The biggest sponsorship deal in sports in Kenya was signed today. Kenya Rugby Union will receive a total of 607 million shillings over the next five years from betting company Sportpesa Limited. KRU Chairman Richard Omwela is reported by RagaHouse Media to have said the deal has been long and coming.
The sponsorship will cover KRU tournaments and national teams. These are the Simbas and Lionesses, Under 19 Chipus and the Youth Teams. Kenya Airways can continue to sponsor the National Sevens Team though their deal ends this season. The package excluded leagues; Kenya Cup, Kenya Cup II and Nationwide.
KRU has been in discussions with Safaricom in regard to sponsoring the National Sevens Series which the mobile phone company suspended their previous deal due to irregularities at the union. It seems KRU has ended up with another fruit. Safaricom can still come on board now that a new team under city lawyer Richard Omwela is in charge.
Sportpesa has been on the rampage sponsoring sports in the past one year. They are the title sponsors of Kenya Premier League and Football Kenya Federation. They are also the sponsors of football giants Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. Gor got a Ksh. 60 million while Ingwe signed a Ksh. 45 million per year sponsorship deal from this year. On the other side, the figures for KPL and FKF were never released officially, what we have are derivatives from several sources.Meanwhile a non-FIFA sanctioned league, the Hussein Mohammed led Sportpesa Supreme Sports League for Nairobi County is attracting several sponsors.
The figures out here for KPL four year deal is 70 million shillings for the first year and a 10% annual increase. Making it about 324 million shillings. Another sources from a local daily put the whole deal at 360 million shillings. The FKF deal was only reported to involve paying the salary of recently appointed technical director while Sportpesa will get branding rights to all FKF events.
Looking at how Sportpesa approached deals between the two sports paints a picture of the value of the two sports. We can simplify it to Gor and AFC Leopards, who got different amounts despite the two being more or less at par in terms of brand equity. It seems Gor claimed some units above Ingwe, though 15 million shillings differencetaking into account that Betway another betting company was courting Leopards. The reasons behind the difference in value for these two clubs can be extrapolated to FKF and KPL against KRU.
The people in charge at KRU are professionals who negotiate big money deals regularly. Richard Omwela was the Managing Partner at Hamilton Harrison and Mathews and he sits on the board of several corporates in Kenya. Taking a look at one of the directors (without portfolio), Paula Lanco, is the Head of Relationship Banking at Prime Bank Limited. You can never go wrong with such people on your board.
On the other side, it will take you a long time to dig career history of FKF executive members beyond their passion for football. Only the Chairman, Nick Mwendwa is known to run an IT firm. Executive Committee member David Gikaria, a former Team Manager for Nakuru side St. Josephs is the MP for Nakuru Town East. The good thing is the people appointed to run the federation, CEO Robert Muthomi, Christine Ojode and Phoebe Amuyunzu are professionals.
This clearly shows why KRU is open with the amounts pledged while our football gate keepers keep it hazy for people to speculate. Even the amount signed between KPL and Supersport in 2010 that ended in 2015 was not known until the time came for renewal of the same. At the renewal of the deal, KPL head of finance said the details are private matter between KPL and Supersport. Sources later put it at 220 million shillings per year for five years until 2020. It shows the difference in management style in the two sports disciplines.
The value of the brand of football in Kenya is low yet it is the most popular sport in the country. The main reason for this is the type of people football attracts and who end up running it. Rugby is a middle class game hence it is bound to attract professionals. Football is a poor man’s game though this should not be an excuse because there are serious people in the game. Gor Mahia has been led by city lawyer Ambrose Rachier for several years now.
The other reason is corruption. The mere fact that no one wants to confidently state the figures makes accountability sound like a death sentence. This may be juicy to the officials but the sponsors take advantage and push a deal that favours them. The scarcity mentality that breeds in people who grow up in scarcity could be driving the football fraternity to jump in and sign bad deals quickly for fear of losing out. It will take some time to change the mentality, but the right people need to go into football, beginning from the clubs.
KRU has clearly shown that nothing good just happens. When sponsors were leaving because of the former directors, stakeholders stood up for the game. Football fraternity must begin to push the boundaries. Everyone has a price, the price of football in Kenya is low but that does not mean that is where it must stay. Football must repackage itself and attract the right personnel.