Dear Nick Mwendwa,
Kenyan football is having a huge problem and this problem has been exacerbated by the fact that broadcast of foreign leagues in the country will not end or reduce any time soon. The only way out of this is to raise the standards of our game. Kenyans have been lured to watch the foreign leagues on television because of the pomp and grandeur that surrounds European football. In those leagues you will see, capacity stadia, quality players, great passion, and impressive show of corporate partnerships. If you look at our leagues right from the top to the lower ones, aren’t all these missing? What do you think the problem is?
In my mind, I already know a host of problems keeping our game down and many of them have been talked about and now seem to be a song to the ears. I want to let you know of another aspect of the Kenyan problem in football and maybe after you act on it, other federations will follow suit in the other sports. We are having too many “cooperate teams” in our leagues. When Tusker F.C beat GorMahia to the 2016 KPL title, it was a pain to watch the Afraha stadium almost empty with a handful of Tusker “supporters” (we all know that Tusker has one fan) to cheer their team to the title against AFC Leopards who had a sizeable number of supporters despite their twelfth league position. Players’ WAGS were the majority of the Tusker fans at Afraha, we all know they shift allegiance based on where their lover plays.
It is a pain to watch empty stadiums every weekend in the name of supporting Kenyan football. If you have been watching the German Bundesliga matches that involve Borussia Dortmund or a Barcelona match in the Spanish La Liga, what will make you want to watch the beaten empty terraces of Nyayo Stadium when you switch to Super Sport Select? The only teams I know that have shown to have real genuine passionate supporters are all community based save for one. Apart from Bandari F.C from the coast, no institution based team can pull a real crowd that can make someone leave his couch for the stadium. It is not in Kenyan football alone. This has been proven even in Europe.
Many clubs in the Europe could be companies now but a majority of them were community clubs and some like Arsenal F.C founded by factories but later sold to the community. It is disturbing to note that a team like Chemelil Sugar has their highest paid player earning less than Kakamega Homeboyz’s highest paid player. The admin running the @IMGKenya twitter handle had me triggered when he posed this question in one of his tweets, “Isn’t it interesting that big teams with hordes of so-called fans are in perpetual leadership and financial dire straits?” I tried to engage him but I found out that to a great extent he wasn’t aware of what he was actually arguing about. Tusker F.C is a club that raised a paltry KES 5,400 in gate collections when they hosted City Stars in 2013 the second lowest figure in that year. Even my church’s Sunday school with it little congregation can beat that three-fold.
Football activities in a club should be to a large extent be run by finance that comes through gate collections,the sale of merchandise, membership fees, corporate partnerships and player transfers otherwise the whole point of having a football industry is lost. Clubs like Tusker and her sisters like Sony Sugar and Nakumatt F.C can’t grow because they depend on leftovers from their parent companies. These left-overs are thrown to the teams to help the parent companies escape obligations that they are required to carry out in the community.
Some of the admins in these teams get stressed when their clubs win the league title because it means increased expenditure for the team in the continental ties. The highest paid players in the Kenyan game currently play for AFC Leopards and GorMahia. Teams that have shown genuine resolve to bring Kenya honor on the continental stage because of their supporters. Football cannot grow in the country when the majority of clubs in the league can’t allow another corporate other than their mother company to advertise on their jerseys. Leadership squabbles and financial problems are everywhere in Kenyan institutions, it is not a preserve of community-based football clubs like many want us to believe. It is a Kenya problem. Teams like Kericho Zoo, Jericho All Stars, Umoja Renegades and Vihiga United have shown more potential in attracting supporters than some top league old timers. Corporate organizations who have the money we need will only come to Kenyan football when they see full stadiums. Please ban all “cooperate teams” from the main leagues; they can have their own corporate league.