Kenya’s most successful football clubs, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards are not yet out of the woods as the sponsorship curse haunts them again.
What could be likened to bad omen, both K’Ogalo and Ingwee have for long been bedevilled by financial constraints occasioned by a number of factors scaring away sponsors and partners from pumping money into their coffers.
There are grave financial and misconduct factors that are constantly chasing away interested sponsors willing to uplift the status of the game;
Sponsors are shelving their ambitions of partnering with financially-stricken football clubs in Kenya due to the current economic crisis in the country.
Gaming firm Betsafe has bolted out of an initial three-year sponsorship deal signed between them, Gor and Leopards in 2020.
In the agreement, Gor Mahia reportedly received Ksh50 million while AFC Leopards pocketed Ksh40 million two years ago as the first batch of payments for the season of their partnership was disbursed.
In the second year, K’Ogalo bagged Ksh30 million while their eternal nemesis Leopards picked Ksh20 million. This is after the betting company slashed the sponsorship package due to the Covid-19 pandemic that had reduced revenue flow.
Betsafe has been shirt sponsors of the two clubs and are prematurely cutting links with the two outfits with a year left on their contract.
In 2019, the government cancelled operational licences for 27 betting companies for failure to comply with the Kenya Revenue Authority regulations.
By that time, giant betting firm SportPesa was the main Kenyan Premier League sponsor as well as both Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards shirt partner with a multi-million shilling deal sealed.
Sportpesa would later close shop in the Kenyan market after the taxman came after them.
“We regrettably wish to announce that due to the uncertainty of this situation [cancellation of the licence] SportPesa will be cancelling sports sponsorships effective immediately. All clubs and partners will have received notices as provided for in their contracts,” Sportpesa said in a statement seen by Sports Africa.
“This despite the existence of a court order prohibiting the regulator from taking such actions. We greatly value our partnerships and we will endeavour to resume support to the best of our ability when the business recovers,” the statement added.
In 2018, Sportpesa had given the Football Kenya Federation a total of Shs69 million, with Kenya Premier League (KPL) receiving Shs259 million.
On the other hand, record KPL champions Gor Mahia received Shs198 million while the 1998 KPL winners AFC Leopards took home Shs159 million.
The lucrative deal was later terminated even after Sportpesa came back into operation in the market shortly after tax compliance.
Sanctions and Bans
Sponsors prefer investing in an orderly place to safeguard their investment. However, such is not the case in Kenyan football.
In February, World football governing body, FIFA asked the Kenyan government to repeal the decision to disband Football Kenya Federation and put in place a caretaker committee over FKF’s alleged funds embezzlement claims or the country risks an imminent ban
“Repeal of the Cabinet Secretary’s decision of 11 November 2021 appointing the caretaker committee in lieu of the elected FKF Executive Committee,”Fifa asked the government in a letter to the disbanded federation’s secretary-general Barry Otieno.
FIFA further added it would only lift the suspension upon the “receipt of confirmation from the FKF and its management, led by Vice-President Doris Petra and General Secretary Barry Otieno that the FKF and its premises are once more under their full and unconditional control.”
This development came shortly after Fifa President Gianni Infantino announced Kenya’s indefinite suspension from all football activities during the Fifa Council Press Conference.
“Without prejudice to any investigations by national authorities or other judicial bodies, the Fifa Council also decided to suspend the Football Kenya Federation and the Zimbabwe Football Association with immediate effect due to undue interference by a third party,” Infantino said.
Rioting and Hooliganism
AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia supporters have for ages been associated with hooliganism and protesting against perceived poor officiating in KPL matches.
On February 13, a league match pitting Vihiga Bullets and Gor Mahia was abandoned after K’Ogalo fans started rioting over alleged bias in officiating at Kasarani main stadium.
The fixture had only been played for the first 45 minutes before Bullets refused to get back to the pitch for the second half fearing for their safety.
Gor Mahia bore the brunt and forfeited the three points and a two-match fan ban against Police FC and Wazito FC.
“After the review of match official reports of the 2021-22 FKF Premier League match 180 between Gor Mahia and Vihiga Bullets which was abandoned at half time on Sunday February 13, 2022 at MISC Kasarani, Gor Mahia forfeits the match in accordance with rule 3-5-6 of the rules and regulations governing Kenyan Football (2019) which states: A club will forfeit any match which was abandoned because of misconduct of their supporters or members,” said the letter signed by Head of FKF Secretariat Linda Oguttu to Gor Mahia chairman Ambrose Rachier.
“Gor Mahia forfeits the match on 2-0 basis per rule 3-3-3. Gor Mahia is therefore given two match empty stadium ban and therefore, should play next two home league matches behind closed doors.”
No serious sponsor could wish to associate themselves with clubs dealing with consequences occasioned by misconduct of their supporters.
Meanwhile, it is back to the drawing board for the ountry’s football industry, not only the two leading clubs, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.