The Kenyan Premier League 2019/2020 season kicked off a few weeks ago despite major betting companies in the country losing their operating licenses courtesy of legal action by the Kenyan government. Sportpesa, who held the lion’s share of the market, the Premiership sponsor just so happened to undergo close scrutiny by the Kenya Revenue Authority who at the time were allegedly seeking the company to pay its taxes in full. After a while, due to an alleged poor business environment, they decided to exit the market and move elsewhere.
What followed in the next few weeks had been feared by many a critic and the symptoms are now evident. A number of clubs are cash-strapped and have even had to forfeit their games as a result. Clubs are struggling to make payments to their players and staff. This sorry state of affairs is a cause to worry particularly if the season will carry on until the end as initially planned. There have been calls to have the league suspended in order for the organizers and the Federation to find an amicable solution on how the crisis will be solved.
Suspension however is deemed only as a short term solution. It is critical that during these discussions, Kenyan clubs crack their heads and create a suitable, sustainable system of running club football in the country on and off the pitch. While the league may need a big name sponsor to push ratings outside the country, it is key that the management of Kenyan football clubs is improved off the pitch if our national game is to improve on it.
The League organizers must also get their act together and develop themselves a strong marketing unit based on the success of the league and be able to put themselves out there together with the Federation. The rambles between the KPL and the FKF need to be put to bed. The KPL and FKF must ensure that government funding is utilized in the best manner while looking for alternative income sources as well.
The government has to be held somewhat accountable considering the harsh taxing and legal requirements they push on corporates that have sponsored the league previously. In 2017, Supersport, the big name sponsor, the marketing wet dream of our League left the Kenyan scene for the reasons stated above. Although they alleged a breach of contract by the league organizers, there was also the issue of taxes which had been raised by the government when they seemed to be raking up profit.
Sportpesa are the most recent victims for what it seems are the same reasons which begs the question,” Does our government really want to push the growth of our football?” Is the government purposefully being an impediment to the progress of sports in the country. Forget about the companies for a moment and realize who the real victims of this mess are. The Kenyans who rely on these sports as a means of living. The high table officials argue on and on making decisions that the said ‘ordinary’ Kenyans have to live with. It is high time we seek officials who do care about the people they are leading and will make an honest effort to improve conditions on the ground.
Having numerous speeches that praise the athletes and their works and availing some cash is not the solution. It is a mockery of the country’s sportspeople. Failure to set in place any laws that could protect those doing their best to sponsor sports and sporting activities while also failing to attend on developing sporting facilities as required by the constitution only rubs salt in their wounds. It’s sad to admit but the government may just be the biggest enemy to any potential progress in sports of this nation.