Tuesday, 20 March 2012

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 4x4 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. 


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