FKF-BetKing deal: Hit or miss?

Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa addresses journalists at Safari Park Hotel on December 7, 2019. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa announced this deal via Twitter, on July 15.
  • As per the contract details seen by Nation Sport, all players will don a BetKing logo on their shirt sleeves for both their authentic and replica kits.

Confusion, it has been argued, at times dominates the Kenyan football scene more than activities on the pitch or other related success stories.

So much that the recent announcement of a record Sh1.2 billion sponsorship deal for the country's top-flight football competition initially led to squabbles among administrators, other than gusto.

To put this deal into context, the previous title sponsorship  between KPL and betting firm SportPesa was worth Sh70m a season over three years. It was abruptly cancelled in August last year when SportPesa went under.

Tusker are the other previous sponsors of KPL, with a three-year title sponsorship deal worth 60 million per season which ended in 2015.

Gor Mahia defender Michael Apudo (right) vies for the ball with Sofapaka's Ameyaw Jedinak during their Kenyan Premier League match at Moi Stadium in Kisumu on January 29, 2020.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa announced this deal via Twitter, on July 15.

He addressed the media the following day and among other matters also announced the league, commonly known as the Kenyan Premier League, will be renamed the BetKing Premier League with respect to the Nigerian gaming firm which is expected to pump in the money.

Of these proceeds, FKF will receive Sh250 million each season from BetKing.

The football body will in turn wire at least Sh8 million in grants and 20 balls to each of the 18-clubs participating in this competition each season.

Gor Mahia striker Nicholas Kipkirui wheels away in celebration after scoring their third goal during their Kenyan Premier League match against Western Stima at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on February 29, 2020. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Details of the deal

In return for that investment, the Nigerian firm will be allowed the sole sports betting and title sponsorship mandate of the competition.

As per the contract details seen by Nation Sport, all players will don a BetKing logo on their shirt sleeves for both their authentic and replica kits.

What's more, eight pitchside banners with BetKing logos will be erected at all match venues while the firm will also have a right to display 50 per cent BetKing advertisements and logo on every media backdrop, exclusive right to activate at every venue on match day.

BetKing have also been awarded the right to use images with no less than three players in the BPL clubs, sponsor the player and coach of the month award and have the naming rights and bear the costs of the end of season Gala Night and the annual awards.

"We have had to come up with an elaborate plan to improve the standards of football and pumping in money to directly benefit the players is one of them," Mwendwa told Nation Sport.

"We also want to make this league more professional. A secretariat has been set up here (at FKF headquarters in Kasarani) and everyone managing the league will be based there. This will save us on unnecessary costs as has been the case, and also ensure that everyone here is on the same page."

Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa (centre) chairs a meeting of stakeholders at Kandada House on July 14, 2020. 

Photo credit: Courtesy

Mwendwa also spoke of a plan to further commercialise the league which doesn’t have a broadcast partner, by producing all eight matches in a week and sharing content via mobile phone app to millions of Kenyans at a fee.

The broadcast deal between Supersport and KPL, worth Sh100 million a year, was also terminated with two years to run in 2017, with the South African Pay-TV giants later accusing KPL Limited of breach of contract, for increasing the number of clubs in the competition by two to 18 without consultation.

Ideally, this announcement should have brought with it a sense of satisfaction, considering the challenges the clubs and players have gone through in the past season when three financially drained clubs failed to honour league matches.

After all, former Gor Mahia coach come Brazilian legend Jose Ferreira aka Ze Maria recently heaped praise on the talents in the league, adding the only challenge is the lack of platforms to market the players.

"The passion (in the Kenyan league) is absurd. African players are technically similar to Brazilians, but they lack opportunities to move to bigger leagues," says Ze Maria in an interview with the Guardian.

But alas!

Several clubs complained, with Kakamega Homeboyz and Gor Mahia the most vocal on the league teams’ exclusion at the negotiation stage of the deal.

"I have to see the contract before I sign it. My club has a separate sponsorship arrangement with a betting firm and I have to be sure I am not sacrificing the Sh55 million annual deal in favour of the Sh8 million we have been promised," noted Gor chairman Ambrose Rachier.

Gor Mahia chairman Ambrose Rachier during an interview with Nation Sport at his office in Nairobi on February 12, 2020. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

A virtual meeting between Mwendwa and the clubs aimed at ironing out these concerns achieved just that, amid more squabbling.

Another interesting aspect of the deal includes the fact that Andrea Silva, an Italian agent is set to pocket six per cent as commission, amounting to Sh72 million.

Silva was at the centre of sponsorship deals between Azam TV and the FKF Premier League in 2015, and a similar deal between Bamba Sport and the top-flight league two years later. Both these deals flopped.

This, plus the fact that BetKing has barely invested in their home country since inception six years ago has led to critics raising the proverbial eyebrows.

"Who are these Nigerians investing such an amount of money but still do not want their faces to be seen?" posed Kakamega Homeboyz owner Cleophas Shimanyula.

"So everything about this deal doesn't sound right and I want to go on record that I have serious doubts with this league."

Besides all these question marks, the Kenyan Premier League Limited, a company that has been running this competition since 2005 has expressed reservations, with its chief executive Jack Oguda suggesting he will raise the matter in court, when a case challenging the status of the 2020/2021 Kenyan Premier League season comes up for hearing.

Oguda might not know that there is a clause in the BetKing/FKF contract subjecting any related dispute to be heard only before a competent court in the United Kingdom.

Kenyan Premier League Chief Executive Officer Jack Oguda fields questions from the press at a past event. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

All said, if the terms of the deals are implemented to the latter, then Kenyan clubs and players have a reason to smile, if not, then prepare for more confusion.