Relief for Kenyan football as SportPesa pledges support, for now
SportPesa on Sunday affirmed its commitment towards supporting sports in Kenya despite recently being forced out of business by the government, in the interim.
Speaking exclusively to Nation Sport, SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri confirmed the giant betting firm had no intention of pulling out or suspending its sponsorship deals with a number of sports entities valued at hundreds of millions of shillings.
“I will continue supporting (these sports entities),” he said.
Karauri’s assurance will, without doubt, bring relief to thousands of local football fans ahead of the new league season which kicks off on August 31.
Why? Currently, SportPesa is the only sponsor of the country’s top-flight football league, now named the SportPesa Premier League, to a tune of Sh150 million a year.
These funds are channelled towards administrative costs for running the competition, facilitation, and payments to referees, match commissioners.
Put simply, this annual football competition which attracts 18 teams, and involves 18 coaches, about 800 footballers all aged below 36, another 300 support staff all with thousands of dependants, and indirectly employs about 5000 people, would not have been in a position to run smoothly as things stand, if SportPesa pulled out.
Further, SportPesa also sponsors two of the country’s popular football teams – rivals AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia to the tune of Sh120 million each year.
Gor will be competing in the 2019/2020 Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League and the possible impact of SportPesa pulling the plug on a Sh70 million annual sponsorship deal could spell disaster for football teams.
“The sponsorship from SportPesa accounts for 80-percent of our budget so we cannot do without it. Our hope is the government and SportPesa will agree to work together because this stalemate brings uncertainty,” said Leopards secretary general Oliver Sikuku.
SportPesa and 26 other betting firms including Betin, Betway Eastbet and Betpawa have been out of business since July 11, when the government ordered telcos to shut down the playbill numbers and short codes after their licences were not renewed.
Speaking recently, Karauri also expressed optimism this impasse will be resolved amicably.