Sports in Kenya – First Quarter 2016 – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The first quarter of 2016 is
already up, funny how time flies when we’re having fun…but is Kenyan sport
really have that much fun? January – March there have been a number of
positives to cheer up our common good as a nation (though David Ndii doesn’t quite believe in this….). The same period has also seen a number of
disappointing results, pronouncements or lack thereof. Let’s get this started;
Good

  • FKF Elections – a new Board of management is running
    Kenya’s biggest sport, football. After a number of false starts, it was the
    youthful Nick Mwendwa who
    won the day. His base, christened #TeamChange also scooped a number of
    strategic positions including the Vice President – giving Kenya her first female
    top football official.
    Kenya’s Oscar Ouma against New Zealand’s Bonny Williams – courtesy of FoxSports.com 
  • Kenya 7s – 2016 started well for the 7s team. In March, victories
    against strong nations like New Zealand and Argentina at the Las Vegas 7s showing
    intent into the team’s aspirations of finishing in the top 6 of the IRB 7s log.
    One of the highlights was one Collins Injera clocking his 220th try
    and now chasing the top try scorer’s position being the only top 3 7s players
    with a shot at it. 
  • Kenya’s athletic prowess – world half-marathoners (both men and women ) and continental cross-country
    champions is what we are! The two teams scored big victories both at individual
    and team levels colleting top honours and firmly setting the pace as the world
    prepares for an Olympic year. Hongera
    wanariadha wetu
    !
  •  Motoring whiz – Tejas
    Hirani
    – if you don’t know that
    name, then you don’t know the young genius of a motorsport driver in the
    country who’s making it big on the icy and speedy trails in Europe. And as he
    says on his link this is “a champion in the making”…enough said! 
  • Sponsorships – the betting companies have been placing
    their money where mouths are by signing sponsorship deals with the Kenya
    Premier League, top teams in the KPL including AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia among
    others. Other corporates have restored some of their sponsorships including
    Kenya Airways, Safaricom who put investments in the rugby sport. Golfing
    enthusiasts got their annual swings thanks to a raft of sponsorship deals –
    including Barclays Bank, MultiChoice, TransCentury among others.
    Flying Tejas – Kenya’s motor-rallying Tejas Hirani –  courtesy of www.tejashirani.com 
Bad

  • Anti-Doping Bill – if ever there was a time our MPs were
    needed to legislate on a Bill before its signed into law, it’s now. But what do
    our ‘honourable men and women decide? Blow whistles while others were busy
    cheering on the Presidency before going on recess. Now Kenya stares at missing
    major athletics events including the 2016 Rio Games
  • Football politics – it didn’t take long for the game to be
    back in mucky waters – from the national coach appointment, to the circus that was the national team selection and
    ultimately 2 defeats for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. It has also
    been an unsteady start to the Kenya Premier League as teams seek to secure
    sponsorships, with officials busy scheming how to keep the monies deeper and
    for long than pay deserving players and coaches. I mean why did Gor Mahia
    insist on reducing former manager’s pay before he decided to jump ship?
Ugly

  • AFCON  2017 Qualifications – Kenya’s (placed 103 on FIFA  world ranking loss to Guinea Bissau – over 40 places at 147 below Kenya  and we couldn’t muster a single goal. The second game inNairobi ended in a loss of 0-1 though the match was disrupted for 30 min as
    Kenyan players disagreed with referee’s decision to award a goal. In the meantime, the team and the venue Nyayo National Stadium faces severe penalties and likely suspension for the indiscipline.

  • Kenya’s Volleyball queens loss to Egypt in Rio Games direct qualifications – the team looked destined to book a direct ticket to Rio in August but the Kenya Volleyball Federation officials and team management had other ideas. First the change in personnel bringing in less experienced players was bound to backfire. Secondly the team’s preparations were haphazard and the technical aspects not well covered. The only reprieve is that there is one more round of qualifiers to be played next month in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Are Community Clubs in Kenya basket cases?

Once again the arguments about football clubs in Kenya in particular the community clubs v/s ‘corporate-sponsored’ clubs are back again (see earlier post here). It’s a bit of concern now especially with the taxman breathing down the neck of all and sundry. It is quite tragic that most of the community clubs enjoy a huge fan-base ( but have not been able to monetise and marshal these numbers to reflect well commercially..)

While some officials of the clubs read mischief and malice, in the end what the taxman wants, s/he gets! It is also very clear that most of the club officials have not put in place proper mechanisms for running a club.
Issues like;

  • annual financial statements;
  • player contracts and players’ welfare; 
  • commercial and business plans ( add the marketing bit in there);
  • communication and PR strategy 

among other important documents. They should not also blame other sources for their ineptitude and incompetency.

While the KPL has been making slow progress on some fronts, it is of fundamental importance that clubs set these issues right to avoid what we’re seeing currently.
It is also important that the KPL officials avoid being held at ransom by club officials who stifle developments such as has been the banned-but-soon-lifted proclamations regarding hooliganism.
Some have blamed the security personnel for not getting it right, but we already have over-stretched these people with current security scares in the country.
Clubs must revamp their mode of operations from societies ( as one official was quoted saying in the Press) to proper commercial and business outfits.

Sports is not charity anymore and KPL ought to spell this out for participating clubs. A benchmark of financial resources should be in place for at least 1 year. This will show that the club is capable of paying its players, management and other technical staff, merchandise and training facilities among others. Penalties should be in place for those who fail to meet the thresh-hold.

Early this season, KPL decided to do an audit of football venues across the country. It is also prudent for them to do the same for financial records of the clubs.Related to this, there is an interesting report done by AfriCog detailing football mismanagement in Kenya. Check the link here.

Back to the community clubs, various countries have tried these models of operation and succeeded so it is not excuse enough for the poor management practices currently witnessed. Clubs such as Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa), Atletico Bilbao , Barcelona (both from Spain), Boca Juniors (Argentina) as well as Borussia Dortmund to name a few.  A few quick tips;

  1. Establish a limited company before selling shares – this can be either to the general public or restricted to a certain number ( say 1 share worth KSh.50,000 etc);
  2. Get a wealthy benefactor and get him/her to manage the club as one of his entities – this is yet to catch on in Kenya but is prominent in Europe moreso England. Any Katumbis, Khozas or Abramovichs in Kenya?
  3. Secure major sponsorship deals with leading companies – this is a tricky one since most companies have what they call a need for ROI thus cannot justify putting money where they might not get value for it;
  4. Secure a large fan-base ( preferably regional or national) and this will be lucrative to both individual or corporate investors ( tragedy is if they are an unruly and emotional lot, they often end up being a curse instead) and finally
  5. Perform, perform and perform! Without good results, any club is as good as dead.
SIDE-NOTE:
In researching for this piece, some interesting links came up such as this one on the top clubs in Africa as done by CAF in December 2012. It’s interesting to note that even though the Democratic Republic of Congo has a troubled economy, their football clubs have performed well in the continent. Here’s a snippet of the rankings- number in brackets represents FIFA Club World rankings;
1. (67) Al-Ahly – Egypt  – estimated revenue of $36.09 million (in 2008)
2. (146) Esperance Sportive – $5.71 million 
3. (147) Zamalek – Egypt – $26.8 million
4. (176) Tout Puissant Mazembe aka TP Mazembe – DRC – $15 ( in 2013)
5. (190) Asante Kotoko – Ghana 
Kenya’s Clubs;
45. Gor Mahia (Pos.604)
79. AFC Leopards (Pos.893)
88. Tusker FC (Pos.954)

Additional info on the post can be found from the following links;
Top 5 African millionaire football club owners
For TP Mazembe…the future looks bright
Worlds Top 5 Fan-owned Soccer teams
CAF Club & World Rankings – 2012
Richest Football Clubs in Africa by Revenues – 2008

Gor Mahia hooligans put blemish on KPL Finale

In what had promised to be a tense and exciting final kick of the Tusker-sponsored KPL, there just had to be some people hell-bent on spoiling the party. Well, the script got flipped on this last day and for some fans it was too much to bear. And true not everyone emerges tops but surely its not an excuse to take it out on perceived rivals or innocent citizenry.

AFC Leopards v/s Gor Mahia earlier this year – Image via www.michezoafrika.com

First things first though, we condemn the actions of those Gor Mahia fans who damaged property and other movables on Saturday after their final game against Thika United. Your actions led to the prolonged chaos and unnecessary tragedies to innocent by-standers who had absolutely nothing to do with the game. 

Secondly and this is where we still believe KPL officials still turn a blind eye and deal with Gor Mahia club with kid gloves, condemnation and punishment should come in HARD. The club has its share of troubled matches and this past season was no exception. There was some semblance of punishment but KPL and Sports Stadia officials bulked down at some point due to shrinking revenues. But what good does it do when a single club’s fans threaten an entire league’s future just because of some few bad elements? If points have to be docked or games played in empty stadia, so be it…ili iwe funzo!

Third, many ardent Gor Mahia fans are quick to excuse themselves and say that those causing problems are thugs and not anyone associated with the club. But isn’t it a familiar trend, draw or lose a crucial game and some form of chaos comes from the proceedings of post-game activities? Out of 16 teams in the Kenya Premier League, which club has the highest incidence of fan trouble, riots, property damage etc? The record speaks for itself, season in, season out.

Fourth, internally the club’s officials have to ensure they identify and weed out elements who keep repeating these unnecessary activities. In leagues such as the South American and European leagues, hooligans have been identified by respective clubs officials and blacklisted by security organs who share these across borders. Though not entirely weeded out, clubs which deviate from a semblance of order are heavily punished and thus officials have decided to be pro-active unlike their counterparts here.

Fifth, for once we agreed with FKF officials who had advised for the game to be moved to Kasarani Stadium on Thika Road ( good god it didn’t happen, otherwise the renovated grounds would have been defaced …maybe…. But Gor officials pleaded with KPL and SuperSport for the game to remain at City Stadium. Except for the artificial turf that was installed, those grounds are not fit for a game of such magnitude. Nairobi City Council (will it exist as is or does it change to County of Nairobi???)or whoever is in charge of the grounds needs to close for a year or so, make proper sitting spaces, proper security arrangements and lighting(floodlights), parking lots and access points and move those hawkers surrounding the stadium. And any day it hosts such a match have proper security systems and traffic regulation.

Sixth it is tragic that the very same political elite that seek to identify with the club do not condemn and make the bad elements stand out when they cause such destruction. Let’s not lie but the club gets its largest followership from one of the Kenyan communities but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have other fans from other communities. Thus the politicians may go easy on the Gor ‘fans’ for the fear of antagonizing a valuable voting bloc asset. That our politicians have perfected the smoke and mirror acts has also pervaded our sports scene and it’s something we will either learn to live with and suffer for it or deal with it before it takes our football back to the doldrums.

Seventh, sections of the media have not been active enough in condemning and/or calling those charged to take more responsibility on such activities. We have heard that some sports editorials are compromised before stories are aired either for fear of reprieve from sports administrators who ‘grease’ those in the take with freebies, tickets or accreditation to international events. These are elements who are putting our sports scene in serious doubts. What happened to the proverbial ‘voice of reason’?

For those of you who think hooliganism is a way of sport, then we should stop humouring ourselves that we are helping the game. Hooliganism and its associated acts is bad for any sport and should be rooted out of Kenyan sport before it develops strong roots. It’s interesting that a game like rugby which is known to associate with toughness and rugged players and who’s majority of fans indulge in alcohol but are some of the most disciplined and gentle ones you’ll ever come across. Maybe there is something we can learn from our rugby counterparts.

Oh and by the way Gor Mahia is facing AFC Leopards in an FKF Cup in a few days time, wonder what shall pan out of this derby? 

For those wishing to engage in further literature you can read this link here on Soccer Violence in South America’s Argentina. You can also check this on Hooliganism in the UK.

We sampled the following Twitter comments and views on the post-match activities;
{and the views contained therein are not in any way endorsements or approval of this blog’s views and as such should be treated independent of the same}

@AKenyanGirl If #KOTs can make a stand against MPigs, we can and should do the same to #GorMahia. Say no to terror and murder in the name of football

@mmurumba Love for football can never be justified by hooliganism. #GorMahia shouldn’t be allowed to participate in #TPL if they can’t accept defeat.

@LukoyeAtwoli #GorMahia fans who make political statements (Gor, Obama, Raila), then complain when violence is blamed on ALL these are being disingenuous

@‏LarryMadowo I’m ashamed to be a #GorMahia fan. Which doofus supporters cannot accept a loss without violence? Plonkers still stuck in the Stone Age, nkt

@MauriYambo Leaders who bask in #GorMahia’s glory days but ‘hide’ when hooligans flood the streets R doing us all a disservice. Time 4 serious man-talk!

@4lifestan A lot have been said concerning the #Gor eventful day, but if the end justifies the means, the club have a lot to ponder on a serious note.

@doreenapollos: Then you see juvenile #Gor fans posting rude tweets in defence,not knowing that rude attitude isn’t helping but stamping the hooligan’s view

@pmusesya If @robertalai wasn’t a #Gor fan, he would be tweefing and condemning and leading a movement against them…oh well, (shrugs)

@suehlawrie This #Gor issue is about thugs and criminals who CHOOSE to attend Gor matches. It does not mean they are Gor fans. Fans respect their clubs.

@mosemogeni It doesn’t matter how big or small the club is, if ur fans are criminals, bring them to justice. #Gor

@kachwanya Football is awesome and at the end of week people get something to be excited about but at the end of the day..it is just a game..

Kenya Premier League…finally of Age?

One year short of marking its 10th anniversary since it was formed the highest professional league for the game of football has seen what may be its best season so far.

KPL Logo – courtesy of www.kpl.co.ke



And in 2012….
The 2012 season started with the new office running Football Kenya Federation after years of bickering and court proceedings finally gave way to a compromise agreement. The warring factions of Football Kenya Limited and Kenya Football Federation each contested the elections with other favoured contenders.Sam Nyamweya and his retinue started by stating they would not interfere with the Kenya Premier League, more out of fear of losing out TV rights and sponsorship from SuperSport than any good intentions.
With that KPL CEO Jaco Oguda and Co. set about to look for corporate sponsorship as well as ensuring that clubs in the league maintained a certain level of professionalism. Up until this season, the league had not secured a title corporate sponsor making operations at the KPL offices and wider mandate a challenging task. Interestingly many clubs in the league have managed to attract big money with the likes of AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia, Sofapaka and Thika United among others getting 3-5 year commitments from Kenyan corporate firms. And by a stroke of luck the former big teams who have yet to win the revamped KPL have performed fairly well with both AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia fighting to the last match hoping to be crowned winners. Reigning champs Tusker FC have also an outside chance of picking the silverware again dependent on the top 2 teams faltering.


SuperSport’s influence and other clubs’ rise
With these clubs along with mid-level teams such as Thika United, Sony Sugar, Chemelil Sugar making fairly good performances, the media sponsors SuperSport have ensured that the wider audience not able to attend the games in the various stadia get a snippet of the action – Remember SuperSport have made the biggest investment into the KPL through securing exclusive media rights. The SuperSport honchos signed an initial 3-year contract in 2008, before extending it to 5 years in 2010 to end in 2015.
In its first year of coverage, SuperSport screened 22 games which has risen by 300% to 90 games shown on SuperSport including a channel launched in 2011 specifically targeted to the region, SS9 EA. In addition to this local media personnel have been trained on live coverage, camera, web among other technical aspects of the trade.
Back to the league, in its 9 years since 2003, the Premier League has seen different teams emerge as new kids on the block with Ulinzi FC ( largely associated with Kenya’s Defense Forces) win the title 4 times (from 2003-5 and 2010), Tusker FC 2 times (2007 and 2011), Sony Sugar in 2006 and Sofapaka 2009. This has helped the League get wider appeal with each of these clubs getting its own followers. Still these clubs have not attracted the number of fans that traditional teams have seen for their games but it’s a work in progress.


Sell your Soul
In the 2012 season, finally the League did secure title sponsorship with Tusker, EABL’s flagship brand with a 3-year contract worth KSh. 170 million. Though widely celebrated across the country, its our belief that the KPL officials sold themselves cheap in the rush to obtaining the deal. Our thinking is informed by the fact that there were other suitors willing to associate with the game both in the drink brands and a few telcos whose balance sheets would only spot a slight blip. Again, the KPL officials are still learning the ropes of relating and associating with the corporate types in the country who still view sport as a recreational activity.
Another deal signed in the 2012 season, saw Puma secure the deal for supplying footballs to the clubs in the league. The deal is worth KSh.10 million though no real monetary value is attached to the deal, yet again raising concern of who negotiates these deals for KPL.
By now, those charged with seeking sponsorship and long-term deals for the League should ensure they argue their case and seek better deals for the game. They should also see even if the deals do not fully come with monetary benefits, the KPL secures some form of commitment from corporate firms that will see investment in the game.

Future Prospects
And as the 2012 season comes to a close, there are lots of areas that need to be worked on. These include the following;


Club management vis-a-vis KPL Agenda
Many clubs in the KPL are still run by officials who’s agenda is not entirely in the interest of the club or game.  There are also many charlatans in town seeking to run clubs while they can’t run a household to save their souls. In times to come, KPL should ensure that clubs adhere to a certain code of ethics when it comes to management and financial aspects. It will be in the best interests that a club’s promotion to the top flight comes with a certain sense of responsibility and accountability. Oh by the way, KPL books for the last 3 years should also in the public domain for those in the game to know what and how the League is run.

Security and Discipline
This is still a sticking point in many league games. This is especially the case for the big games among traditional foes. Though KPL puts the liability and responsibility on the clubs, it ought to wield wider influence and consult with security experts on how to manage crowds and game situations. The Disciplinary Committee should also come down heavily on any club or fans who display intolerance and commit repeat offences relating to crowd trouble and harassment of fans. This will make it attractive for the uninitiated fans and also traditional ones who are yet to step back in stadia to make that move. They should also vet security apparatus who’s personnel at times work in cahoots with the fans to either smuggle in illegal stuff or use fake tickets to enter various venues.
The same should be reciprocated by players on the pitch. Many a times we have seen footballers question the decisions made by the referees and some even result to physically abusing the officials. These incidences should become a rarity if KPL thoroughly and regularly trains the centre field officials along with club representatives.

Venues
Talking of venues, though it’s not KPL’s main concern to build infrastructure, they should impress upon local and regional authorities to make invest more in better infrastructure in the stadia, parking lots, training grounds and youth centres. In the upcoming system of county governance, those that seek to engage the youth and related activities will have a lead in attracting viable investments. We have seen many a housing projects come up with golfing estates, but it sure would also help if they had training grounds for football and other outdoor games. The same would be great for youth centres.

Financial and Legal Expertise
Though the KPL has officials who are experts in these fields, they need to engage more hands in both departments for the League to be able to develop strong and stringent mechanisms for clubs and those with the interest of the game to operate. Sponsorship deals secured on the cheap should become last resort not options explored and hastily signed. There also need to be consultations with those in the professions to provide training in sports finance and sports law.

Club Youth system
Famous clubs have made it a priority to invest in their youth development programs. It should be of urgency since many clubs are starting to attract talent from lower rung clubs but the reservoirs are not enough. The system will not only ensure continuity for the clubs but also see former and retiring footballers engaged in their favoured club activities instead of wasting away in destitution, drug abuse and alcoholism. It has worked in developed leagues such as Spain, Germany, Holland and now England. Investing in the club’s youth will also see a better national team from the under 12 all the way to the senior side for Harambee Stars.

And this is looking forward to a better league in 2013 and coming years…and raise a glass to the winners of the 2012 season !

AFC Leopards v/s Gor Mahia – Kenya’s Biggest Football Derby ’12 Second Edition

KPL and football pundits are rubbing their hands with glee as the biggest football derby in the country comes to fruition this weekend at the newly refurbished Kasarani grounds ( MISC if you like). A couple of weeks ago, it looked like AFC Leopards had all but sealed the top spot going into the 2nd and final leg of the 2012 season of Kenya’s premier football league. But the last couple of games have ended in draws and a more recent loss to Western Stima in Nakuru reduced the gap between the top 3 teams by 2-points ( NB: reigning champions Tusker FC lead by virtue of a better goal advantage but are equal in points with AFC at 45 points).
On the other hand, Gor Mahia have been on the rise after brushing aside on their worst starts to the league earlier this year. They had to change the management and are currently under Croat Zdravko Logarusic who has steered the ship back into title contention with an unbeaten run 19-games, they look every bit as champions already. Marshalling one of the biggest fan base (and most emotive too), the club shall hope to maintain this streak come Saturday.
It must be the gods blessings that the current season sees both teams in contention for the title and as such making it a mouth-watering game whichever way you look at it. And with 8 games left, the title race is still any club’s taking. This should be the motivation for both teams who’s touch on the top prize in the last 3 years has been close yet so far.

Interesting Facts:

  • Both AFC Leopards & Gor Mahia have won the Premiership title 12 times each;
  • Both teams are currently coached by foreigners Dutchman Jan Koops (AFC Leopards) and Croat-born Z. Logarusic;
  • Gor Mahia finished 4th and AFC Leopards 5th respectively in the 2011 season;
  • Both clubs have the largest corporate sponsorships with Gor Mahia’s Brookside shirt sponsorship tipping AFC’s Mumias Sugar deal;
  • Both teams were recently incorporated into a fan-base drive by one of Kenya’s leading media group dubbed Toklezea na Jalee meant to encourage both clubs’ fans to buy merchandise that will help build their respective kitties. 
  • Both clubs have the biggest fan-base between them, fondly referring to each other as Shemeji, thanks to the politics of the day…which are very fluid in this part of the world.
  • The 1st leg was Gor Mahia hosting AFC Leopards with the game briefly abandoned before ending in a draw – though with officials from both sides blaming each other for fan trouble. This 2nd leg is AFC’s though Safari 7s necessitated the move to MISC and also change of date from Sunday to Saturday.

Saturday 1600hours is the kick-off at the Kasarani stadium ( with SuperSport 9 East screening the game live for those not brave enough to venture into the hallowed grounds) !

Kenya Premier League becomes Tusker Premier League, Really???

After a couple of months of haggling and boardroom meetings, Kenya’s Premier League found a suitor in the name of Tusker – EABL’s flagship beer brand. Analysts may look at it and say that it’s a major boost to the professional football game in Kenya, but as usual we have the skeptics who think otherwise.
First, the KSh. 170 million deal signed is for a 3-year period meaning a little under KSh. 60 million per year – a fairly modest figure for a 16 club league ( approx KSh. 3.75 million per club if its shared equally among them).

Secondly, this is the second time EABL is making an offer for the title sponsors for the Kenyan top football league. In 2001 they withdrew after football wrangles and mismanagement from football officials running the now defunct KFF were the order of the day. It is 2012 and this has not changed drastically after only recently the Vice Chair Sammy Shollei was suspended for making public claims of corruption and poor managerial decisions. We shall also remember the cancelled deal between Safaricom and FKF ( in the Sakata Ball junior tournament).
Though KPL is not entirely run by FKF, FKF still calls the shots on matters football in Kenya. They have been trying to get their noses in ( like they did with the whole fiasco of accreditation for media houses and journalists for the 2012 season). They may not been in on the servings yet but they’re not far from it too. Once Nyamweya and his minions are able to wrestle the league from SuperSport-led Jack Oguda, we can be sure it won’t be business as usual more like business unusual…

Third, EABL has been managing a club that is in the KPL , Tusker FC – reigning champions of the league. The club recently sacked its manager Sammy ‘Pumzo’ Omollo  and has been having a bad patch after being eliminated at the CECAFA Club Championships held in Dar in July and August this year. This relationship of the club and its ‘sponsors’ need be outlined clearly to avoid any conflict of interest.

Fourth, the EABL is also sponsoring the national team Harambee Stars with the sponsors hoping for a World Cup qualification – a bit far-fetched if you ask us. This is because with the expected hire of a foreign coach, the wage bill of the management team will go throw the roof at the expense of the team’s meagre resources. For the longest time, whenever the players go for national duty, they’re never paid in time – be it their allowances or refunds for air tickets. What will change with this sponsorship?

Fifth, EABL is a beer company and they have been challenging the legality of the oft-quoted Mututho Laws – which prescribe against the consumption of beer during the day/working hours and at certain public locations. The same goes for under-age drinking. We all know that the Kenyan football fans are a fragile lot especially in the derbies which don’t always end up well. Put alcohol in the mix, and can’t imagine what would happen next.
How shall EABL hope to overcome these challenges? Maybe through its soft drink brand ( which would have been quite a coup by the way, Alvaro Premier League especially for share-of-throat that they have been trying to fight with soft drinks). This is something FKF and KPL ought to have considered when approaching potential suitors.

Talking of suitors, it has been said in the grapevine that there were other companies which were also approached but when they raised the issues of management and proper financial outlays, these were not easily availed. It would also have been interesting to see a separate sponsor from the national team to the national league.

But being still at times teething era, the Kenyan football scene has lots to learn from other African leagues and more advanced ones across the world. In Ghana for example, Globacom International ( mobile company) sponsors the Ghanaian League for approx. KSh.180 million per year! Points to ponder right there!

{Guest Post by Football Pundit Ansell M}

CECAFA Club Championships – Can Tusker FC save Kenya’s dismal performance?

The biggest club championship tournament in East & Central Africa starts in 2 days in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital. Kenya’s representative Tusker FC who are the current KPL leaders and also reigning champs of the same league will be hoping to save the country’s dismal performance in regional and continental assignments.

Coincidentally the last time Kenya won this Cup – aptly named Kagame Cup ( as the Rwandan President puts his money where his mouth is…)- Tusker FC were the club, that’s 2008. And if their current form is anything to go by, this year they can challenge the Tanzanian clubs , Simba and Yanga FC who played out an all-Tanzanian final last year in the same venue.

But upsetting the form-book will not be easy as the crowds attending Tanzanian matches have seen surging numbers to the tens of thousands and in the case of the two fierce rivals in Simba and Yanga – a crowd that could easily top to a hundred thousand.
The CECAFA Sec-General one Nicholas Musonye- who runs a tight ship – has been able to ensure that the club championships and also the Senior Challenge Cup are not without corporate support and hence not pushed into oblivion. He’s the envy of many sports federations many especially in Kenya still struggle to manage their affairs without wrangles and internal fights.
Sadly though, even after trying to be all-inclusive, there are still handicaps where clubs from states such as Eritrea will not make it. This is due to the notoriously tight-fisted regime which makes citizens want to leave the country at the slightest excuse.
All in all the 11-team tournament is bound to keep East & Central African football enthusiasts entertained and rooting for their favourite teams.

Interesting Facts:

  • Kenyan clubs have won the most trophies – 15 ;
  • Kenyan clubs have made to the Finals – 22 times – the highest after Tanzania’s 19 times); 
  • AFC Leopards & Tusker FC have each won the Cup – 5 times ( Leopards won it 3 times consecutively 1982,83,84);
  • George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo – a Kenyan striker shall be appearing for Azam FC – a Tanzanian club;
  • Sammy Omollo appeared for Tusker FC (then Kenya Breweries in 1990-92 missing out winning the CUp in 1989);
  • Pres. Paul Kagame will be bankrolling the tournament for the 10th consecutive year to the tune of US$60,000 per tournament for the winner’s prize money;

 

Football Kenya falters again and again

Football Kenya fallacies
After securing fresh mandate from the football fraternity in the country, the current Chair one mercurial Sam Nyamweya seemed to have finally come in through the main door to bring order to the rather chaotic scene that is Kenyan football.
But barely a month in office, the Chair started making moves which have since started becoming all too common and frequent. Last year in the first week of December , it was announced that from 2013, all football tournaments that were to be played in Kenya from the lowest levels to the senior ones would have to seek Football Kenya Federation’s clearance – the main gist of this was the many corporate-sponsored tournaments which football officials have salivating and rubbing their hands with glee due to the monies involved.
Early this year one of the country’s professional players made formal complaints about refunds not made to him for air travels made during national duty. Another player still also complained about his use of image and non-compensation for the same. Both these cases were poorly managed by the FKF team which started making pronouncements of how unpatriotic our pro players had suddenly become.

As the country was preparing for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers for 2013, it became clear that the technical team did not have what it takes to deliver the goods and the campaign was in shambles by last month with sacking ( and ‘appointment’ as football technical director )of the national coach.
By this time also the cracks had started emerging between the Chair and the Vice-Chair along with other branch officials who have not been accommodated in some of the rushed decisions made by the Federation.
Mid-last month, one of the biggest football tournaments, Sakata Ball was cancelled by the sponsors Safaricom in the last minute after it emerged that some FKF officials had made a claim for a percentage of the sponsorship fee(s). This was clearly without justification.
The straw that broke the Camel’s back was Monday’s announcement to the media that FKF had resolved to suspend Vice-Chair and of the Nairobi branch officials for some fabricated and cooked-up issues. And in quick succession, the Chair proceeded to appoint one of his handy men to the post of Vice-Chair.
There are many other issues which we would wish to highlight, but let’s not bore you to death with the sad song(s)…

Same old, same old…
What irks us here at SportsKenya is the fact that once again, Kenyan football is a non-starter, largely due to an incompetent leadership team which is bereft of any new ideas to inject into the local scene. Some have been hoping that the current Chair – who’s well known for his dubious character and political machinations – would somehow see the ‘light’ but that very light has been put off for many a football fan.
KPL as sponsored by SuperSport Limited has been trying against all odds to restore some order into the game. But interference has been seen from FKF e.g. the media accreditation process which was done in a shoddy manner, disciplinary issues relating to the suspended games as well as the tiffs with some of the refereeing officials who at times are at pains to gain control of the game but can’t due to fans’ pressure.

The usual nonchalant stance by FIFA is not entirely suprising given the fact that the first port of call for the current Chair after his election was the Swiss city of Zurich. It may also not be lost to us that the current FIFA President is on his last days and wouldn’t want to antagonise officials who might come back for his neck upon retirement.
The Kenyan Government through the Ministry of Sport is the lame-duck which pipes threats but never makes good its word. Mr. Minister, you can bite the bullet and disband the top team since we have not even qualified for the AFCON coming up in 2013 anyway. And the more we wait for semblance of order to take place, the more the disorder and misconduct of the top organs will continue.

If we can make that sacrifice and bear the painful process for at least 6-12 months, we can midwife a new management team that will have not just the goodwill of football practitioners and enthusiasts but also serve as a lesson on how not-to-mismanage the universal game of football! Well until then, we can forget any meaningful change in the Kenyan football status in the near future…

Elgon Cup, London Marathon, El Classico – Busy Sporting Weekend

The second last weekend of April represents a nice offering for Kenyan sporting fans. What with all the rains pounding much of the country, it’s a mostly indoors affair for Kenyan (save for the fact that @KenyaPower may have other ideas depending on your side of the hood…)
This one has quite a flurry of activity and sporting events to look out for;



Rugby

Elgon Cup poster

Kenya’s rivalry with Uganda for the 2012 Elgon Cup is renewed tomorrow at the famous Kyadondo Grounds in Kampala. The last few haunts to that ground have not been very successful for Kenyans. The coach Mike ‘Tank’ Otieno has introduced quite a number of fresh players hoping to expose these to the tougher and longer version of the game ( 15-a-side). We pray for a Kenya win and wish the best in their Kyadondo outing.The game will be screened live on SuperSport.


Football
The local league continues with some interesting fixtures such as the AFC Leopards v/s Tusker in Mombasa, Gor Mahia v/s Ulinzi Stars in Nakuru, among others. Leopards is slowly building a gap at the top, but these are early stages and 2-3 games can quickly change what may have seemed like a sterling season. Gor Mahia will be playing their first game after the decision to discipline their fans for the fracas during the AFC v/s Gor Mahia game. There is also the #BongaBoli  follow on Twitter @BongaBoli promo seeking a Kiswahili football-caster for SuperSport as they develop content for their East African channel 9. This weekend they visit the lakeside town of Kisumu.
Internationally there is the EPL big one Arsenal ( which enjoys quite a following around this part of the world) and Chelsea. It’s the feature game on Saturday starting at 1445hours. Later in the evening is the biggest derby in club football in Spain where Barcelona faces up Real Madrid for the title race. Each of these sides came out of UEFA Champions League licking their wounds. It ought to be a cracker as Lionel Messi tries to outscore Cristiano Ronaldo – for the Pichichi Award.

Athletics
After a fairly successful outing of Kenyan marathoners last weekend in Boston, Sunday, the London marathon is back! After taking both the men’s and women’s title, this will be no walk in the park as the Ethiopians and also some Chinese will hoping to make the podium.
This race will help (or further complicate…) the selection process for the Kenyan team for the Olympic Games which come back to this city in July-August later this year.
Emmanuel Mutai will be hoping to defend his win last year but will have to give chase to 3-time winner Martin Lel, world record holder Patrick Makau and world champion Abel Kirui. A tough call to pick the winner right there!
Mary Keitany leads the women’s charge and will be given a run by one of the Dibaba sisters Ejegayehu Dibaba.

Formula One

Bahrain GP

Yes this sport has developed quite a following in the country even when some of the races are in some ungodly hours of Sunday morning or evening. This weekend sees GP teams visiting the Arab state of Bahrain. The first practice session today saw Lewis Hamilton emerge tops amidst controversies and tomorrow the cars and drivers take back to the track to see who attains pole position in the starting grid.
 
All the above action is available on the SuperSport channels for those who feel like staying indoors. If you can afford to hang out at a pal’s or your local hang-out, then these too can provide you with some nice weekend action!

Football Derby exposes Kenyan football soft underbelly

Many had gone to the game expecting it to live to the hype but what transpired on Sunday is the sad reality of what the Kenyan football game should address and hopefully learn from going forward.
Before going all ham on this post, we seek your indulgence on an article carried by the Daily Nation last week on Wednesday 14th March about how ‘financially-troubled clubs being dropped from KPL‘. The article sought to give direction on what would happen to clubs which have not had proper finances being demoted to lower rung leagues from the Kenya Premier League.

Dropping the Ball? 

It sought to give a clear signal to clubs which have not been able to meet their financial obligations such as paying their players, having concrete contracts for the players as well as functioning secretariat would face such consequences.
The same article estimated each club’s requirement for a season at between KSh.12-15 million. Of this amount, each club is estimated to earn about KSh. 4.4 million from SuperSport who are funding KPL’s activities thus far.
For the last two seasons, we have seen many a club come into the top league but struggle through the season to meet their financial obligations. This season already Rangers FC has been sending red alerts to potential financiers to come to their aid.  They have even contemplated changing their base to create veritable home support in a bid to attract fans to their games.
This is just one of the concerns that KPL needs to address. One of the ways it can aid in this is by securing an overall title sponsor for the Premier League similar to what other leagues in more ‘developed football economies’. This would ensure some more subsidies for the clubs from the KPL in terms of bonuses and assured revenue.

Secondly, the KPL needs come up with a blueprint which would ensure that by the time a club is in the Nationwide League, it is already approaching potential sponsors with the promise of support if they do indeed qualify for the top flight.

Thirdly, with new devolved system of governance, it will be imperative for urban centres in the different counties to come up with social amenities such as stadia, community grounds and related infrastructure. If they can manage to convince a few of the towns which have basic stadia to spruce them up in time and relocate them to these towns, that would build home support for the teams and in longevity ensure wider spread of the game.

Fourth as we saw on Sunday, only a few of the top clubs can muster huge crowds. If the level of competition is enhanced and less emphasis is laid on these top teams, the other teams will also start enjoying sizeable crowds during their games. See what has happened to Sofapaka, Ulinzi FC to name but a few?

Fifth, the security levels at most the games not just the big derby matches but also those in smaller towns leave a lot to be desired. Many a times the Kenya Police are contracted to suppress any crowd trouble but this needs reinforcement from private security personnel.

Sixth, heavy penalties should be incurred by the hosting team in case a game has crowd trouble, no amenities or poor surfaces for the play-grounds. Even the Nyayo National stadium which has been hosting majority of the games! It was downgraded by FIFA due to fan trouble and lack of proper sitting arrangements. It is a no-brainer on this one!

Seventh, both KPL and FKF need to engage professional hands in the management of the game locally. Too many quacks are masquerading as sports administrators but we have seen a rather sorry state of the game at times.  The fact that players can go for months without pay while their managers/team owners ‘roll in 4×4 vehicles’ leaves a lot to be desired. Same applies to player agents and any other personnel relating to club/game logistics. FIFA is always willing to help and are regularly offering workshops and seminars to help with capacity building.

Eighth, since 1995, Kenya has not had club representation at continental level beyond the 1st or 2nd round qualifiers. This is not by accident, its because we have not invested in the game and when we do, it such knee-jerk situations that it fails to make any impact. Lack of proper structures at the top has meant management-by-crisis which has seen us where we are.

Ninth, social media’s with us! But have we used those channels appropriately? As noted by another blogger here. That fans and club enthusiasts can use these channels to hurl abuses at each other is such a sad state of affairs which won’t help bring back the many fans who are yearning to watch live matches.

So going forward, it is bad that the game on Sunday ended the way it did. But if FKF and KPL can pick lessons from this, it can be a new phase for the game going.