SportPesa could restart sponsorships subject to tax resolution

African online sports betting company SportPesa says it will look into restarting its sports sponsorship deals in Kenya that were halted due to the loss of its betting licence in August, following an agreement with the country’s Betting Control and Licencing Board.

The BCLB had refused to renew SportPesa’s licence because the company had unpaid taxes. This prompted SportPesa to threaten to withdraw from a raft of sponsorship deals.

Standardmedia.co.ke reports that SportPesa has now “committed to settle the amounts, but asked the KRA [the Kenyan tax authority] to spread payments for several years.” Peter Mbugi, the BCLB director-general, said payment of the taxes was a critical requirement for processing a new betting licence for SportPesa.

SportPesa’s head of communication Jean Kiarie said: “We will review the business position pursuant to this and determine the areas of sponsorships that we will be able to support.

“We remain committed to sports development in the country and we will aim to restart sponsorship of all our previous agreements, to the best of our ability.”

SportPesa is a major sponsor of sport in Kenya. The deals affected by its threatened withdrawal from sponsorship include: title sponsorship of the Kenyan Premier League football competition, and partnerships with KPL clubs Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, the Kenyan football federation (FKF), the Kenya Rugby Union and the Boxing Association of Kenya. Local newspaper The Star reported that the KPL’s deal is worth KES259.7m (€2.1m/$2.6m), Gor Mahia’s is worth KES198.6m, AFC Leopards’ is worth KES156m, and the FKF’s is worth KES69.4m.

The KPL’s clubs have been suffering financially since SportPesa’s withdrawal. Ambrose Dickson Rachier, chairman of current champions Gor Mahia, said that paying players had become a problem, Citizen Digital reported.

Rachier said: “It’s true we don’t have money. We have exhausted what we had and if we cannot get funds before this weekend, it will mean our Confédération Africaine de Football Champions League campaign will end at this stage.”

Former Football Kenya Federation president Sam Nyamweya had appealed to the government to help fund the Kenyan Premier League in August.