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Fans the weakest link in growth of Kenyan sports



Fans the weakest link in growth of Kenyan sports

Kenyans are so obsessed with the English Premier League you would think they are more English than the English are.

I mean, how can a whole Cabinet Minister, formerly a senator, who has so much influence on the Kenyan people, tweet photos of himself at a stadium in England, proudly fitted in that English Premier League replica jersey and scarf, you would think his country had won the Fifa World Cup.

“My first time ever to watch a match at Old Trafford after a long day work and I am very happy that we won. GGMU!” the infatuated CS, grinning like a Chesire cat, posted on Twitter.

A former nominated senator, who has been shortlisted for the position of a Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), was not left behind.

On the day Manchester United were scheduled to play Newcastle United in the final of the English League Cup she tweeted, with an attached picture of herself clad in the team’s jersey: “Dry spell inaisha leo” . A widely grinning emoji summed up her mood.

There is also this prominent lawyer and publisher, who has been involved in presidential elections petitions, and who seemingly loves football, yes, English football.

He regularly comments on the English Premier League on Twitter to his 2.1 million followers.

If he is not giving his expert advice to the troubled but richly assembled Chelsea, he is skilfully, albeit in mirth, lowering expectations of the noisy Manchester United fans, or tongue in cheek, predicting who will win the English title.

I suspect he is an Arsenal fan. They are the verbose type.

Let me mention one last one. A very senior member of the central government could not help himself the other day, “The real Manchester United is back” he bravely proclaimed on Twitter, following their Europa League round of 16 exploits against Barcelona.

But interestingly, these Kenyan and many others with considerable influence on the populace, have not made a single comment on a rather interesting development in English football.

Last week England announced plans for an independent football regulator to oversee the financial sustainability of the men’s game in the country, with powers to prevent clubs from joining breakaway leagues.

White paper

The plans are contained in a government white paper.

According to an AFP report, the regulator will license clubs, require them to demonstrate sound financial business models, run robust owners’ and directors’ tests and give fans a greater say in the running of clubs.

“Despite the success of the sport both at home and abroad, we know that there are real challenges which threaten the stability of clubs both big and small,” said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The English Football Association and the Football Supporter’s Association welcomed the proposals, notwithstanding the English Premier League remains the richest, most popular and successful national football league in the world.

At the heart of the plan is sustainability of the clubs, ownership and funding of the game, all the way to the grassroots.

None of these English football loving influential Kenyans made a comment on this development, like, this also being applied here.

I have not seen any white paper by this or any other government in the history of Kenya proposing to stabilize and strengthen football clubs.

Yet, the clubs, and their members and supporters are the backbone of our sports. Without the clubs and their following there would be no elite sport to talk about.

Minimum standards

Several years ago, the FKF tried to enforce a mandatory CAF Club Licensing Regulations on the Premier League that set minimum standards to be met by clubs on administration, finance and infrastructure.

It flopped because it quite simply was not attainable by most of the struggling league clubs as currently constituted, and the ecosystem of football in Kenya

Which brings me back to my earlier observation.

Imagine these prominent Kenyans with their vast following, actually attending FKF-Premier League matches while wearing replica jerseys of AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia, Tusker, Ulinzi, Sony Sugar et al, and tweeting even as they urge their many admirers to go watch the matches.

Now imagine, Kenyans going to stadiums in droves, week in and week out, paying for entry, and watching FKF Premier League matches.

Heck, watching Kenya Cup (rugby), volleyball National League, basketball Premier League, cricket, AK meetings and all other elite tournaments.

Would that not guarantee the survival and sustenance of our local sports?

And let nobody give you the excuse that they do not go to local stadiums because the standards are poor.

My rebuttal. Our athletes, for instance, are the best in the world but few bother to watch them right here at home.

I was at Nyayo Stadium over the weekend to gawk at the fastest man in Africa and reigning Commonwealth Games 100m champion Ferdinand Omanyala run a world lead time of 9.81 sec at the Second Athletics Kenya Track and Field Weekend Meet.

Despite entry being free, there were just a couple of hundreds of fans at the stadium to enjoy the spectacle, nay, the privilege of watching one of the best sprinters in the world at the very top of his game.

By the way, Nyayo Stadium is now an all seater, meaning your comfort is guaranteed.

If we the people of Kenya cannot pay to fill our stadiums regularly, our sports will continue to limp on, ad infinitum, as our clubs die, slowly, one after the other.

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