Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Kenyan Football - Community-based Clubs :- Is this the best option?

Sometime back as we were talking about things sports, we started arguing about what ails Kenyan football (besides the usual leadership wrangles...) and somehow we kept drifting in and out of the potent issue of community-based clubs.
Well 'community' here is used quite liberally because in Kenya it is usually mistaken for tribal affiliation. The reasoning behind this argument was the fact that some of the clubs that have flourished in Kenya seem to come from certain communities while those that are started at the behest of company workers as extra-curricular activities usually don't make headways. This is especially so for those sponsored by government bodies (parastatals if you like).
Community game? Image courtesy of www.firstgiving.com
We saw this happening in 2011 when a newly-promoted team Posta Rangers was suddenly left 'thread-bare' after their mother firm Postal Corporation of Kenya indicated they couldn't continue supporting the team due to 'limited sources of income'. This has been the case of others such as Kenya Airways, Kenya Railways, Motcom all which suffered the axe when public corporations were asked to streamline their activities and the first culprit is usually the 'extra-curricular activities or sports departments'.
On the other side we have the 'community' clubs which enjoy fanatical support from various communities in the country. These include AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia. There was also Shabana which was relegated and disbanded but is some form of resurgency from unconfirmed sources.

Community Clubs;

  • enjoy numbers - fans of between 10,000-30,000 per match;
  • have some form of mythology - historical milestones;
  • less encumbered by corporate pressures - run by volunteers/elected officials
  • have wide berth for sponsorship opportunities

But these same clubs at times;

  • are ethnocentric - high ethnic identity detrimental to national club outlook;
  • have unpredictable financial situation 
  • highly emotive fans
My argument was the fact that if we're to have community clubs then build them around certain regions and urban centres. This though is still not easy given the fact that most of the better placed clubs are usually based in Nairobi and Mombasa to some extent.
Given the new governance regions in the name of counties that we shall be having starting this year ( or when the national elections called), this would present a perfect basis to start developing such clubs. Each county could have a form of league from which the best 2-4 teams fight it for national honours. The finalists then would battle in a Western v/s Eastern regions grand finale. The top 22-23 teams would ultimately form the Kenya Premier League.
Out of about 47 counties, 20 of these have a semblance of stadia which can be renovated to ensure grassroot development of the talent from those counties. FKF (and Sports Stadia Management Board?...)seem to be heeding these calls with repair works on Kisumu's Stadium and Eldoret Kip Keino Stadium in the pipeline. It would be imperative for FKF to point the FIFA Goal project in such directions and supplementing this with Government funds would serve as an alternative to youth development programs in the various centres.

Some may ask how the current teams would be absorbed? Simple! Ensure that each of the clubs identifies a suitable urban setting and set up shop there. Last season we saw AFC Leopards pitching camp at Mumias Sugar in Western Kenya while Rangers have been rumoured to be approaching Meru County as a veritable home. Get my drift?
This way then the 'community-based' clubs might work and spread the game further into the interiors of the country. It may also not be lost to most that in each of the urban centres in Kenya, the probability of a big corporate firm(s) calling it home are high. Kericho- Ketepa, Mumias Sugar - Mumias, Magadi Soda - Magadi the list is endless...

Wild thoughts? My two-cents on what would be Community Clubs

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