Kenyan sports has been dealt a huge blow after gaming gaints SportPesa confirmed they have cancelled all sports sponsorship in the country with immediate effect.
SportPesa is a direct sponsor of the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) and two clubs that participate in the top-tier – AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia, pumping Sh96 million, Sh55 million and Sh65 million directly into the three entities as well as supporting boxing and others sports.
The company, alongside other gaming firms, have however had issues with the government after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi cancelled their operating licenses over tax issues and subsequently their M-Pesa Paybill numbers were blocked.
The firm, in a statement to newsrooms on Friday, confirmed they were terminating all sports sponsorships in the country with immediate effect.
“SportPesa as a business has been subjected to punitive measures by regulators such as delayed licence renewal and the suspension of paybill numbers with these actions considerably reducing the level of business operations. This despite the existence of a court order prohibiting the regulator from taking such actions,” read the statement in part.
“This, has brought about immense pressure on business necessitating a re-evaluation of some plans. 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. All clubs and partners will have received notices as provided for in their contracts …” it adds.
KPL CEO Jack Oguda says the cancellation of the sponsorships will have a huge effect on Kenyan football in general. He also revealed that with the recent development, the 2019/20 season might not kick off at the end of the month as earlier scheduled.
“We have made huge strides as a league since SportPesa came in as title sponsors but all this is about to go down the drain. Clubs, players, the league itself, employees, administrators and their dependents will really struggle. The league which was scheduled to kick off later this month might not kick off and this will affect the National team as well. It is a sad state of affairs,” Oguda told Nation Sport.
“We will have a meeting with all the clubs, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and other stakeholders at earliest next week Tuesday to discuss the way forward, he added.
FKF President Nick Mwendwa echoed Oguda’s sentiments; “It is a sad day . Football will lose a lot.”
AFC Leopards Chairman Dan Shikanda urged the government to resolve the impasse soon; “The future of the club is very bleak with the cancellation of our sponsorship. The government needs to reconsider its stand and solve the issues it has with SportPesa," he said.
SportPesa and other 19 betting firms are said to have failed to prove to the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) that they were tax compliant. BCLB claims the companies made Ksh 204 billion cumulatively last year but only paid Ksh 4 billion in taxes.