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Questions raised on Sh135m FKF broadcasting van

Wednesday March 18 2020
By CELLESTINE OLILO

Sometime back in 2016, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa chaired a meeting comprising his then chief executive Robert Muthomi and the National Executive Committee (NEC), the federation's top decision making organ.

That gathering was aimed at brainstorming how to best to spend hundreds of millions of shillings allocated to FKF by its international affiliate Fifa as annual grants for ‘football development.’

Nation Sport has since established that this meeting initially explored the idea of channelling the funds towards constructing hostels and training grounds that will house, feed and provide training avenues for the national football team players while in camp on international duty.

This idea, it was argued, would save the federation millions of shillings that are otherwise spent on accommodation and leasing training grounds for the same purpose annually.

But that idea was overruled and the officials settled on purchasing an Outside Broadcasting Van, commonly referred to as an OB Van for a reported Sh135 million.

ECONOMIC SENSE

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It is an idea that initially made economic sense at the time.

After all, South African owned pay-Tv providers DStv had stopped airing Kenyan Premier League matches at about that time and FKF, even with the little technical know-how on producing football matches and content, still believed it would plug the gap by hiring professional personnel to produce local league and international games.

This content would later be hawked to the available TV and telecommunications market via a mobile phone application.

Fast forward to today and there is increased disquiet over this project even as it emerges it was approved by Fifa and funds disbursed.

The OB Van was then ‘acquired’ and dispatched to the federation but in a strange twist of events, supposedly ‘repossessed’ by SuperSport which had sold it.

But why? Nobody seems to be in the know.

In February this year, then FKF communications officer Barry Otieno told this publication there were no irregularities surrounding the van's acquisition and that it would ‘officially’ be handed over to FKF by March 2019.

“We have been in touch with the company that was to help us procure the van (WTS Global) and they have told us that they will do the handover at the end of this month,” explained Barry at the time.

This hasn't happened.

Now serving as the acting chief executive after Muthomi was fired, Otieno appeared to shift goalposts over the same subject during an interview earlier this week.

“We are still in contact with Fifa and representatives of WTS. I cannot tell a definite date by which the van will be available.”

Nation Sport has since learnt that the OB Van has since been repossessed by SuperSport since the beginning of this year.

Sources within FKF indicate that WTS Global, the company that was paid by Fifa to procure the van from SuperSport on behalf of the federation never remitted full amounts to the firm.

GONE UNDER

Further, it has now emerged that WTS has since gone under following a chain of financial challenges with its managers unreachable.

As a result, SuperSport has held onto the van’s logbook as they continue to demand that any broadcasting endeavour undertaken by the federation be done in a tripartite agreement involving the federation, SuperSport and WTS Global.

In addition, the van’s insurance license has expired, and it will cost the federation an upwards of Sh4 million to have it renewed before it can be operational.

That is not all.

Experts say that the van, a six-plus-two camera type, is outdated and cannot sufficiently carry out the tasks prescribed by FKF.

“That van had already been decommissioned and it wasn’t being used because it has very old equipment. It is a decommissioned van and SuperSport had asked WTS to help them offload it,” said a source from SuperSport.

The van was briefly handed over to the federation and was used to produce a continental game involving Gor Mahia and Rayon Sport in 2017.

It was also used to produce rugby matches in Uganda, but the federation heads encountered challenges when crossing the border to Uganda due to its contentious ownership.

Another thorn in the federation’s side is that allowances for the women’s national team, which is on the verge of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics remain unpaid, with the girls claiming their dues from 2016 when they participated in their maiden Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon.

Meanwhile, the Sh135 million received from Fifa to purchase the OB Van is part of the proceeds from the popular Fifa Forward project which is aimed at financing a number of projects in the developing world, including women's football, age-group tournaments, and infrastructure.

Separately, FKF receives Sh50 million yearly to organise men, women, and youth competitions involving at least 10 clubs for up to 90 matches.

Additionally, FKF receives a further Sh200 million in four-year cycles to fund agreed objectives relating to football infrastructures such as pitches, technical centres, training grounds, and even stadiums.

In light of this, it is unclear why FKF has a habit of requesting money from the government to facilitate all national team assignments when it is receiving assistance from Fifa for the same purpose.

The artificial turfs at Nairobi's City Stadium and Kisumu's Moi Stadium were also laid with proceeds from the Fifa fund.

“Projects may include other development areas provided that the member association has at least one stadium/pitch allowing international matches to be played, suitable association headquarters, and a functioning technical centre,” says a statement on the Fifa website.

Further, the world governing body expends an extra Sh20 million each year for travel and accommodation of national teams, and a similar amount every four years for football equipment for member associations whose annual revenue does not exceed Sh400 million.

It is from this money that Fifa gets the mandate to coerce African member states to veto decisions when there are 'sensitive' matters to be decided at the Fifa congress.

In light of this, it is unclear why FKF has a habit of requesting money from the government to facilitate all national team assignments when it is receiving assistance from Fifa for the same purpose.

Some of these finances are also used to fund the participation of men, women and youth national team matches, functioning and regularly updated IT player registration and competition system, plus men’s and women’s refereeing programmes.

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