Leopards debacle aside, FKF Premier League crying out for a broadcaster
What you need to know:
- If fans’ reaction to FKF’s action is anything to go by, there is hunger, desire, and no small amount of passion to have the Kenyan Premier League back on TV, on a mobile app and on web.
- That fans were willing to pay to watch an Ingwe versus Police FC match confirms the appetite for the league to get back on our screens.
Earlier last week, 12-time Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions, AFC Leopards, got their fans all excited when they announced that they would broadcast live their league match against Police FC on their ‘pay-per-view’ web-based platform.
A Kenyan football team going out of its way to broadcast a game for a fee seemed great, innovative, even brilliant. It was a welcome move that sought to bring fans closer to the game by taking it to them, whilst raising revenue for the club.
However, it was not to be.
The Football Kenya Federation (FKF) quickly thwarted AFC Leopard’s live broadcast ambitions.
In a letter, FKF informed Leopards that their request to “livestream” a league match would only be approved if a written confirmation was received indicating that such an endeavour would not be commercialised.
FKF’s response drew the ire of fans who questioned why it was stymieing innovation and progress in an area it is, seemingly, dormant.
There were questions over whether the federation could stop a football team from broadcasting its own match when the league does not have a broadcast framework.
The answer is a simple yes; and this is why: There exists various levels of rights management in sports.
For this case, there are rights held by a federation/association; rights held by a team; and rights held by athletes – in this case, footballers. None of which should interfere with the other’s.
For instance, the English Football Association (FA) is the governing body for the English Premier League (EPL).
The League’s commercial rights holder is the Premier League — the body corporate that runs the league.
All broadcast rights involving the EPL are held and sold by the Premier League; who then distribute the revenue across the 20 Premier League teams, as well as to hundreds of grassroots teams down the English football order.
To illustrate the value of broadcast deals and their import to sports, let us briefly consider the EPL.
In 2019, the Premier League renewed a £4.8billion (Sh737billion – at today’s exchange rate) TV rights deal with broadcast partners Sky, BT and Amazon in an arrangement that cemented the English Premiership at the pinnacle of commercial football across the world.
According to Deloitte’s 2022 Annual Review of Football Finance report, broadcasting revenue accounted for 69 per cent of English League Club’s revenues between 2020 and 2021 – with match-day and other commercial and sponsorship engagements accounting for the rest.
In short, broadcast deals earned teams more revenue than gate collections, merchandise sales, sponsorship earnings and endorsements combined.
Demonstrably, broadcast revenues can be a mainstay of a sport -- calling for stringent administration of said rights for the benefit of all involved.
In England there exists this well-oiled, but stringent, broadcast rights framework, teams (can) have their own production and broadcasting divisions which they can use to create and monetize content — which doesn’t include EPL matches — to customers.
For instance, Manchester United has MUTV; Chelsea has Chelsea TV; and Arsenal has Arsenal TV.
Teams can broadcast specific matches — if granted rights by the League’s rights holders, or in instances where such rights arrangements don’t exist.
For instance, MUTV broadcasts Manchester United’s pre-season games and Under-18 and Under-23 matches.
However, the channel cannot broadcast league matches because it does not have rights to broadcast those games. Those rights are paid for at a high premium.
So, whereas Ingwe’s idea was brilliant, they cannot broadcast its league matches without FKF’s green light; and certainly cannot monetize such a broadcast outside FKF’s structure.
There is, however, an upside to this great disappointment that has befallen Ingwe and their fans: the urgency and pressure on the federation to return the league to our screens.
If fans’ reaction to FKF’s action is anything to go by, there is hunger, desire, and no small amount of passion to have the Kenyan Premier League back on TV, on a mobile app and on web.
That fans were willing to pay to watch an Ingwe versus Police FC match confirms the appetite for the league to get back on our screens.
Should that happen, so will follow the sponsors and the TV deals. There will be more money coming the league and clubs, and greater development of our sport.
If ever there was a time to have the League back on TV, it’s now. The best other time was yesterday. Is that you FKF I hear about to announce a deal? I cannot wait.
Fadhili is a communication consultant in Nairobi. [email protected]