He is the Agbogbomefia, King of the Asogli State which is a region is a traditional area in the Volta Region of Ghana. It covers an area from Atimpoko in the west through Ho, to Aflao in the east. He is also  President of the National House of Chiefs, President of the Volta Regional House of Chiefs and a member of Ghanaian Council of State.

Agbogbomefia, Togbe Afede XIV

With the share acquisition, the Agbogbomefia effectively took control of the club and he was part of a new eleven-member Board of Directors to steer the affairs of the Club with him appointed chairman. He is an investment banker with experience spanning over twenty five years. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from the University of Ghana business school-Legon-Ghana and an MBA from Yale University. Togbe co-founded Databank Financial Services, Ltd. At the end of 1993 he left Databank and founded Strategic African Securities (SAS), a stock brokerage firm.

In addition to being the executive board chairman of Hearts of Oak, he serves on the boards of African Fertilizer and Agribusiness partnership, Aluworks Limited, Accra World Trade Centre Limited, African World Airlines Limited, Ensign College of Public Health, Pioneer Kitchenware Limited, SAS Finance Group Limited, Strategic Initiative Limited, the SunonAsogli Power Limited and the National Investment Bank (NIB).

Agbogbomefia, Togbe Afede XIV

At the time of taking over as club chairman, Hearts of oak had suffered a financial loss just shy of a GH¢ 1 million. Upon bringing on the new board, the club outlined four avenues to raise funds including fostering fan engagement to increase gate takings, bringing in new sponsorships and the incorporation of a media arm of the club called Hearts News.

These efforts seem to have helped as 2015 revenues increased by 409% to just over a GH¢ 1 million from GH¢ 262,102 in the prior year. In terms of present day revenue, Hearts of Oak have lost about two-thirds of their revenue due to covid-19 according to club officials. Fans have come to the party to help through their donations showing incredible commitment to the Phobia cause with GH¢ 66,729 pledged in 2021

                                  Hearts Fans Donations 2021

The club have a successful sponsorship program which includes various cash and value in kind agreements. In November 2021, Hearts signed a one-year partnership agreement with the National Lottery Authority [NLA] of Ghana valued at a million cedis.

Other sponsors include:

  1. Asogli Power
  2. Umbro
  3. SAS
  4. Star Assurance
  5. Star Life
  6. Goil Oil
  7. Adonko Next Level
  8. GTV Sports Plus
  9. Cloud Africa
  10. NLA
  11. Kangen Water

The club are also in the process of completing an infrastructure project called the Pobiman Project which, when completed, will be housed with a staff residence, senior housing unit, a gym, training pitches, a swimming pool, kitchen and dinning hall. The club secured a loan to build the facility with funding close to $700,000 and a Turkish construction firm called Prefabex Construction Limited was hired to take charge of the project.

The Pobiman Project

Overall, the club seems to be doing well. Hearts won the domestic treble in 2021 with victories in the league and the FA Cup which led to them being automatically being awarded the Super Cup – a competition contested by league and FA Cup winners.

That concludes the Know Your Owner review of Hearts of Oak football club.

Cheers until next week.