The battle for survival in the 2018/2019 SportPesa Premier League season was ultimately decided on the financial front, with Vihiga United and Mount Kenya United suffering relegation after finishing in the bottom two of the 18-team standings.
Overall most of the teams encountered financial challenges.
Matters were made worse by the unavailability of stadiums to host league matches in Nairobi chiefly owing to the never concluding renovating works at Nyayo and City stadiums.
This resulted in about six Nairobi-based teams travelling out of town to “host” matches, resulting in extra expenditure and lack of fans owing to the additional costs of attending the games.
“It was tough and we thank those stakeholders and sponsors who stayed with us. The economic climate wasn’t the best but we have reason to believe the next season will be better,” explained Kenya Premier League Chief Executive Jack Oguda.
Amid all these, Mount Kenya offered the most interesting tale, after starting the season with promise and vigour as a rebranded outfit formerly known as Nakumatt.
The early signs indicated all was well, with Gatundu MP Moses Kuria twice arriving in a chopper to cheer on the boys in the opening league matches at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.
The vocal lawmaker would suddenly disappear from the radar as the team started to struggle financially, consequently, giving out two walkovers — the first time in more than a decade this was happening in this competition — and ultimately losing in 23 of the 33 matches they competed in.
Mt Kenya United are now headed to the second-tier National Super League and the players Nation Sport spoke to claimed they had not been paid their salaries for the last six months. But club owner and politician Francis Mureithi argued he did not see why he should pay them.
“The players let me down so badly and that’s why I stopped funding the team,” he said.
Mureithi went on to further say: “I had great ideas for this club. I planned to relocate it to Central Kenya and use it as a brand to unite people and offer employment opportunities for the youth through launching products such as Mount Kenya Milk and floor.
“But the poor performance means no sponsor wants to touch the team. Their fate was inevitable.”