The Kenyan Premier League resumes this weekend after the international break, but it appears there's little to celebrate with hundreds of footballers plus dozens of coaches and referees set to take to the pitch on an empty stomach.
Nation Sport has established that a financial crisis has hit the country's top-flight football competition so hard that more than half of the 18 clubs participating are unable fund their operations including paying staff salaries.
KPL's Chief Executive Jack Oguda on Tuesday confirmed he had formally received requests from seven clubs namely Kakamega Homeboyz, Mathare United, Chemelil Sugar, Sony Sugar, and Kisumu All-Stars to postpone the competition for some time to allow for efforts to be made to find a lasting financial solution.
"These clubs say they have no resources to honour their league matches," said Oguda.
"But other teams are against this move. They argue that postponing the league will not stop them from incurring extra expenses including paying salaries."
Each of the 18 teams in the league is allowed to register 30 players for the season.
"We are using referees who have not been paid for months and you know what that means. They have nothing to lose. Most players have also not been paid and do not even train. It is scary," said Cleophas Shimanyula, Homeboyz chairman.
The financial woes have mainly been brought by a similar crisis within parastatals such as Chemelil Sugar, Nzoia Sugar, Sony Sugar, and Mumias Sugar.
The tipping point though was the abrupt withdrawal of SportPesa as the league's main sponsors.
That action lost the league about Sh90 million a year as direct funding from the betting firm.
Through the financial support from SportPesa, the league body was able to assist each league club with about Sh350,000 as facilitation grants each month.
"We have tried to reach out to the government but they are yet to respond. We are also in talks with some potential sponsors who are showing the interest in coming on board but I cannot commit on anything," added Oguda.
MAKE OR BREAK
The KPL’s highest decision making organ, the Governing Council, is set to meet on Thursday to discuss among other things, the pressing financial crisis in the league.
League champions Gor Mahia have struggled to pay players their salaries this season.
AFC Leopards management has meanwhile refuted claims that auctioneers are after the club bus due to unpaid debts to a famous hotel in Western Kenya.
Club Secretary General Oliver Shikuku told Nation Sport that they have had an agreement with the hotel on how to pay a Sh800,000 accrued during preseason training and reports that auctioneers were after their bus were no true.
According to the minutes of club’s NEC and chairpersons meeting held on October 1, the 13-time Kenya Premier League Champions owe the hotel Sh 0.8 million plus Sh8 million salary arrears and Sh350,000 match winning allowances.
The withdrawal of SportPesa sponsorship has hit the club hard financially and the management has a number of times called on the fans to come to their aid by sending financial contributions.