Former Football Kenya Federation president Sam Nyamweya has appealed to the government to help fund the Kenyan Premier League, following the sudden withdrawal of title sponsors SportPesa, an African online sports betting company.
SportPesa had previously renewed its title sponsorship of the Kenyan Premier League football competition and extended partnerships with competing clubs Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.
Kenyan newspaper The Star reported that the KPL was to receive KES259.7m (€2.1m/$2.6m), the FKF to be given KES69.4m, and Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards to receive KES198.6m and KES156m, respectively.
However, SportPesa pulled the plug on all its sports sponsorships in the country following a prolonged tax dispute with the government, saying in a statement on August 9: “The gaming industry has been operating in an extremely challenging business environment for the past couple of months.
“SportPesa as a business has been subjected to punitive measures by regulators such as delayed license renewal and the suspension of PayBill numbers, with these actions considerably reducing the level of business operations.
“In light of these developments, we regrettably wish to announce that due to the uncertainty of this situation SportPesa will be cancelling sports sponsorships effective immediately.”
Despite league chief executive Jack Oguda saying the new season will kick off as planned on August 30 with the Kariobangi Sharks playing the Western Stima, Nyamweya believes the SportPesa pullout has threatened clubs in the league with “total collapse due to a lack of funding”.
According to reports by Standard Media, Nyamweya said: “A sad state of affairs is emerging in our top flight league. The Kenyan Premier League faces dire straits due to the lack of corporate sponsorship.
“We have to live to the reality that should our leagues collapse, the ripple effect on the national team will be serious.
“The KPL with 18 clubs employs almost 800 footballers, technical staff and other employees. The number of dependents from these are in their thousands.”
“I appeal to (Kenya) President Uhuru Kenyatta and his government to urgently come to the rescue of the leagues by sourcing for finances from the Sports Fund as a stop-gap measure.”
The Kenya Sports Fund’s mandate is to “provide sufficient funding to sports agencies necessary for the diversification, enhancement of excellent performances, and development of infrastructure in the sports industry”, according to its website.
Other sporting organisations SportPesa are withdrawing its sponsorship from include the Kenya Rugby Union and the Boxing Association of Kenya.