Why the Kenya Premier League is not a bespoke product

886

BY DAVID ONJILI

When seasoned Kenyan football journalist, Collins Okinyo updated on his Facebook timeline that Kenyan Premier League players work so hard and that he would like to also see them drive to and from training grounds and not just their club chairmen driving fuel guzzlers and adding more wives and concubines while the players suffered, it stoked fires.  The scribe, however, was merely, but candidly explaining what a non-visionary lot of Kenyan club chairmen are.

The debate has raged on, on the backdrop of local betting firm Sportpesa unveiling a multibillion-shilling five-year sponsorship of Barclays Premier League side Everton FC and also sponsoring our neighbours Yanga of Tanzania.

The KPL club chairmen have been quoted complaining how the deal to sponsor the local league was ‘small’ yet they were the very men who were all teeth out at the signing of the Sportpesa deal, and have been beneficiary of trips to Europe by the league sponsor visiting various Premier League clubs in the name of benchmarking yet the local game continues to suffer mismanagement.

The Kenya Premier League is a non-attractive brand

Football is multi-billion enterprise, the Premier League in the UK is estimated to attract a viewership of around 4.7 billion fans worldwide from 212 territories. The same cannot be said about the Sportpesa Premier League run by the KPL and who have heavily borrowed their structures from the Premier League. I can place a sure bet that the bosses at KPL have no clue of the total number of viewership of the domestic league since SuperSport started airing the games live. SuperSport’s departure from live football broadcast just shows the bleak future we stare. One would expect there to be a scramble for airing of the local football top league even if by local media houses but to date nothing concrete is on the table as the league approaches the mid stage and confusion reigns supreme.

Recent grumbling by KPL club chairmen in light of the lucrative deals league sponsor Sportpesa has signed with Hull City and now Everton FC in the UK and the just concluded deal with Young Africans of Tanzania has left them exposed as an incompetent lot who never went through the finer details of the deal and were eager to put pen to paper anything at the time, or it shows just how greedy and easily swayed they are. One would expect their lawyers would have tied a lucrative deal especially that the deal was signed when Sportpesa was just joining the market. But, no, the incompetent lot has been enjoying trips to European capitals and should not now play to the gallery but must be put to task on their incompetence.

A lesson from the best

The UK’s Premier League (PL) is a private company owned by the 20 Member Clubs participating in the league at any time. Each club is independent and works within the rules of football defined by the Premier League, Football Association, UEFA and FIFA. Each of the 20 clubs is a shareholder, and consensus is at the heart of PL and shareholders’ meetings, which is the ultimate decision making forum for PL policy.

The PL AGM takes place at the end of each season where relegated teams transfer their shares to their promoted counterparts and each team has one vote.

There exists a Premier League Rule Book that serves as a contract between the league and member clubs defining structure and running of competitions. Any breach of the Rule Book results in an independent 3 person tribunal that settles the case to ascertain guilt and set punishment which includes fines, points deductions or expulsion from the PL, although the latter has never happened in the Premier League era.

The KPL tribunal decision to deduct Gor Mahia 3 points in 2016 was a hot issue but one that is welcome for the purposes of maintaining sanity especially that the league went to the wire with Tusker winning the title on the final day after beating Gor Mahia by a solitary Allan Wanga goal. Cases of unfair treatment of some ‘top’ clubs by the tribunal are rife and this shows favoritism.

Creating a product to be desired courtesy of IMG Productions

The success of the UK’s Premier League brand is not traced to the live football action aired every footballing weekend but to a nondescript building North of Heathrow that houses the global sports company’s production arm IMG Productions as Owen Gibson of the Guardian writes in his survey

The three-storey building that boasts of Premier League banners that hang from the floor to the ceiling sells the league to the world. It is from here that all content is made and broadcast for the world. This is the home of the Premier League.

The PL boasts of consistent branding, same music, same graphics and same logo that all act as an audio-visual watermark to fight against piracy of their content. Wherever you are world over, you can recognize the Premier League and distinctly differentiate it from others. It has excellent graphics and crisp pictures that also portray full stadiums that sell the Premier League brand to the entire world

The biggest question asked by IMG Productions was whether there was a 24 hour demand for football, and without a positive response to that question, they embarked on an aggressive road to bring several eye catching contents to fans 24 hours like the;

  1. Halftime and fulltime worldwide feed Programme
  2. Multi angle replay service for viewers and experts to enjoy and utilize in post-match analysis
  3. A clips channel
  4. A tactical feed
  5. A dedicated interviews line

The very aim of all this was to give each game EQUAL ‘respect’ in terms of coverage, TV broadcast time and analysis irrespective of whether Arsenal was playing Manchester United or Stoke were hosting Hull City, the content had to be of equal quality and thoroughness
IMG Productions helped create a Premier League mythology through archive football shows, documentaries of legends and big games, showcasing the profiles of PL Legends.

Any content on the Premier League, current or past was made available and this made the PL a very vibrant brand. They also utilize several social media bloggers during games who churn out volumes of information with regards to games being played as well as journalists who cover the game in various tactical aspects.

The KPL failings

For Kenyan football to grow, a paradigm shift is needed. The current KPL hierarchy must seek to lay foundations for a legacy. Self enrichment while players suffer is not only immoral but everything that football does not stand for. Kenyan football players go without salaries especially for the non-sponsored teams. This is unfair and now that SuperSport has exited, teams can stare at a bleak future.

The government decision to impose 50% taxation on betting firms is the new headache. League sponsors Sportpesa have already notified the football bosses that they will pull out their sponsorships should Parliament implement the new tax laws.

While the future seems bleak, I fail to believe that it is all gloom. What we need are visionary men and women at the federation to turn the league into a product that corporates and many stakeholders will want to associate with. It can be done because fans still love football but the KPL must be willing to do it.