Of Sports Legacies – Kenneth Matiba’s

In keeping with the spirit of localized sports content, we took time to pay homage to one of Kenya’s foremost entrepreneurs and influences of sports. Though known more for his political exploits than his sporting streak, his legacy will live to endure. Here’s to the late Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba.

In April this year, Kenya mourned the loss of one of its most astute politicians and efficacious entrepreneurs in Kenneth Njindo Matiba. Even more significant to this column, we lost one of the best sports administrators and visionaries the country has ever had.

Starting off as a senior civil servant, Matiba quit politics to join the world of business (before making a re-entry back to politics in the 1980s). His entry into one of Kenya’s blue chip companies, Kenya Breweries otherwise trading as East Africa Breweries Limited, his impact in both business and sports started being felt almost immediately.

The late K.N. Matiba tests the track at Nyayo National Stadium - Image courtesy of www.nation.co.ke
The late K.N. Matiba tests the track at Nyayo National Stadium – Image courtesy of www.nation.co.ke

First off was Kenyan football where he cajoled the revamp and formation of a new team to run the sport. This ensured that not only were the officials meant to be competent people but also accountable to both the sports people and sponsors alike.

As if to reciprocate his intended mission, Kenyan football entered one of its golden periods late 1970s to early 1980s. This was both at club and national team performances – where the AFC Leopards and Gor Mahias of yore won the CECAFA Club title and Harambee Stars the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. In the same token, Matiba managed to develop an in-house team in the form of Kenya Breweries which would occasionally challenge the top clubs of Kenyan football then – indeed it was the foundation set in the 1980s which saw the club reaching the continental club cup challenge in 1994 – only to lose in the Finals to DRC’s DC Motema Pembe.

He had intended to professionalize football as early as 1978 while serving as the KFF Chair. Even though this never came to fruition following his resignation from the federation, he had aspired to leave the game with what would have been its enduring legacy. He handed over to the new team with the transparency and accountability of a custodian entrusted to run the federation’s properties.

To ensure his impact wasn’t restricted to one sport, Matiba assigned some of his colleagues at Kenya Breweries to manage the boxing federation. This was through one Marsden Madoka – as chair of Amateur Boxing Association (now known as the Boxing Association of Kenya). Through the latter’s stewardship, Kenya had its best decade to date in the 1980s when the national team, affectionately known as the “Hit Squad” participated in several international tournaments coming home with worthy wins. From the 1987 8-Gold medals performance in Nairobi at the All Africa Games to the first and only Gold medal outside of athletics for Kenya at the 1988 Olympic Games held in Seoul.

Would we forget it’s during Matiba’s stint in the Culture Ministry that Kenya hosted boxing legend Muhammad Ali as well as FIFA’s top honcho then, Joao Havelenge?

Talking matters Olympics, it was during his legacy that the Olympic Youth Centres were launched in Kenya. This was a youth development program meant to develop and nurture talent from all parts of the country. This program produced some of the best footballers who came of age in the 1980s including the likes of Ambrose Ayoyi, Davies Oyiela, Hassan Juma and Wycliffe Anyagu just to mention but a few. It is this breed of players who stood up to Egypt’s The Pharaohs at the 1987 All Africa Games only to lose by a goal in the gold medal match.

Kenya's Harambee Stars at All-Africa Games 1987 - Image courtesy of www.kenyanpage.net
Kenya’s Harambee Stars at All-Africa Games 1987 – Image courtesy of www.kenyanpage.net

The team had beaten strong teams that included Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions (who three years later made history in the 1990 World Cup in Italy getting to the quarter-finals), Malawi and Tunisia. Imagine where The Pharaohs are playing now? At the World Cup in St. Petersburg, Russia. If Kenya had only followed through with the dreams of the 1970s and 1980s? If not at international level, at least the continental onslaught would be more likely achieved by now.

Do you recall the Festival of Darts screened on national television in the 1980s and 1990s? “Gaame shot!” invoked one Sammy Lui Wang’ondu – who worked as Matiba’s PA at Kenya Breweries at one time and moonlighted as an MC on other occasions. For what would appear to have been a nondescript game, the sponsorship and screening of the same by Kenya Breweries popularized the sport immensely locally.

It introduced us to the English and Swahili banter of Michael Round-Turner and Dunstan Tido Muhando whose analysis kept us glued to the screens just before the English news on the only TV station then. Thanks to these developments, the Kenyan Darts national team participated in the 1993 Darts World Cup in Las Vegas emerging 8th out of 34 nations.

To other less visible sporting and outdoor activities including the Outward Bound and Hodari Boys Club – which sought to nurture young boys in their teens to formidable young men to the mountaineering club which did became an obsession to the man, Kenneth Matiba did it all. From snow-capped mountains of Equatorial Africa in Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro in Africa to Mt. Everest on the challenging and tall ranges of Himalayas in Asia. For him, it was not enough to put money into sports but rather put money where his mouth was. He did walk his talk, quite literally!

His lessons in sports business and management ought to be chronicled in the annals of Kenyan sport.  He managed to convince the sports federations to style up and clean house.  His was investing in sport but also ensuring the monies put into sports were well spent and sports persons rewarded for their performances.  Our current state of sport in the country is dire need of such a visionary.

Sports federations have been riding roughshod over sports teams and athletes. How do we explain the sad tale of two of Kenya’s top teams who still can’t afford to pay their players on a monthly basis? Why do the clubs have to depend on a single sponsor who whenever it doesn’t suit their needs withdraws sponsorship on a whim? How many times will we keep hearing of unpaid allowances and bonuses for teams on national duty?

Even with the enactment of the Sports Bill, the magic bullet that we have waited for to change and transform sports in Kenya is still a nonstarter. Two Cabinet Secretaries later, the National Sports Lottery is still a cropper even as our athletes keep bringing honor to this nation – at amateur, semi-professional and professional levels. We have seen divestiture by companies from sports on mismanagement of the sponsorship monies as well as increased costs of doing business – Naspers SuperSport comes to mind. If I were to list the companies that have offered to sponsor sports but give it a wide berth due to mismanagement and lack of foresight, I’d run out of space on this article.

What can we learn from the late Matiba?

For starters, sports federations have to learn to operate within the confines of their respective laws and those of the land. Transparency and accountability ought to be second nature to the daily operations.

  • To sports officials, the sports discipline is about the athletes or players – never about you. Let your actions and decisions be the yardstick by which the sporting fraternity uses to judge your performance. Your legacy should speak for itself not weekly press briefings.
  • To Kenyan corporates, put your money where your mouth is. Choose a sport, research well and be invested for the long-haul. The sporadic and measly sponsorships to get good mentions and media mileage will not fly.
  • Still on investment in sport, it should not be an afterthought and peppered CSR activities that brand managers run for. Offer the time, experience and skills to run sport like a business – for we ought to be in the business of sports in this century.
  • To sports athletes, players and coaches discipline, focus and leadership where needed will ensure success of your respective sports disciplines. In the crazy millennium that is the 21st century, yours isn’t an enviable task but it’s the one thing that you have chosen to do – do it well.
  • With his stints in both Kenyan football and other sporting activities, as well as his stint in the Ministry of Culture and Social Services, he served his country diligently. Though brief, the legacies left in respective disciplines are more than we can share here.

God bless Matiba’s time with us, rest in sport brave warrior!

Commonwealth Games @ Gold Coast – Not so Common for #TeamKenya?

The team at SportsKenya decided to take a deeper look at  #TeamKenya’s participation at Australia’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. This post is also a response to an article by former athlete and Chef de Missio for the Gold Coast Kenya team – Barnabas Korir  titled Gold Coast was stepping stone to 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Striking while the iron is hot, let’s indulge you for the next few;

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Commonwealth Games down under in the Gold Coast have come to an end. The 21st edition aptly labelled as  XXI CWG saw one of the poorest showings by the Kenyan team. While the National Olympic Committee-Kenya (NOC-K) – the body charged with preparing and kitting the national teams for multi-sport events such as this – exuded confidence touting this as ‘the best Games ever’, they were forced to eat humble pie at the end of the 12-day(10 if exclude the opening and closing ceremonies) extravaganza.


For the uninformed, the Commonwealth Games are a colonial heritage from Great Britain. It started off in 1930 as a confluence of countries with British heritage or colonized by the British. The Commonwealth Games Federation is mandated to run the Games including identifying the host country, reviewing and approving sports disciplines to be featured among other Games-related activities. The Games have had various monikers as follows;

  • 1930-1950: British Empire Games
  • 1954 – 1966: British Empire and Commonwealth Games
  • 1970 – 1974: British Commonwealth Games
  • 1974 to date: Commonwealth Games

For Kenya, the Commonwealth Games represent the first time Kenyan athletes ever participated in both individual and multi-sport events at a global stage – in 1954.

The true ‘coming out party’ though happened in 1958 when Kenya – then participating as a colony when it collected two medals in athletics through

  1. Arere Anentia – Bronze in 6 mile (present-day equivalent of 10,000 m )
  2. Bartonjo Rotich  – Bronze 440 yards hurdles (400 m hurdles)
1st ever Kenyan Medallist - Bartonjo Rotich
1st ever Kenyan Medallist – Bartonjo Rotich – Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Games of this magnitude have usually been used to showcase the best of budding talent from the wealth of Kenyan sport. For a multi-sport event who’s participants include top sporting nations such as Australia, England and South Africa. A shift ought to have occurred by now from your usual attendance and filling the numbers.

The Games need to used by Kenya’s athletes more so the team sports to gain exposure and perform at a fairly competitive global stage. The disciplines such as basketball,hockey, netball, rugby and volleyball need to set themselves for the challenge of playing their counterparts in the Commonwealth.

A cursory look for example in rugby shows that 80 % of the top rugby 7s teams are represented in the Commonwealth – from Fiji, England, New Zealand to our erstwhile peeps South Africa.

What Worked

Before the team left for Gold Coast- Australia, the respective sports bodies made a beeline of ensuring the players are paid their allowances – not too sure theirs was athlete’s driven or a need to procure monies in their usually depleted accounts. All in all, the Government managed to pay off  was forced to pay pending allowances and bonuses in time.

Comparing previous outings such as the Rio Olympics fiasco in 2014, the athletes were adequately kitted by the NOC-K and official sponsor Nike. This was a departure from the joke that has been our athletes complaining not having the prerequisite gear for training and participating while on national duty.

While the selection team may have fluffed by selecting youthful and novices to participate especially in athletics, this can help build up for the next major meets at the World Athletics in 2019 and Olympics 2020. In Wycliffe Kinyamal, Stacy Ndiwa, Samuel Gathimba there is still rich talent in our midst…far-fetched but possible.

Wycliffe Kinyamal - 800m Men's Gold Medal at Gold Coast, Australia
Wycliffe Kinyamal – 800m Men’s Gold Medal at Gold Coast, Australia

What went Wrong?

Starting with the preparations, the NOC-K put out an ambitious budget of KES 450 million. Though it’s not clear whether they managed to secure the full amount, what boggles the mind was how this figure was arrived at and how much was eventually going to reach the athletes.

Secondly the selection process for some of the disciplines was not to par. This was especially so in athletics (marathon) and where elite athletes gave the Games a pass. Given the shift from August to April, the disruption on the athletics calendar was not taken well by a number of seasoned runners (and their agents).  Other disciplines such as squash, shooting and archery were reduced to hand-picking of participants by officials.

Third, reduced corporate sponsorship and Government dependence. While the overall role of the team is to represent the country on national duty, there was little to no corporate sponsorship or support. Sports associations have not endeared themselves to local corporate firms and most have become indifferent to demands for sponsorship. Lack of accountability and transparency in use of secured funds plays a major role in this. Little to no use of funds for developmental purposes has affected most sporting disciplines.

Eunice Wambui - Bowling at 2018 Commonwealth Games - courtesy of www.the-star.co.ke
Eunice Wambui – Bowling at 2018 Commonwealth Games – courtesy of www.the-star.co.ke

Fourth, no sense of national pride and duty. Majority of athletes going to international events in the last couple of years have become disillusioned with doing duty for the country. Delayed allowances, bonuses, poor handling at athletes’ village and no sense of national recognition has meant athletes giving the Games a wide berth. Where were the Rudishas, Kipchoges and Kiplagats? Is it the agents’ to blame or our national officials lack of commitment to the cause?

Fifth, promoting and featuring our sports athletes on both traditional and social media. While not all of the athletes may have been featured, the national officials of the respective sports disciplines sent to Australia would have been propped up. The team had no less than 15 disciplines represented! What would it hurt to have the captains or favourites of say athletics, archery, boxing, cycling, swimming and weightlifting featured and social media presence enhanced? The prominence this would have had on their respective sports and also the athletes’ brands would have been a dollar notch higher.

Take Out

Kenyan Flag Image - courtesy of http://kenyaflag.facts.co
Kenyan Flag Image – courtesy of http://kenyaflag.facts.co

The GoK has been shouting ultimatums to sports officials for the longest time. It’s time they acted on their words. If a sports association doesn’t provide a full account of its participation and corrective measures, there’s good enough reason to send them home. Lock a few and banish others for life. We have seen it happen at FIFA and IOC, I don’t see why Kenyan sports should be held ransom by a few individuals and their selfish motives.

Sports associations need not be run like kiosks and personal fiefdoms for rewarding mediocrity. If the sport discipline doesn’t provide a viable youth development and business case to the Ministry of Sport and soon-to-launched National Sports Lottery, it can kiss any other support goodbye.

Competitive leagues – national and county levels. These are already happening in some team sports such as football. However there is no cohesive effort from the national associations and branch level activities. Even worse is the disconnect between sports associations and county governments where each should be leveraging the others capabilities to muster community support and the other utilizing county funds to develop infrastructure at the lower levels.

National selection and preparation – a deliberate effort must be made in future selection and preparation of our national teams. Beyond the national trials for such sports as athletics, historical data and scientific training practices need to be incorporated in preparing our athletes. Some of the disciplines such as rugby are making these steps. It ought to be a collective effort across all sporting disciplines represented at any multi-sports event – be it the All-Africa Games and Olympics.

Interesting Facts about CWG2018:

#There was an equal number of events for both men and women medals awarded.

#Gold Coast 2018 incorporated the para-athletes to see a complete Games as opposed to separate Games as Olympics and Paralympics – 7 para-sports and 18 sports disciplines

#Gold Coast was the 5th Australian city to host the Games after Sydney, 1938; Perth, 1962; Brisbane, 1982 and Melbourne 2006.

For more reading on Kenya’s performance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, check these links below:

  1. Gold Coast was a terrible, unpatriotic outing Elias Makori – Daily Nation
  2. Optimism, despair and relief for Team Kenya – Kimathi Kamau – The Standard
  3. Why Kenya disappointed in Gold Coast – James Magayi – The People Daily



Sports Renaissance or Regression?

Good day to you ladies and gents! As we get back to our roots, we welcome you to read and indulge with our articles and posts. To get us going is an article published in the Marketing Africa magazine by Richard Wanjohi – who will be sharing these more often as well as other posts on sports in Kenya. Karibuni and feel free to indulge us in on Twitter @sportkenya and Instagram #SportskenyaTM

Salutations, ladies and gents! Great to have us reading from the same page in the New Year. We would be saying good riddance to a most challenging 2017 but alas the bad luck followed us straight into 2018! Work with me…

Image courtesy of www.spoonflower.com
Image courtesy of www.spoonflower.com

Sponsorship Blues

To the Kenyan sports fans following the last days of 2017, we were treated to the announcement of the ‘hallowed Kenyan’ courts throwing out a petition by one of the biggest sports betting firms in the country. The case had been taken to the courts for interpretation and suspension of the Finance Act 2017. In June 2017, the Finance CS had sought to introduce a 35% levy on revenues obtained from betting, gaming, and lotteries and as well, as firms with competitions running prizes to be won.

There was hue and cry from the many betting firms that have been at the fore in the sports scene both for betting and sponsorship purposes. At the turn of the year, it became apparent that the Government was not going to balk at criticism thrown at it.

Within the first week of 2018, the biggest sports betting firm in the country which had also become sports main sponsors across many disciplines dropped most if not all local sponsorship deals. Second-tier and smaller betting firms have also been mulling over their support of smaller outfits in the sporting world.

The ruse by the Government on the 35% levy may have two elements to it,

  • Revenue generation – most taxes are introduced to rake in monies which maybe in circulation and as a way of Government easing off its budgetary obligations. For an ambitious Government like ours has been it would be a no-brainer given the monies that betting and gaming firms have been making in the last 2-3 years. Conservative estimates put the figures at between KES 30-40 billion per year.
  • Regulation – the betting and gaming industry has been on an abnormal growth trajectory for the same number of years as above. Mobile technology has made it easier for even the common person in the village to bet and win monies at the palm of their hands. As of writing this article, there were over 20 betting and gaming firms. If we add the slot machines and other gaming platforms in most urban areas, this will easily cross the 50s.

To reduce the number of companies (maybe through mergers/partnerships) and introduce barriers of entry, it was important for the GoK to rein in on charlatans or those operating below standards.

The effects of the levy though have been to shake up the industry and potentially ring a death knell on a number of investments in the betting, gaming and lottery space.

Sports critiques have also harped on a Government that ‘gives’ with one hand and ‘takes’ with the other. Only 2 years ago in June 2016, the same Finance CS had introduced a tax holiday for companies investing and sponsoring sports activities – to entice companies both existing and new to invest more in sport.

In the subsequent 18 months, a number of firms did oblige. They set up shop in the country and invested in sports in unprecedented ways, with 2017 seeing the resurgence of sports sponsorships.  Other companies engaged in sport as they pushed their CSR budgets to procure visibility and presence as sports quite easily gives the spotlight. This has come a cropper in the past few weeks and may dwindle further if the sentiments of corporate firms are anything to go by.

What is amusing is the Government’s knee-jerk response to the withdrawal of sponsorship monies – a KES 500 million contribution. It may seem like a sizeable amount but it is a trickling if all the sports bodies and organisations in need of financial support from withdrawal of sponsorship monies.

Quick aside: I have a bone to pick with the national sports bodies and teams, is the challenge of procuring a single sponsor for your sport. We have seen the tragedy of singular partnerships in sport that prove detrimental and cripple the organisations activities’. It started with the sourcing of media partnerships and overall sponsorships for their sporting disciplines.

If there is anything to learn from the activities in January, it is the need for a number of corporate firms engaged in your sport. An example to learn from is the NBA, which has managed to rope in sponsors for most of its activities. Watch the NBA All-Star Game in the third weekend of February and you will know what I am talking about.

New CS – New Wine in Old Wineskins?

Coming through in the last days of January were the appointments to the Cabinet that included the new Cabinet Secretary for Sports. With 2018, being a busy sporting year for #TeamKenya, then the new office bearer already does have his hands full.

Starting off with the Winter Olympics in Pyeongyang – South Korea (yes Kenya is represented by the charming and affable Sabrina Wanjiru being only the second Kenyan and a chosen few of Africans to participate in the Games held under wet and chilly conditions on the icy slopes of this city in Korea.

It was embarrassing to see a South Korean company decide to pick Sabrina’s tab for sponsorship to enable her train and participate at the upcoming Winter Games. Where are the myriad Kenyan companies’ and what other proposition would they need to invest and brand such a rare gem?

Back to the CS’s matter, looking forward to his agenda for sport for Kenya in the next years. Beyond the political pronouncements – including the stadia et al – the most urgent matter is the setting up of the National Sports Lottery Fund.

Sports Fund

Drawing from the Sports Act, the Sports Lottery Fund serves as to receive an annual sports programme at least 6 months before commencement of every financial year. This programme shall specify and outline a comprehensive plan of action for development, rehabilitation and maintenance of the projects and programmes of the sports agencies and estimated costs for every activity.

4 years since the enactment of the Sports Act, nothing has happened yet – no officials, no structure and still no monies to boot. As a top sporting nation, we should be serious with this Fund and it would have come in handy with the reduction of sponsorship monies.

The Fund ought to form a centralised system and basis for disbursement of monies meant for sports development – be it the physical infrastructure or the sponsorship of teams especially those on national duty.

Last year saw Kenya miss hosting the CHAN (which ended up in Morocco – and to add insult to injury their national team ended up winning this year’s edition). In total contradiction of the Government’s pledge to sport, the country hosted the World Athletics championships, which the IAAF gave raving commendations (sic).

We can avoid such misadventures if the Ministry and relevant sports bodies had not only made the commitment to host continental and international sports fetes but also look towards investing for the future.

This column has noted severally the need for infrastructure for our sports disciplines and with the devolved functions, it is now imperative for both national and local (read county) governments to make this happen.




Success Stories of Sports Fund

When and if the Sports Lottery Fund becomes operational, it can form the basis of a rebirth of sport in Kenya. We have a number of countries that have benefited from such Funds in building teams to sterling performances and long-term invested in the future.

In South Africa, we have programs such as Sport for All – a trust fund whose monies come from the National Gambling and Lottery Board. This sees a fraction of monies generated from casino gambling as well as national betting and lotteries companies deposited in the trust fund.

The programme has been successfully in initiating youth programs for most of South Africa’s sporting disciplines including cricket, football and rugby to mention but a few.

In the UK, the country has a number of active and well-managed sports trust programs, which include the National Lottery Fund, which disburse over £600 million per year. Others are UK Sport – which manages monies from both the Lottery Fund and affiliate bodies such as NOC among others and UK Youth that ensures youth programmes for not only sports but also educational, arts and sciences in the schools.

The success of these programmes has seen the UK emerge as a major sporting nation in most sporting disciplines and good showing in international sporting events. This was the case in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games held in London.

To bring us home, sports will remain secondary to our national psyche until there is a deliberate and sustained effort to invest in it. Beyond the national levies imposed on corporate firms and businesses, which have sought to engage in sport, the Government has to take a lead in investing and providing an environment to nurture sports.

Enactment of the Sports Act in 2013 was a step in this direction, but we have to move beyond the written laws and act. National sports bodies that are sponsored well have multiple revenue streams to ensure their sports activities across the year. The reward for this would be the supplementary monies from the Sports Lottery Fund once it starts functioning.

Beyond this, we can keep harping the same tunes year-in, year-out.


SportPesa’s Sponsorship Withdrawal – Biggest Gamble

2018 Cometh……

2017 has been one momentous year for the country. Even in the world of sport, it has been a well mix in the basket. Talking of baskets, tongues are wagging about the biggest sponsors of sport in Kenya – SportPesa – who are thinking of pulling back their bountiful offering, effectively reducing its involvement in sports in Kenya. What does this portend for sports in 2018?

We got the world...(image courtesy of SportPesa)
We got the world…(image courtesy of SportPesa)

A few posts ago, we predicted the impact of sports betting companies on our sports scene. A casual look at Kenyan sport in the last 3 years has seen a major impact both directly and indirectly on how we consume and interact with sport.
A PwC report on Kenya Entertainment and Media 2013-17 , revenues from sports betting were projected to rise from US$ 11.7 million (2012) to $17.3 million (2017).
As of writing this post, there are about 25 sports betting (and gambling )companies registered in Kenya. The biggest and easily recognisable is SportPesa – operating BCLB (Betting Control & Licensing Board) license no. 673 through Pevans EA Ltd.

Conservative estimates of sports betting and its impact to the economy are at between KES 635-700 million p.a. This is mainly in sports sponsorship, direct spending in improving sports facilities and teams, as well as employment. Add another KES. 2.4 billion in media spend (various media research reports in 2017) – from digital, print, radio and TV – as well as daily spends and we’re talking of billions of shillings!

The synergy enjoyed by both betting and telecoms companies have seen the mobile money in Kenya grow to daily transactions worth KES 18.4 billion! A good fraction of the monies are from your common man on the street, to the discerning campus student and many in blue-collar jobs who review their odds every other morning to make the winnings.

SportPesa Success

Back to SportPesa, the upsurge of sports betting in Kenya can be attributed to its adeptness and adaptability to their audience. As aptly summarised by BetMoran on the post titled ‘ Why SportPesa is very successful‘ the main points include;

  • Consumer spend – 50,000 users spending an average of KES. 500 = KES 25 million per month;
  • High and engaged web audience – an average of 16-18 million users every month (if using Google AdSense-this is another revenue stream);
  • Consumer education – when launching in 2014 just in time for the World Cup, SportPesa has continually educated its target audience on its various betting platforms and options;
  • Mobile technology – as noted above, riding the wave of over 25 million unique mobile phone connections, SportPesa was able to ride the wave of mobile money and making it integral in its platforms;
  • Media spend and engagement- as of Aug 2017, SportPesa was the biggest ad spending firm in media in Kenya rivalling telecoms and FMCGs such as Safaricom, Coca-Cola and P&G that have traditionally been high spenders in these.
  • Timing – launching in time for the 2014 World Cup, the brand was able to take advantage of the biggest sports extravaganza in the world. Pray they’re already looking forward to the 2018 one…

Enter GoK’s hand

In May/June 2017, the Treasury CS tabled proposals to tax sports betting firms in Kenya as high as +50% of the daily collections. While it is not our forte in matters taxation, with the numbers mentioned above, it would be foolhardy to assume this would not attract the Treasury technocrats. Given its agenda to invest in infrastructure including the now-on-then-off stadia development, the GoK has had a tough year in looking to bridge the budget deficit.

Sports betting firms did what is becoming our typical litigious selves in Kenya and took to court to stop the tax measures. The case to nullify the tax measures was dismissed last week, effectively attracting a 35% tax cap on the gross earnings of the sports betting firms effective January 2019.

As of close of 2017, the tax percentages were as follows;

  • 5% of lottery sales;
  • 7.5% for betting firms and bookmakers;
  • 12% for casino gambling and
  • 15% for raffles.
  • Additional taxes include 30% corporate tax and 25% of their total sales dedicated to social causes, including sports activities.

SportPesa is currently involved in major sporting disciplines including;

a) Football – FKF, Premier League, Super 8 , Gor Mahia FC, AFC Leopards FC and Nakuru All Stars FC

b) Rugby – through KRU, National 7s team and Kenya Harlequins;

c) Boxing – Boxing Association of Kenya and boxer Fatima Zarika;

d) Rallying – by sponsoring Leonardo Varese.

Other sponsorship includes shirt sponsoring Everton FC; sports partnership with Arsenal FC, Southampton FC and Hull City as well as La Liga in Spain.

All these associations are likely to be affected in one way or the other once the firm confirms its future role in sponsoring sports in Kenya and overseas too.

Having started expanding its geographical reach in the region to both Uganda and Tanzania, the main market still remains the local scene. The firm’s perceived close links within the GoK will also be exploring ways of either reducing the burden of taxation or enjoying tax holidays for a little longer than the prescribed date.

Way Out?

  1. National Sports Lottery – the establishment of this lottery is long overdue. The GoK through the Ministry of Culture and Sports ought to have fast-tracked this in the last 3 years. Among the many options would be to push for all betting and gambling companies to remit part of their monthly revenues to this common Fund. The monies raised would be apportioned to the sports associations proportionate to the scope of the sport and planned activities for the year. This has worked successfully in countries such as the UK.
  2. Commensurate Social Responsibility – in South Africa, betting and gambling companies have to engage a fair amount of their revenues to corporate social responsibility. While it may not be a sustainable business model for sports business, it is a means to the end of sports development in parts of the world as this.
  3. Lobbying – while we are not privy to what may have happened along the corridors of Parliament and the delays in confirmation of respective committees, it would serve them well to lobby the legislators to reduce the impact of the taxation on their revenues. Alternatively they can give their options of tax regime or tax holiday for those setting up to their 2nd or 3rd year upon which the applicable tax kicks in.

As of 1st January 2018, SportPesa had sought to appeal the ruling in the courts seeking to overturn the ruling. In the meantime, all local sponsorship stands suspended.

To managing the taxman and his demands, a lot still needs to be done to reach a consensus. For the sports organisations likely to be affected, a common ground on appealing to those in Government can be pursued.

It remains to be seen how the biggest gamble will finally play out in 2018.


Kenya at the Olympics – Infographic

It’s Olympic time again and what better way than to give our good fans something to cheer about. Our very able designer Nzilani Simu (@nzilanisimu) reprised her 2012 infographic and gave us another piece of great work. See it for yourself as you follow and enjoy the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Share widely too and follow us on @sportskenya for updates on #TeamKenya’s performance at the Rio Games.


OlympicsKenya FINAL - 2016-midres-01

Muhammad Ali – Truly the Greatest of All Time

Circa 1980: Unease is building across the globe while countries are busy preparing for the Summer Olympics to be held in Moscow. The then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) invasion of Afghanistan a year earlier in 1979, has US engaging its top foreign officials in diplomacy to object to the USSR’s actions. It is decided  that the Carter administration would procure the services of its biggest sports icon Muhammad Ali to convince African countries to boycott the Olympic Games.

The then Pres.Jimmy Carter hurriedly cobbled up an African Tour for Ali to visit 5 African states including Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Kenya. His reception in 2 of the states – Tanzania and Nigeria was lukewarm given the countries were quietly supporting socialist ideals and did not take Carter’s shuttle sports diplomacy kindly. Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere refused to meet Muhammad Ali and almost ruined the February trip to Africa. Nigeria’s Shagari also gave a cold shoulder to his sojourn.

Muhammad Ali and Pres. Moi at State House, Nairobi, Feb 1980 – Image courtesy of Associated Press

For Kenya, it was the first and only time they came close to seeing the ‘Greatest of All Time’ – Muhammad Ali. Then Pres. Moi and his emerging role in the Cold War turf wars in Africa, restored some decency and surety by supporting the US boycott.

The Kenyan trip gave the US some impetus and won them an ally when Kenya’s athletes eventually boycotted the Games in Moscow later in 1980. The 3-day trip to Kenya included a visit to the Starehe Boys Centre, as well as an Exhibition fight with Kenya’s Muhammad Abdallah Kent. Though the African trip did not score a major victory for Ali, it still endeared him to his adoring fans across Africa and other developing countries.



Humble Beginnings

Later that year, he would lose his title to Larry Holmes in his second last year before retiring in 1981.

Ali’s walk into the ring started in Louisville, Kentucky where it is rumoured to have found his bicycle stolen. In his anger, he swore to thump the thief and a cop found him and enrolled him to a local boxing gym. Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr as he was christened by his parents quickly learnt his art and became an amateur boxer winning the Golden Gloves (6 in Kentucky and 2 National) awards. This led to his selection into the US boxing team for the 1960 Rome Olympics Games, winning light-heavyweight gold medal.

For this young boxer who’s unorthodox style of dancing around the ring and speed previously unknown of boxers his weight, he indeed announced his arrival onto the scene. His style would have a spice of his bounce as he sought to tire his opponent and deliver his punches with precision much to the delight of the crowds. He often called out his opponents in the ring, driving them mad and in essence making them lose their minds before delivering the coup de grace. Indeed his was more like a calling to change the way boxing was viewed and seen then.

Ali and The Olympics 

1960s were a defining era for Clay. Winning the gold medal in Rome was among them. A story is told of how he became angry after being denied service at all-White restaurant resulting in him throwing away his gold medal in the Ohio River. He turned pro in October 1960 amassing an impressive 19-0 fight ( 15 of these being TKOs). In 1964 in Miami, he got his chance to fight the reigning world champion Sonny Liston scoring one of the biggest upsets in the sport.


In the same decade, he joined the Nation of Islam thanks to the influence of  Malcolm X and its founder, Elijah Muhammad appropriately giving him the name Muhammad Ali.

Having being subjected to the segregation and the oppressive of social living in some of the States made him conscious of his place and role in coming up and speaking out of these social justices.

Ali and Malcolm X’s 3 girls

Later that decade in 1967, Ali was forced to retire from the sport thanks to conviction of a federal court which stripped him of the heavyweight titles (WBA, WBC among others). This was after he refused to enlist in the US Army to join the forces in Vietnam.

Moscow 1980 (again):Ali’s entanglement with the Olympics movement would come again in 1980 when the US Government sought to enlist his services to engage in shuttle diplomacy among African states. His statement on the USSR (now largely Russia)’s invasion of Afghanistan buttressed his role. (In Ali’s estimation of the invastion);

… the Soviets were: like a bad child who you’ve told to stay out of the kitchen, stay out of the cookie jar and if you threaten to strike him, he’ll see that you’re not really serious and tomorrow he’ll go take another cookie, or he may break the jar. The Russians have made a move that we should do something about. So we got to do something to show them that we’re serious and if we go play ball with them, go boxing with them, run track or swim with them it just don’t seem that we’re so serious

Atlanta 1996: The US IOC got the chance to host the Olympic Games in consecutive decades in Atlanta. Come Summer in ATL, and the Games organisers kept everyone guessing who would light up the Olympic Torch ( lit at the start of every Games and put off on the last day of the same). And when the spotlight was shone in the night of 19th July,1996 in Atlanta. It is often noted as one of the Games enduring moments and one of the Olympics of triumph over physical challenges. This ceremony would also mark the last of the major public appearance of the legend.

(He was also re-awarded his 1960 gold medal having lost his original medal)

Ali at Atlanta ’96 – Image courtesy of www.olympics.org

Africa and Ali

Having been a vocal supporter of social injustices, it would only be a matter of time before he connected with the ‘motherland’. Well, that may not be entirely true…his African journey came around thanks to the genius of one Don King. Starting out in his role as boxing promoter, Don King had been tasked with securing a venue and money for the fight dubbed ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. The bout also coincided with a music concert organised by Jerry Masucci. As if by fate, the two events were quickly picked by Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo)’s Pres. Mobutu Sese Seko who paid for hosting the fight to shine a spotlight on the state at the River Congo. The music concert dubbed Zaire ’74 featured among others, Miriam Makeba, B.B King, Bill Withers, The Spinners, Celia de Cruz and King of Soul, James Brown. Local acts include Tabu Ley and his Afrisa International Band, Franco’s TPOK Jazz and Cameroonian Manu Dibango.

Rumble in the Jungle – Ali vs Foreman Ticket -image courtesy of www.julienslive.com

The fight scheduled for September 1974 was pushed by a month to October, further complicating the logistics for Don King. The Zaire government also refused to pick the music festival’s tab prompting new investors to be sought. In the end, all these were forgotten when in the sweltering humid conditions of Kinshasa, Muhammad Ali knocked George Foreman on the morning of 29th October,1974, truly one of the Fights of the Century!

The fight achieved many first being that both boxers were paid in excess of US$ 10 million. Consider too the fight was broadcast across the world (in Africa at some ungodly morning hours), it made the commercial possibilities for pay-per-view which in effect has also led to the diminishing interest in the sport among younger audiences.

The fight also launched the career of Don King who would dominate the boxing promoters’ world for the next 2 decades before his influence diminishing in the 2000s.

Ali and the US Govt Hate-Love Relations

For his stand and vocal nature, he was always at crosshairs with the US State officials. His first encounter came when he joined the Nation of Islam and associating with the maverick Malcolm X. Though these early encounters were not as often quoted and publicised, they did form a basis of his love-hate relationship with the authorities. Initially following the teachings of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, he did convert to a Sunni Muslim in the 1970s.

His second encounter came in 1966/67 when he refused to be inducted in the Army which was engaged with the communist elements, VietCong in Vietnam. He had been drafted in the Army in 1962 and classified as fit for the mandatory draft in 1966. His defiance represented a first for a sportsman and person of his status refusing to bow to so-called nationalism or patriotism.

His third part is the aforementioned shuttle diplomacy in Africa representing the Carter administration’s proposal of Moscow 1980 Olympic Games boycott. This again was met with mixed feelings both within the US administration and world. While it didn’t yield much given 3 countries ended up at the Games, he did play his part in advocating for non-aggression among states.

His fourth and final act of diplomacy with the US Government was in 1990 when he was sought to negotiate with the Saddam Hussein establishment to release US hostages before the Gulf War. By this time, the authorities acknowledged that in Muhammad Ali they had a Citizen of the World who would best serve as a negotiator to a fellow Muslim. He did secure 15 hostages – a less known but significant triumph in the world of diplomacy.

The awards by the Bush administration among others were a foregone conclusion to a career worth noting.

Louisville Lip:Ali’s Quotes

A trailblazer in trash-talking, getting into the opponent’s head as well as giving press conference journos a wealth of words to note for their stories. Here are but a few of the many;

“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life”

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth”

“I’m so mean, I make medicine sick”

“I am the greats, I said that even before I knew I was”

“The man who has no imagination has no wings”

“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up”

…Truly the Greatest of All Time!

Find two great pieces of his career and legacy first published by the Daily Nation and The Guardian respectively;

1. When a Great Sportsman becomes a Cultural Icon by Joyce Nyairo

2. Muhammad Ali: fighter, joker, magician, religious disciple, preacher by Kevin Mitchell

Sources: www.muhammadali.com,Wikipedia, www.time.com, Getty Images, Daily Nation, www.cnn.com

Conjestina Achieng – Part of the Tragedy of Kenyan Sports Heroes

A section of mainstream media yesterday showed us the deplorable state that one of Kenya’s better known female boxers Conjestina Achieng is living in. Last year she was checked into a mental facility after her sister managed to get the media to highlight her plight and was released though it has been claimed she’s still on the verge of ruin from substance abuse and depression.
We share our concerns and hope that Conjestina’s condition improves. But of greater concern is what happens to many other former sports personalities. From former footballers to former athletes and boxers we have seen the sorry state that most of them have ended up in. Abuse of alcohol, cases of depression as well as abandonment from their handlers are some of the issues they suffer from.
In a country where social services are still very deficient especially for the middle-aged and the ageing, the Government has not helped matters too by having not much in structures to look into such issues. It’s even worse for sports personalities who have to look at their respective sports federations and organisations most of which still struggle to manage daily affairs let alone the very sports people they ought to think of.
Anyone remember Kennedy Ochieng ? He was one of Kenya’s best sprinters, he died of suicide after suffering from depression; Peter Dawo – top scorer in the Mandela Cup in 1987 who now ekes a living from Kenya Railways yards ( the last time we checked); Philip Waruinge – Kenya’s first boxing medalist in the Olympic Games in 1968 as well as winner of the Val Baker Trophy who apparently lives with the mother in Nakuru having lost his eyesight and barely eking out anything out of life.
These are but some of the names that we can remember. There are many more who we haven’t mentioned in worse states. As we pride ourselves as a sporting nation, we should remember those who brought this country the fame and glory of years gone by. We should not let history judge us harshly in that respect while we can make a better place for all.

Bwana Waziri in related news, we still await word on the proposed Sports Bill along with the tabling of reports from the All Africa Games in Maputo last year as well as Olympic Games in London. There ought to be ‘spilling of blood’ to make our sporting officials toe the line in future Games.