Dark clouds hang over KPL as financial crunch bites hard
When AFC Leopards travelled to Awendo on Saturday only to return to Nairobi without touching the ball, Anthony Kimani, Ingwe’s assistant coach regretted the free three points.
The situation outside was telling: From 9:00am match officials were outside the shabbily furnished Awendo Green Stadium before players joined later to draw the climax of the sad script.
Not even fans who travelled from as far as Nairobi were comfortable to go back with free three points without watching the beautiful game.
The sad tone in Kimani’s short message to Citizen Digital just before rains halted their warm up to nothing, forcing their retreat to their now fairy tired bus, underscored the signal for hard times ahead could only have been sparked at Awendo.
Sony Sugar had failed to show up at their home ground, crying foul they could play no more without money. But, according to Kimani, the financial crunch could be eating up so many other clubs.
“It is not a Sony Sugar problem. All clubs are facing this kind of situation. After the exit of the sponsor we have been experiencing issues too and we are hoping soonest there will be a sponsor not only for us (AFC Leopards) but the entire league,” said Kimani.
He was just honest. The burden could be even worse for the two most successful clubs in Kenya, Leopards and holders Gor Mahia.
The two sides were directly under the sponsorship of betting firm SportPesa that has since halted operations in Kenya. Besides, SportPesa was sponsoring KPL Limited, with little grants from the league running body still being shared among the members.
Thus, their exit means Gor and Leopards are even more exposed, reckoning their huge salary budgets could hurt them further.
For example, Gor’s management is on record that the clubs spends Sh. 5.5 million every month on salaries alone. This becomes more complicated considering their participation in the continental assignments.
The two sides have already turned to people of goodwill to help run their basic operations, just within their five initial rounds of the 2019/20 season.
KPL to take a break?
Shock on the fans came as KPL Chief Executive Officer Jack Oguda hinted they could stop the league last weekend, as their staff have gone without salaries for months, leave alone affording to give clubs their grants.
Oguda told a local daily that a consultative meeting on whether league should be stopped will be held on Monday, with a room for a major announcement before the international break set for this weekend.
Interestingly, the troubles seem to have mitigated the strained relations between FKF and KPL.
KPL Limited appears to have danced to Football Kenya Federation’s (FKF) tune, as far as their contract to run the league is concerned
During the federations AGM on Saturday, FKF boss Nick Mwendwa took a U-turn from his initial stance that he would not renew KPL’s contract, but on condition of new agreement that gives the federation more voice in the running the league.
“We cannot have a chairman of a club chairing the KPL as well. I am proposing we have a professional who is independently elected by delegates to serve for a term of four years as the chairman of the KPL
“They (KPL) also have to operate from the Goal Project (FKF headquarters) to save on costs and in tandem with our mission. We have to package all our leagues together and work in unity. These are some of the things we need to change going forward,” said Mwendwa, showing a softening of stance in his approach to the body that has threatened to spoil his first tenure with court battles especially at the beginning.
In his response, Oguda said unity between FKF was the only way to solve the crisis facing the league and the sport in general.
“I welcome his (Mwendwa) suggestions. At these tough times what we need is stability and joint efforts to take the game forward. As KPL we are always ready to work with the federation to improve the league and football in Kenya in general,” Oguda said giving a pointer to the thawing of relations between the two erstwhile rivals heading Kenya’s largest football bodies
An almost inevitable handshake between KPL and FKF could be a precursor to new league sponsors, with the National Super League (NSL) whose official broadcaster has expressed his wish to terminate their partnership also facing similar challenges as the topflight.
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