The sports industry is currently having a bumpy season. This is after major sponsor SportPesa announced plans to suspend all sponsorship after the government increased the tax rate to 35 per cent.
As betting companies readjust their operations, the sport industry should also do some soul searching.
Some clubs are beseeching the government to relook the tax rate otherwise their operations will grind to a halt. This shows that they have become overdependent on one source of income, which is not sustainable as the current predicament reveals.
Whichever way the appeal ruling goes, change is inevitable. First, many sports organisations are old while betting companies with their sponsorship are fairly recent.
For instance, Kenya Premier League dates back to 1963 while Gor Mahia boasts a history going back to colonial times. On the other hand, betting sponsorship picked up in 2016. They have survived and thrived long before the betting firms came along.
The clubs will need to cultivate many ‘small’ sponsors instead of relying on a few major donors.
Kenya is a land of entrepreneurs where small and medium sized companies make up a huge chunk of the economy. They can tap into this wide pool by creating multiple innovative ways for companies to sponsor, no matter how small the sponsorship is.
They should also expand the fan base. Some local football clubs make little attempts to woo fans from across the country.
Once when Gor Mahia was poised to win the Premier League title, the tagline was ‘Gine Wasekao”. Such things including the ‘shemeji derby” with AFC Leopards help maintain the cultural appeal.
But it’s worth noting that the English Premier league and Spanish La Liga etc have a huge local fan base irrespective of our tribal affiliations.
The local clubs should start thinking national.
They must also rein in unruly fans who give the clubs a bad name reducing goodwill and turning off potential fans and sponsors.
The sports organisations should also try to live within their means. High salaries and allowances are not the only way to retain talented players and support staff.
A great working-or playing- environment where everyone’s contribution is valued will boost team spirit even in absence of high fees.
Finally, they should lobby the government for appointment of qualified sports people. Currently, women are lobbying for inclusion of women in leadership positions, and regional elders are jostling for their sons and daughters, to be in the list.
Sports people are not so loud. Otherwise, the sport industry may end being thought of as a pastime fun instead of the professional, economic activity that it truly is.
The sports sector needs to strategically plan ahead. Sponsorship is a two-way traffic. Both the sponsor and sponsored gain.
Kariuki Gathuitu Nairobi.