There was a brief period in the Kenyan Premier League when relegated teams had a very strong chance of returning to the top-flight league after one season, and those taking their places in the top flight were likely to be engulfed in battle against relegation.
Surprisingly, while gulf in financial muscle between teams in the top-flight league and those in the National Super League keeps narrowing, the trend has changed.
In the past eight seasons for instance, only one relegated team (Bandari in 2011) has managed to win automatic promotion back to the top flight after a season, and that excludes the 2015 season when no team was relegated or promoted owing to a protracted stand-off between Football Kenya Federation and the Kenyan Premier League management.
As the realisation hits home that they will be competing in the National Super League next season, relegated clubs Muhoroni Youth and Western Stima are now back to the drawing board, with an instant return to the top flight being the target.
Both have cited a poor start to the season as their greatest undoing, but are optimistic of a return to the top flight next season.
“Our main undoing is that we started the season very poorly. We tried very hard to improve in the second leg to rectify that, even bringing in a new coach, but that did not salvage the situation.
Relegation means that we are going back to where we came from years ago. I was there when we got promoted and I’m sure if we retain the bulk of the squad, we will be back to the premier league next year,” Western Stima chairman Laban Jobita told Nation Sport.
Unlike Muhoroni who struggled for long in the league and were the first to go down, Stima had a slim chance of survival by final match day, but were painfully condemned to relegation via goal difference.
Thika United’s 1-0 win over Bandari on the last day of the season sealed their place in relegation, as Thika stayed a place ahead with 38 points, same as Stima who had an inferior goal difference.
But with a stable sponsor in Kenya Power, Stima have great hope of bouncing back from relegation, unlike Muhoroni whose contract with Muhoroni Sugar Company is in limbo owing to the company’s own financial difficulties.
This is a worrying scenario for Muhoroni, who have gone down in uninspiring fashion despite being the current holders of the Kenyan Premier League Top 8 silverware.
The tournament was not played this year due to financial constraints. Financial and administrative problems saw Muhoroni perform the worst among all the 18 teams in the League, shipping in the most goals (65) and mustering just 27 in 34 games.
Muhoroni’s main problem was in their frail personnel made up largely of inexperienced players.