Kenyan sport is headed for turbulent times. With football in turmoil, rugby at a crossroads and athletics ruined by doping cases, worse is yet to come.
Poor leadership, corruption, lack of vision as well as absence of government supervision has led to the sorry state of affairs as greedy officials fight for power in courts.
With the government doing nothing to contain the situation, one of the major sponsors in sport has decided to act to stop the rot. Safaricom will pull out of all sponsorship deals with three federations, denying them hundreds of millions of shillings in funding.
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore plans to cut off the football, athletics and rugby federations, which have been marred by controversies and claims of corruption. Speaking to Business Daily, Collymore said that the lack of transparency has dented the image of football, athletics and rugby management.
Safaricom signed a Sh140-million-a-year deal with Kenya Rugby Union in 2013 to sponsor the local Sevens circuit (Dala Sevens, Christie Sevens, Kabeberi, Driftwood and Prinsloo Sevens) under the Safaricom Rugby Sevens Series banner. Last year, the sponsorship agreement was renewed for a further three years.
The mobile giant also sponsors the Safaricom Athletics Series, which last year saw Sh47.5 million poured into 15 Athletics Kenya and community races, in addition to funding national trials and events such as the Sports Personality of the Year Awards (Sh12 million in 2013).
FKF DEMANDED 20 PER CENT
“I can’t think of any solid corporate leader that wants to get into space where you don’t have control over how your money is spent. It’s not my own, it’s my shareholders’ money... we are custodians of shareholders’ money and I can’t think of any sponsor who wants to get into activities where unethical behaviour continues,” said Collymore.
Safaricom’s football sponsorship is limited to stadium, security and team welfare matters thanks to the management woes that dog the sport.
An attempt to fund a youth football tournament, Sakata Ball, was scuppered in 2012 — after two successful outings in which the mobile giant spent Sh130 million — when FKF demanded 20 per cent of the sponsorship money.
Safaricom will not sponsor any federation until they demonstrate proper management of the funds that are allocated to them, the CEO said.
“There are things that demand our money; a lot of things are demanding our money. We will move money to the federations provided that people can demonstrate they know how to manage it.” Football is in a fine mess.
In the past three months, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and the Kenya Premier League (KPL) have engaged in a spat over the control of the top-flight competition that rakes in an estimated revenue of Sh500 million annually.
Things are not better in athletics, a discipline that ranks as Kenya’s most successful sport. Consistent wrangles between the incumbent office and a group of former athletes over the control of a multi-million shilling budget is fast degenerating into an embarrassing farce. Athletics Kenya (AK) officials have spiced up these turf wars with many court orders and public spats.
Athletics is facing its worst possible rating ever. AK boss Isaiah Kiplagat has been accused by his opponents of corruption as well as compromising the anti-doping laws, a vice that is slowly diminishing Kenya’s international athletic prowess and stature of many years as the athletics nation.
During the 2014 Safaricom Sports of the Year Awards (Soya) gala night, Dr Wario told AK top brass to resign over the increasing doping scandals.
He also urged sponsors to review their partnerships with rogue and corrupt federations. Wario, who blamed AK for the doping menace in the country and accused the body of shielding rogue managers and agents, said time was running out for AK officials.
“I was in Boston as we cheered (Rita) Jeptoo to victory but I was gutted when I heard the news that she had doped... We must come out strongly as Kenyans and disassociate ourselves from people who want to spoil our sport by doping. Someone must take the blame since when all this was happening AK was quiet,” Dr Wario said. Rugby was until December last year the most professionally-run sport in Kenya.
Accusations of financial impropriety and infighting led to the resignation of the Kenya Rugby Union Chairman Mwangi Muthee last December.