Five gameweeks have already been played in the Kenya Premier League but the federation is yet to find a sponsor for the top tier.
Previous sponsors, SportPesa, were forced to close shop in Kenya after a continued tussle with the government. However, the betting company had already withdrawn the sponsorship when it was still in talks with regulators over license renewal.
The League’s organizers were given a heads up that things might not work out between the government and SportPesa. This was before the league started but there were fewer efforts by the organizers to look for new sponsors.
According to reports, if the league directors fail to secure a sponsor by half-season, KPL will go to its old worst situation of walk-overs and non-payment of referees. Kenyan football has not seen any sign of a light at the end of the tunnel, or even the end of the tunnel.
A few years back, every Kenyan football fan was convinced that the future of Kenyan football was bright. The local top tier league had a main sponsor and a broadcast sponsor. Money was trickling in from every corner, fans were attending matches, players were getting paid, everything was in order.
Fast forward to 2019, there is no money to run the sport in the country. Individual clubs are losing sponsors every day with no hope of ever finding other sponsors. The league does not have a broadcast partner.
Individual clubs have had to go a mile further to ensure their fans get updates on matches. Most of these clubs have resulted in showing their matches live on Facebook while others just opt to provide live updates on social media. Wazito FC has gone a step further and shows its matches through its subsidiary sports channel Madgoat TV.
K’Ogalo, Ingwe taking the hardest punch
The lack of sponsorship issue is not only affecting the league but also individual clubs. SportPesa’s exit has greatly affected Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards as they were relying on the firm for funding.
Kenyan Champions Gor Mahia was bundled out of the CAF Champions league mainly because of a lack of funds. The club was forced to hold a fundraiser in order to facilitate its trip to North Africa to honour an away fixture.
The money raised during the fundraiser was insufficient to facilitate the trip. They only got enough money for the trip a day before the fixture which made them play fatigued hence losing. K’Ogalo also lost the return leg fixture played at the Moi International Sports Centre – Kasarani.
Gor Mahia’s perennial rivals, AFC Leopards, are also suffering the same fate. Ingwe, on the other hand, has resulted in requests for funds from its fans. The 12-time KPL champions are using the phrase ‘Sponsor ni wewe’ (You are the sponsor) in their campaign to collect money that will help the club.
Both clubs are performing well in the league and the players seem motivated to play. However, it’s only a matter of time before players start complaining about unpaid allowances and salaries.
Mathare United also lost its sponsors during the government crackdown on betting companies.