Was SportPesa Sponsorship The Wrong Choice For AFC Leopards?

It is almost a year after AFC Leopards found itself in a catch-22 situation, with two sponsors pulling different directions, each wanting a share of the club. Ironically, while the potential sponsors were clawing each other to associate themselves with the club, Ingwe was just dusting itself from a terrible year both on and off the pitch.

The club had seen a resurgence of the so-familiar political struggles, and key players had quit the club. Majority of the fans had lost hope in a season that Leopards saw its players boycott matches, get locked out of their houses and others went home hungry. The once indomitable giant of Kenyan football, was falling.

Despite putting pen to paper on a 5 year deal with Sportpesa, details have emerged of a fierce political contest that preceded the signing of the sponsorship deal. A key member of the then AFC Leopards executive committee, and one of the crusaders of the Sportpesa deal, Asava Kadima told Kenyanstar, “I regret signing the deal. We denied the club something good.”

After the disastrous 2015 season, the club was divided into two; One faction co-opted into office, while the other capitalizing on a constitutional gap, to ascend to power. The co-opted faction was led by Dan Mule, while Matthew Opwora led the other faction. After months of trying to outshine each other, the two would finally be brought to the table by Sports Disputes Tribunal chair John Ohaga to form the AFC Leopards Intermic Management Committee (IMC). 

John Ohaga’s mediatory efforts, did not bear much fruit. It laid ground for a more fierce political contest. The fans too were split top bottom. Despite the power struggles, the clubs accounts and on-pitch matters did not get any better.

It is in late 2015, that one of Western Kenya’s key political supremos Cyrus Jirongo sought to find a long term partner for the club.Kenyanstar, has reliably learnt that Cyrus Jirongo kick started negotiations with bookmaker Betway. Multiple sources reported to Kenyanstar that ‘CJ’ as he is affectionately known, felt that the club was headed south, and that as a patron, something needed to be done.

“Jirongo moved in to save the club out of sheer goodwill. I would admit that he had good intentions for AFC Leopards,” then secretary general Asava Kadima told Kenyanstar.

Following months of negotiations, and with the 2015 season drawing to a close, Cyrus Jirongo brought AFC Leopards and Betway to the table. CJ was set to midwife a deal that would finally shed some ray of hope on the dying club. Everything was certainly playing to script. However, sharp political differences between the AFC Leopards IMC slowly started to emerge, and the centre was no longer holding further.

“It was a good deal. However, our side of the IMC held that Jirongo’s otherwise good deal had been hijacked by brokers. It is these brokers who first scuttled an otherwise good deal. Besides that, we could not support the Betway deal due to political differences between the two factions,” a member of the Dan Mule led faction said. “The Matthew Opwora led side had hopped onto a deal that they did not know about. They were keen to gain glory and political mileage. It certainly did not sit well with us, and hence that became a key factor that caused us to reject the deal,” he added.

“We were not interested in gaining any political mileage,” Matthew Opwora noted in an interview. He added that, “My team’s main interests were  in rescuing the club and that was all that mattered. Cyrus Jirongo had worked so hard for this club and we merely supporting his efforts. The Dan Mule side were all but interested in causing chaos. The brokers being referred to here are Sportpesa.”

Towards end of  the same year, and with talks at a really advanced stage, Sportpesa got wind of an imminent deal between Leopards and Betway. According to a member of the IMC then, AFC Leopards had made several unsuccessful attempts to try lure Sportpesa into sponsoring the club in previous months.

“When word went round that the club was close to signing a deal with Sportpesa rivals Betway, Sportpesa begun making advances to our faction. They(Sportpesa) were aware of the in-fighting and this is where they would strike,” he said. His opinion was shared by Opwora, who laid blame on the betting giants saying they came to the club, disguised as good Samaritans.

Betway agreed to sponsor the club to a tune of Ksh.30 million a year. This amount was to be negotiated upwards at the close of the third year. Kenyanstar has confidentially established that among other benefits, Betway would; Sponsor AFC Leopards women and youth teams, establish AFC Leopards TV, aid the club in procuring and sale of jerseys with 100% sales going to the club, create annual exchange programs between AFC Leopard and West Ham United and also ensure the club’s legends were well feted. Sportpesa on the other hand, had offered an initial sponsorship of Ksh.35 million a year. The bookie’s deal included among other things; Taking home 40% of the club’s replica jersey sales, have a say on who should be on the club’s technical bench, and have an accountant to maintain the club’s books of accounts with the accountant drawing their salary from the sponsorship money. The contract would be signed on strict condition that any incidence of violence in the club’s matches would lead to immediate termination of the deal.

Asava Kadima, a member of the Dan Mule team told Kenyanstar that Betway brought to the table a better deal. Ironically, he(Kadima) fronted the Sportpesa deal initially. “Betway’s deal made much more sense. They were offering the money, were keen on branding the club, and would also source for kits. Besides that, they were willing to develop talent from the club, and build better partnerships for the club locally and abroad.” Kadima’s views were shared by Mathew Opwora who in an interview this year, told Kenyanstar that Betway was after building the brand and also offered to help the club source for another partner.

However, the duos assertions were strongly refuted by Dan Mule who said, “Those claims are not true. Sportpesa had a better deal. Betway’s deal was just verbal,and nothing in the contract supported what Opwora claimed.”

Dan Mule and his faction, in a bid to gain political mileage, also put pen to paper in a 5 year deal between Sportpesa and AFC Leopards.With pressure mounting from  a section of the fans and the Western Kenya political class, Kenyanstar has learnt that Dan Mule and his team were forced to sneak into Chancery House to sign the rival deal.

On the second day of February 2015, Matthew Opwora led the club in unveiling the sportpesa deal at Nyayo Stadium. Betway expressed its delight with deal, as did AFC Leopards. The Dan Mule led faction, skipped the launch. The launch, was however, rejected by a considerable number of AFC Leopards fans, who had received information that Sportpesa was knocking at the club’s doors, with an even better deal. In fact, grapevine on AFC Leopards social media forums had it that Sportpesa would offer the club a number of benefits and that the sponsorship monies would be well managed by Sportpesa’s own accountant.

Asava Kadima, who was among those who skipped the function, told Kenyanstar that his faction, and largely Sportpesa benefited greatly from this rumours. “Majority of what was being peddled around at that time was not entirely true. What is true is that Sportpesa wanted a seat on the board. The rumours served well to grow our political profile and endear Sportpesa to the fans,” he claimed.

Matthew Opwora told Kenyanstar that Dan Mule and his group, falsely accused him of many things, and that they fanned lots of falsehoods on the Betway deal. 

Eventually, the launch happened and Betway wired money to the AFC Leopards accounts. It is at this stage, that John Ohaga had to weigh in and deliver a verdict.

The Sports Tribunal chair cancelled both deals, on grounds that both parties had failed to agree on either. Ohaga, sought to find the ‘better’ deal amongst the two.”Ohaga called both parties to the table, and with two deals signed, there was so much tension,” recalls Asava Kadima, who played a key role in the club then. As things would turn out, Ohaga eventually picked on Sportpesa.

“Ohaga delivered a proper and well thought judgement,” recalls current AFC Leopards chairman Dan Mule. “Both parties came to the table and agreed to it. In my opinion, it was the best deal.” Mule’s partner then, Asava Kadima refuted Mule’s assertions saying, “I think Ohaga made the ruling on who had more money. Not exactly about who had a better deal. Sportpesa had a more money while collectively Betway offered a better package.”

“In as much as we signed the deal, I feel I denied the club something good. Sportpesa only came into the club to elbow out Betway, not necessarily to sponsor the club.”

The then co-chairman Matthew Opwora while in an exclusive interview this year with Kenyanstar defended the Betway deal, laying blame on John Ohaga who he says, was compromised. “John Ohaga was compromised by Sportpesa, and never took time to really analyze both deals. He took sides on this issue and collaborated with Dan Mule’s side to frustrate the Betway deal,” claimed Opwora. “He never called both parties to the table to discuss the deal bit by bit. Instead, he called us on the final day to sign off the Sportpesa deal.”

Opwora went on to blame Ohaga for picking on trivial issues to deny the club what he terms, ‘the best sponsorship deal ever.’ “Betway was kicked out further because they are not a Kenyan company. This to me is quite malicious.” Opwora’s co-chair then, Dan Mule refuted the claims saying, “That was not the sole reason. But working with Sportpesa which is a local company is a great thing. Their investment in this country in football is unmatched.”

However, while speaking during the launch of the Sportpesa sponsorship deal in March last year, Ohaga had indicated that he worked tirelessly with both sides of the coalition to ensure the club secured the best deal.

Eventually, Leopards unveiled a 5-year deal with Sportpesa. Betway pulled out, and asked for a refund of the monies they had deposited in the club’s accounts.

“Matthew Opwora displayed great character and passion for the club,”Asava told Kenyanstar while referring to the failed Betway deal. “There was lots of room for himself and Betway to take this matter to court, but they opted to support us. I have great respect for him after that gesture,” he said. “He took a soft stand, compared to Dan Mule’s hard line stands, that eventually helped SportPesa’s deal see the light of day.”

“We love this club, and despite the insults we received, we put the club’s interests forward. Betway and Cyrus Jirongo felt betrayed and disappointment. However, since the season was approaching and the club badly needed the money, we let it pass,” Opwora told Kenyanstar.

With AFC Leopards in the second year of its marriage with Sportpesa, opinion is still divided. “I still hold my reservations with Sportpesa. They have done a lot in trying to support the club, but so much still hangs out there. Why isnt the sponsor concerned about the club’s image and branding? Why is Sportpesa not concerned about the club’s kitting?” posed Asava Kadima.

The one time AFC Leopards secretary general further noted that the future is still not really clear for Leopards. “I would wish to urge the current officials to jealously guard the sponsorship, while seeking for other sponsors.”

Opwora on his part, noted that he would be willing to pursue the matter in the courts, on advice from his lawyer. “Yes, I feel we still can do something. We were good men who were mistreated by the club and falsely labelled as traitors. Sportpesa is not sincere in its engagement with the club, and if anything small snaps, they will hurriedly end their engagement with the club,” he opined.

For Dan Mule, the current AFC Leopards chairman, that is water under the bridge. Mule told Kenyanstar that the club wa enjoying a sweet relationship with the bookmaker, and that any contrary claims were meant to stabilize an otherwise, steady ship.

Richard Omwela retained his chairmanship during Kenya Rugby Union elections  held late on Wednesday pipping Sasha Mutai by just two votes.

Shujaa will start their Hong Kong Sevens campaign with a Pool B clash against Canada at 3.18pm East African Time  on Friday 7 April 2017.

They will then complete their pool matches on Saturday 8 April, starting with a fixture against series leaders South Africa at 8.56am and France at 12.34pm respectively.

The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is the seventh round of the 2016/17 HSBC Sevens World Series. Shujaa currently sit 12th on the log with 40 points.

Janet "Shebesh" Okello leads the overall try scoring charts. The Northern Suburbs speedster has scored a series leading 26 tries.

The most eagerly waited match by Kenya as a country;  if Stars could pull a surprise in Lagos then Stars would be near their dream of playing in their first ever World Cup and that would have been France 98.

Kenyan driver Carl Tundo has proved to be a real contender in the race for the African Rally Championship title after he finished third in the Kenya Safari Rally over the weekend in Nairobi.

The Safari rally is the third round on the 2017 ARC calendar. Tundo, who survived a roll in the last stage of the race, came third in his Lancer Evo10.

Tapio Laukannen became the first Finnish to win the 65th edition of the Kenya Safari Rally. He showed earlier intent for victory posting the fastest time on day one.

Another Kenyan Jassi Chatthe, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer, who won the ARC title in 2015, finished sixth over the weekend, to go second with eight points, ten points behind Tundo.

The rest of the registered ARC drivers have not scored any points after three rounds. Ian Duncan and Ammar Slatch settled for second overall, 22 seconds behind the leader.

A total of 44 drivers started the Safari Rally that returns to ARC calendar after a hiatus two years. Safari Rally is one of the most competitive races on the African calendar.

Defending champion Don Smith from Kenya pulled out of the race at the 11th hour in protest claiming unfairness in the starting order. The final start list order released on Thursday had placed the 2016 champion as car number 33 yet the provisional start order had placed him at car number 2.

It means the rally revved off on Friday morning without the African defending champion. Yet, article 45.3 of the rules and regulations, gives the ARC contenders priority on a start order of a continental race.

Valery Bukera of Burundi and last year’s Mountain Gorilla victor was the best-placed foreign driver in 11th place out of the 30 finishers, while South Africa’s Geoff Bell was the best-placed two-wheel-driver in 14th place, driving a Datsun 260Z.

The fifth round of the ARC goes to South Africa for the Sasol Rally next month.

ARC Driver Standing

1. Carl Tundo (Ken): 18 points

2. Jassi Chatthe (Ken): 8 points

Safari Rally results

1. Tapio Laukkanen: 01:54:12

2. Ian Duncan: 01:54:34

3. Carl Tundo: 01:56:18

4. Onkar Rai: 01:57:01

5. Karan Patel: 02:01:13

The figure of Ksh. 600,000 released by Gor Mahia today, as the total gate collections for the Gor Mahia vs Zoo Kericho match in Kisumu are ‘stupid figures’,  Gor Mahia Organizing Secretary Judith Anyango has told Kenyanstar in a long ranging Interview.

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech has been ruled out up for to a month with calf injury suffered in loss at West Brom, the scan has revealed.

The International World Games Association (IWGA) has announced that seven International Federations (IFs) have made bids for membership that meet its criteria, with their applications set to be discussed at the SportAccord Convention next month.

The International Basketball Federation (Fiba), International Triathlon Union (ITU), International Wushu Federation (IWUF), International Cycling Union (UCI), Union Internationale Motonautique (International Powerboating Union), International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) and United World Wrestling (UWW) have all applied to become IWGA members.

The federations have been invited to give a final presentation to the IWGA Annual General Meeting at SportAccord Convention on April 3 in Aarhus, Denmark.

The IWGA currently has 37 member federations. For IFs to become a member of the IWGA, membership of SportAccord is a prerequisite. Another requirement is that the sports, or disciplines of sports, proposed by the federations for inclusion in the World Games are not currently on the programme of the Olympic Games.

Wroclaw, Poland will stage the 2017 World Games from July 20-30, following on from the 2013 edition in Cali, Colombia. Birmingham, Alabama will be the first US destination to host the World Games since the inaugural event took place in Santa Clara in 1981 after it was formally awarded rights to the 2021 Games in April 2015.

The World Games - under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) - showcases more than 25 sports, such as squash, karate, sumo and dance sport.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has signalled its opposition to the proposed reforms of the world game outlined by the International Cricket Council (ICC) stating they will “adversely affect” the very nature of the world governing body.

The ICC is set to make a final decision on a new financial and governance structure at a meeting in April after agreeing “in principle” last month to reverse a move to put the boards of India, Australia and England in a dominant position of the game’s administration.

The BCCI, along with Sri Lanka Cricket, voted against the proposal to perform a u-turn on the 2014 decision after failing to defer the vote during February’s ICC board meeting in Dubai. Under the proposed restructuring, a new revenue distribution model would seek to counter the imbalance favouring the so-called big three, with India the most influential voice in the world game.

In a communication of its preliminary observations on the proposed ICC constitution, reported by the ESPNCricinfo website, the BCCI said the changes were “vague” and “unclear”. The status of the reforms package was thrown into question last week by the resignation of Shashank Manohar, who has been driving efforts to limit the influence of the ‘big three’, as chairman of the ICC.

“The proposed ICC constitution seeks to convert the ICC from a members' organisation to a supra-national regulator,” BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri wrote in an email sent to ICC chief operating officer Iain Higgins. “This is a fundamental change in the nature of the ICC that adversely affects the autonomy of its members.

“Further, several of the proposed changes are vague and unclear in their purport and intended operation. Given that one of the stated objectives behind the proposed changes is to bring in clarity and transparency, it is imperative that there is complete clarity on all the proposed changes so that members can properly understand the same before formulating their position thereon.”

Johri also reserved heavy criticism for the new financial model proposed by the ICC, stating it is “arbitrary” and not “agreeable”. Under the current ‘big three’ model, full members receive a contribution cost for participating in ICC events based on their perceived value in the sport. The new model is set to remove these contribution costs and instead introduce a set figure allocated to each of the 10 full members, along with two second-tier associate members - Ireland and Afghanistan.

Johri said, according to ESPNCricinfo: “The ICC is seeking to change the existing financial model without having any scientific formula or technical analysis behind the proposed changes. It is a fundamental attribute of any resource allocation system to first collect information and then allocate resources based on the information, priorities and a defined methodology following appropriate principles. The move to propose changes to the existing financial model without carrying out the aforesaid exercise is an arbitrary one.”

He added: “Any discussion on the proposed new financial model has to be based on clearly articulated and acceptable principles which recognise the relative contribution of BCCI to the revenues of the ICC. For the above reasons, we are not agreeable to the proposed new financial model.”

France’s national railway company, SNCF, and professional and financial services group Deloitte have signed up as official supporters of France’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

SNCF will advise the French Rugby Federation (FFR) on transport and sustainable mobility options, and support the implementation of a ticketing strategy for the World Cup.

The company will also provide logistical support to the FFR during different stages of the application process while promoting the bid both nationally and internationally.

Deloitte’s French division will work with the FFR on drafting budgets and financing plans for the event.

FFR president Bernard Laporte said: “(We are) very pleased to be able to count on the expertise of these two companies with world-renowned know-how to help us in our application. This support again illustrates the strong mobilisation of the economic world behind #France2023.”

France faces competition from Ireland and South Africa in its bid to stage the 2023 World Cup. The World Rugby Council will select the winning bid on November 15.

Former Manchester United striker Ole Gunner Solskjaer is confident that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will want to play in the Champions League at Old Trafford next season. 

Jose Mourinho snapped up the veteran forward on a free transfer last summer and the Swede has been a talismanic presence at Manchester United this season, scoring 26 goals in all competitions.

Ibrahimovic is yet to extend his contract, which expires in the summer, but according to Swedish daily Expressen, the forward will sign on the dotted line soon to prolong his stay at Old Trafford for one more season.

And Solskjaer believes the Swede will want to experience Champions League football with Manchester United, if they qualify for next season, as he feels there is no better club than the Red Devils to represent on the biggest stage of European football. 

The former Manchester United striker told Expressen: “We hope that we can qualify for the Champions League next season.  

“Then I expect Ibrahimovic will want to play on the biggest stage for the best club.

“There is no better place to play Champions League football than at Manchester United.

"They are the biggest and the best club.”

Despite winning countless league titles and domestic cups in various countries, Ibrahimovic is yet to win the Champions League in his career.

Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin has described potential interest in him from Barcelona as "special".

The 22-year-old penned a new six-year deal with the Gunners last November but has been strongly linked with a move away from the Emirates this summer, with a number of top clubs across Europe thought to be interested.

Bellerin began his career as part of the Barcelona youth setup before leaving for Arsenal in 2011, and in recent days the La Liga giants have been linked with a £35m bid this summer as they continue to look for a long-term replacement for Dani Alves.

"It's nice there are a lot of big clubs that are interested in me, but if one of those is Barcelona that's special," Bellerin told Sport.

"I don't forget I grew up in that home and I will never forget my stay at Barcelona... I left Barcelona because I felt the club was not confident in me, I didn't feel valued, I was disenchanted."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has described speculation of Bellerin's potential exit as 'very difficult to take seriously'.

Popular Articles

Those who love him, love him with so much passion. Those who hate him, also do so with the same gusto. If a book on ‘The most hated footballers’ were ever to be written, several chapters would be dedicated to him.

Matatu culture is part of living in Nairobi City and the transport means used by all. Soccer fans use their own cars, buses and matatus for traveling to away matches.

The day is September 26th 2010. Kenya U-20 coach Vince Ombiji brought on a young and promising player as the national junior side took on Lesotho. The rookie had an almost immediate impact, as he ran down the Lesotho defense rugged. Fleet foot works, pacy and pin point crosses made him a darling to the fans instantly. Kenya’s next big thing was alive.

The figure of Ksh. 600,000 released by Gor Mahia today, as the total gate collections for the Gor Mahia vs Zoo Kericho match in Kisumu are ‘stupid figures’,  Gor Mahia Organizing Secretary Judith Anyango has told Kenyanstar in a long ranging Interview.

Even thou they finished fourth in the just concluded Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association Basketball championships, Rueben Muraya is one person who has caught the eyes of many. His dazzling dribbling skills and speed has made him a crowd favorite and a contender for the MVP award.

She started playing volleyball at the age of nine at Kawaii primary School. Meet Florence Bosire, one of the best setters in the country. Recently,she was part of the Prisons team that won the Africa Women Volleyball Championship trophy for the fourth time. She did not participate but had a hand in the win.

Bale and Ronaldo both played as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 yesterday. Goals from Karim Benzema and Casemiro strengthened their grip on the La Liga title.

However, despite the victory, all is not well at the Santiago Bernabeu. Spanish outlet Diario Gol claimed yesterday that Ronaldo was fuming with Zinedine Zidane for substituting him late on.

The former Manchester United star provided the assist for Benzema's goal but was replaced by Isco in the 79th minute. It was said that Ronaldo believed Bale should have been substituted instead after an abject display.

But Diario Gol claim Bale was also angry after the game. The former Tottenham star's stock is rising in Spain after helping Madrid win the Champions League twice in the past three years. And the Wales international reportedly believes Ronaldo is preventing him from becoming the club's main man.

Bale has to play on the left wing due to Ronaldo's desire to play further up the field. He feels that Zidane is making a mistake by deploying him in that position as he prefers to play on the right, where he can cut inside.

Club chief Florentino Perez is now monitoring the situation as Madrid's two biggest stars aim to do outdo the other. 

The Kroenke camp are big fans of Arsenal’s all-time leading goalscorer is particularly close to the influential Josh, who was appointed to the club’s board as a non-executive director in 2013.

The Argentine striker scored 91 goals in 146 games for the Partenopei, including 36 Serie A goals in 35 games last season. However, ‘Pipita’ then left for Juventus when the Bianconeri activated his €90m release clause, causing fury in Naples.

Joel Matip on his future with Cameroon:

France’s national railway company, SNCF, and professional and financial services group Deloitte have signed up as official supporters of France’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

SNCF will advise the French Rugby Federation (FFR) on transport and sustainable mobility options, and support the implementation of a ticketing strategy for the World Cup.

The company will also provide logistical support to the FFR during different stages of the application process while promoting the bid both nationally and internationally.

Deloitte’s French division will work with the FFR on drafting budgets and financing plans for the event.

FFR president Bernard Laporte said: “(We are) very pleased to be able to count on the expertise of these two companies with world-renowned know-how to help us in our application. This support again illustrates the strong mobilisation of the economic world behind #France2023.”

France faces competition from Ireland and South Africa in its bid to stage the 2023 World Cup. The World Rugby Council will select the winning bid on November 15.

The protracted saga of Arsene Wenger’s contract situation is nearing its conclusion – and it’s not the one Arsenal fans were hoping for.

Although the offer of a new two-year deal has been on the table of some time, there had been speculation that Wenger would call time on his Emirates career after over two decades at the club.

However, despite another high-profile Champions League exit and another title challenge falling away before it could really begin, the Frenchman has seemingly become more resolute in his belief that he can steer the Gunners out of the trouble they now find themselves in.

Multiple sources on Sunday night and Monday morning have reported that Wenger will tell the Arsenal board that he wants to stay at the club beyond this season – for either one or two more years – in a decision that will not be a particularly popular one if and when it is confirmed.

In fact, the Guardian report suggests that Wenger and the board are looking for the best way of telling the fanbase that there will be no change in manager, which in itself would suggest just how toxic the atmosphere around the club has become. Confirming a deal so soon after a poor 3-1 defeat to West Brom – their fourth in five league matches – that has seen them slip to sixth in the table and putting their top four chances in real danger.

KS on Facebook