Former Harambee Stars and Luton Town FC player Taiwo Atieno has been appointed Commercial Director by the Kenyan Premier League Limited (KPL).

The resolution to appoint Taiwo was made by the directors of the KPL on November 2, 2021.

Taiwo played professional football for 15 years in England and the USA. He retired in 2013 and embarked on working in the Private Equity Sector, restructuring and building companies in England, USA and Kenya for investment.

“It is an honour to serve Kenyan football in this new role. I pledge to apply my experience in my new role to uplift professional football clubs in Kenya. Kenyan football has seen little or no investment in youth football,” Taiwo said.

The Commercial Director’s main role will be to raise investment for construction of new youth training and development facilities and assist KPL and member clubs in establishing funding.

He will also help clubs embrace best corporate governance and football business strategy, rebuild market confidence in member clubs’ goods and services, ensure market-fit products and services and maximize commercial revenue for KPL.

“The success of any nation depends on the youth and private sector should play a larger part in investing and shaping the brand of Kenyan football l (as it does in the English Leagues). KPL has agreed to focus on youth development within the professional club setup and also work with the small Clubs to build football academies and programs within their community,” said the 36-year-old.

“Clubs should start developing players from a very early age and with it apply a broad system of education for young people to develop throughout their time with the club. This has been the best practice for most successful football teams with a lot of attention on the non-sporting part of a player’s development. In most cases where clubs do not have a strong academy they can have partnerships with other academies to help create a pool of talented young players.”

As Commercial Director of KPL, Taiwo will work with member professional clubs to build strategic plans with a strong emphasis on Youth Training and Development in Kenya/East Africa.

He will identify and implement new business opportunities e.g. multi-sports division for KPL member clubs such as futsal, basketball and volleyball under the same brand e.g. La Liga have Barcelona Football Club and a basketball team, etc. This model will get more young people playing sports. Taiwo will also ensure market-fit products and services for each member club is based on current sector trends and anticipated future market developments.

He will also implement KPL Community Strategy, which will focus on using the reach and appeal of the KPL and Member clubs to inspire children and young people (5 to 25) to realize their potential.

Four Key objectives will underpin Taiwo’s KPL strategic plan for Youth Training and Development

-Building stronger communities where everyone can achieve
-Enhancing physical and mental wellbeing
-Developing personal skills and positive relationships
-Increasing sporting, educational and employment opportunities

“We are aware that only a very small percentage of players will arrive at the professional level of sport, so we have a responsibility to care for those who won’t make it to professional game. We have the responsibility to develop people, not just footballers. Football has long been associated with developing skills and behaviors that allow young people to become competent athletes and useful contributors to society. These skills include specifically, social skills, discipline, respect, personal control, organization and leadership are highlighted as life skills themes that could be developed through football.”

In addition, KPL in collaboration with other stakeholders shall organize youth football tournaments. KPL will also establish a charitable fund and use the appeal of professional football to create positive and lasting sporting, health and education outcomes for children, young people and the wider communities in Kenya and East Africa.

About Taiwo Atieno

Taiwo is the son of a Kenyan journalist, the late Mousa Alan Awuonda. Taiwo’s father hailed from Alego Kogelo village in Siaya County. Like many Kenyans from that region, Taiwo’s father was a big fan of Gor Mahia FC. He went to study in England in 1983 and met Taiwo’s late mother. As a result of their union Taiwo was born in 1985 in Brixton, South London.

Football education

Taiwo grew up loving football and was fortunate enough to play for teams from the age of eight ears. Taiwo signed his first pro contract with Championship club Walsall FC aged 15, having passed through the English Youth Football Academy system. Taiwo is the first British-born Kenyan to play professionally in England’s football leagues.

During Taiwo’s playing career he played against many top clubs both at senior and youth level. This list of clubs include but are not limited to Man United, Spurs, Aston Villa, West Brom Albion, Birmingham City, Wolves, Brighton City, Bournemouth, Cardiff City, Swansea City, Brentford, Burnley, Norwich, Ipswich Town, Luton Town, Stoke City, Blackpool, Reading, Preston North End, Bristol City, Peterborough, Hull City, Derby, Barnsley, Charlton AFC and Wimbledon AFC.

Taiwo is also the first Kenyan to have played in the English FA Cup which is the oldest and most viewed football club cup competition in the world.

Taiwo regards some of his proudest moments in football as the first time he represented Kenya/Harambee Stars in 2009/10 World Cup Qualifiers.

After retirement (2013/14), Taiwo took up interest in private equity; building and structuring companies (some of his own) in England, USA and Kenya for the purpose of raising private equity investment for various projects in Science, Sport, Media and Entertainment. To date Taiwo has raised $7m for various projects.

Kenya in numbers

Taiwo has been a Kenyan citizen for 12 years and during that period he has travelled up and down Kenya observing and recording the state of football/sports facilities. This has given Taiwo much insight into what is needed to improve football in Kenya. It is Taiwo’s view that football/sports in Kenya is in urgent need of private capital investment especially into the Professional Clubs. Not only to assist with the building of new professional football/sports facilities but also to manage the training, nurturing and educating of the youth development programs for the professional football clubs.

Taiwo would also like to highlight the fact Kenya is the sixth largest economy in Africa (out of 54 countries) and Kenya boasts the largest economy in the East Africa Community. On top of this the East African Community (as a whole) is the second largest economy in Africa behind Nigeria.

This means Kenya is the largest economy in the second largest economy EAC in  Africa.

It is Taiwo’s view that these economic indicators prove Kenyan football/sports should be leading in East Africa and leading within the top 10 countries in Africa, at the very least – currently Kenyan national football team is ranked 23rd in Africa and 104th in the World.