SuperSport exit set to hit clubs, league hard

By alex wafula
May 03, 2017
  • A row between FKF and KPL prompted SuperSport to withdraw their sponsorship. Could the two bury the hatchet and chart a way forward in the absence of SuperSport? (SNA. File Photo)

  • Gor Mahia Players train for the derby which will be one of the casualties of the SuperSport withdrawal. 9Photo by Shutterspeeed)

This weekend, what is considered as the Kenyan Premier League ‘signature fixture’ will be played at the Nyayo National Stadium.

AFC Leopards will take on rivals Gor Mahia in the first leg of the twin fixtures for this season, but the biggest difference compared to the past seven years, it risks being devoid of flare and hype.

In the previous years, the game would have been hyped over and over again across the entire continent courtesy of immediate former broadcast partners SuperSport.

But now, clubs will only have to hype it within themselves to encourage their fans to come to the stadium with the rest of the continent and indeed the world, now left to rely on ’updates’ as the two rivals duel.

Although the league managers and the federation maintain a straight face that all is under control, it is just a minute detail of the big impact the exit of the broadcast partners will have on the league.

“It is sad that our broadcasters have decided to leave, but that does not mean that football has to stop. We will work to see that we get a new broadcaster as soon as possible,” Jack Oguda, the KPL CEO said.

The South African company pulled out of a deal set to expire in 2021, citing contractual breaches by the league managers.

In an effort to lure them back, the federation wrote directly to the company which is based in Johannesburg, but not even that would bait them to rescind the decision.

Robert Muthomi, the FKF CEO confirmed that their letter was answered and the basic decision was that they would not be coming back.

“I don’t think we will have a broadcaster for the 2017 season because the time it takes to structure deals is a lot. There has been some interest of course and we will sit down to discuss that interest, but we would want to get the best broadcast deal for both the league and the clubs,” Muthomi further commented.

Full brunt of SuperSport’s exit

Beginning June, the full brunt of SuperSport’s exit will dawn on clubs. The monthly grants to clubs had been paid up to June and from there, reality will hit.

Each club received Sh550,000 a month from the broadcasters while league title sponsors SportPesa added a further Sh50,000.

Most of the clubs would use the amount for their daily running as well as paying out match bonuses and training allowances.

In the absence of SuperSport, most of the clubs with limited sponsorship are now set to feel the full brunt of the absence of the half a million shillings with lay-offs imminent.

“I think we will have to restructure the team in terms of personnel because that money used to be helpful to balance the wage bill. Now, we have to work with a number we feel we can handle,” a club official who declined to be named as he is not authorized to speak on such matters confided to Sports News Arena.

Another effect of the withdrawal of the broadcasters will be the reduction of the marketability of the league to players.

Most of the Ugandan and Nigerian players who had flocked the Kenyan league had done so by believing that the beaming of matches will give them visibility across the continent.

This was not only an allure of foreign players but local ones as well who hoped to open up more doors for their progress.

Already, the Zambian market has began to open up with up to six players from the Kenyan Premier League moving there.

Jesse Were, David Owino and Teddy Akumu are with Zesco, Jimmy Bagaye with Nkana while John Mark Makwatta, last season’s golden boot winner and Clifton Miheso are with Buildcon.

“It is sad because the Kenyan league which in itself has very tough competition gave us a platform to showcase ourselves to the whole continent and that was one of the reasons we came here. But now that has changed and I feel players will now not be drawn to come here as much, but maybe for the clubs who pay a lot of money,” one of the Ugandan players further said.

Huge motivation

Another local player adds; “There used to be some huge motivation when you knew your game would be on TV because then you will know that many people are watching including agents. But now, it is different. It is sad because players will not even be able to get their own clips to be shared with potential clubs.”

According to Ronald Ngala, the Gor Mahia Deputy Secretary General, sponsors might also shy away from splashing their money on clubs.

“Sponsors will come in knowing that their brands will be visible all over because of broadcasters. Now that we don’t have, it might be hard to convince them to come on board and in the long run it is us the community clubs who will suffer,” Ngala noted.

Already, the KPL Top 8 and the KPL under-20 championships face a bleak future. The Top 8 tournament was a brainchild of the broadcasters, mirroring the MTN 8 in South Africa with the winner netting Sh1mn.

KPL is now looking to engage new sponsors to ensure the two tourneys do not go down the drain.

“It is a challenge because we need someone who can fully take up the sponsorship. The Top 8 is a product which we don’t want to get rid of, though we have to be honest and say it needs money. We are engaging different partners and though there is nothing concrete so far, we hope to get a solution,” Oguda noted.

Already, FKF and KPL have met to chart a way forward with several proposals put through.

While a new broadcaster’s arrival is not entirely ruled out, FKF is seeking to put up its own broadcasting unit with the aim of producing all nine games weekly.

According to the plan, FKF is set to produce content for TV, Radio, Mobile and Web with its own machinery with ex-SuperSport employees being roped in due to their expertise.

Despite it being an expensive ambition, FKF remain confident they have the ability to see that to reality.