The withdrawal of sponsorship by betting company SportPesa from football, rugby and boxing was undoubtedly the last straw which broke the following the unprecedented 35 percent tax implication by the government. If our federations were transparent, sponsors will be falling over themselves to be associated with them and even the exit of SportPesa would not have been felt this much.
The withdrawal of sponsorship by betting company SportPesa from football, rugby and boxing was undoubtedly the last straw which broke the camels’ back as it is bound to have far reaching implications on the beneficiaries.
The damning decision by SportPesa in the new 2018 season is effective immediately and all clubs and federations that the company sponsors will be thrown into a financial turmoil to the point of some of them closing shop if they fail to secure a new sponsor.
Granted, Kenya’s most popular clubs Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards as well as the rugby national teams have all borne the brunt of the withdrawal of the abrupt sponsorship and as it stands, most of them have categorically pointed out that they will not be financially viable to honour continental assignments this year.
But come to think of it: Inasmuch as the effect of the SportPesa sponsorship withdrawal is discernible to the affected entities, it would be extremely foolhardy to ignore the blatant misuse of funds meant for sports development.
n other words, sports federations have served as cash cows to unscrupulous officials who have been lining up their pockets with money meant for the upkeep of federations and more so players who are important stakeholders in the game. Just for the records, Safaricom which used to sponsor various rugby tournament pulled the plug in 2016 citing unending wrangles within the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) board and misappropriation of funds by some officials within the organisation.
It was not long before Bamburi Cement, which was sponsoring the famous and very successful Bamburi Super Series rugby tournament also pulled out after noticing malpractices in the kitty meant for development of rugby. KCB Bank was also too eager to reduce the amounts it doles out to sports especially motor sport and athletics.
In athletics where Kenya has shone brightly in the international scene, the situation is not any better as the sport no longer attracts immense funding towards its yearly series. It can be recalled that during its hey days, athletics used to lure big corporate entities like KCB and National Bank of Kenya (NBK) just to name but a few but some of these companies are increasingly skeptical on how such sponsorship money will be spent.
This is a point which is supported by the disturbing incident in which funds provided by sports apparel distributor Nike ended up being misappropriated by thieving officials and which has put the athletics body on the bad books with global athletics governing body IAAF.
The Nike scandal saw the suspension of various Athletics Kenya officials from the sport by IAAF, ending the careers of long serving administrators such as the late AK boss Isaiah Kiplagat and his then secretary general David Okeyo.
Corruption and hooliganism
But perhaps the worst hit is football where companies no longer want to be associated with clubs due to rampant corruption and unending cases of hooliganism. Kenyans can only rekindle fond memories when Gor used to be sponsored by Casino Kenya and Leopards by Crown Paints, both of which withdrew sponsorship for one reason or another.
For the last couple of years, giant beer company East African Breweries has openly expressed interest of sponsoring the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) but has often been taken aback due to lack of transparency in sponsorship funds, hooliganism as well as internal wrangling amongst clubs.
In a nutshell, no sponsorship by either corporate bodies lasts enough to benefit such clubs despite the fact that most of them are community based like Gor and AFC Leopards and enjoy a huge following.
While we are all in unison to say that the withdrawal by SportPesa was the worst thing to have happened to Kenyan sport, proper use of funds cannot be gainsaid and this is a cardinal rule which all clubs and federations whether in football or any other sport should be upheld.
After all, we need not preoccupy ourselves with the catastrophe and instead ought to spare a thought for SportPesa who need to stay afloat following the unprecedented 35 percent tax implication by the government. If our federations were transparent, sponsors will be falling over themselves to be associated with them and even the exit of SportPesa would not have been felt this much.
Around the globe, sporting giants such as Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have over 30 sponsors bringing in billions of cash and are never worried whenever one decamps as there is another one waiting in the wings.
Take an example of Manchester United. Three years ago, their six-year £40million partnership with kit makers Nike was coming to an end and while there were negotiations to extend the contract, the Red Devils rejected the firm’s stance to have more say in how to share merchandise sell revenues and pulled out.
A few days later adidas jumped in and secured United’s signature before someone else could take advantage and the EPL giants ended up singing a 10-year £750 million deal (£75 million-a-year) the biggest kit deal in the history of sports. Closer home, clubs like KCCA in Uganda and Simba and Yanga of Tanzania have multiple sponsors whom they rely on and not just one like is the case here.
The year 2018 is expected to be one of the most challenging for the effected federations but it is a reality check for Kenyan sports and if they do not smell the coffee, the culture of pay bill numbers, unending fundraisers and handouts from politicians will be with us forever.