Kenya's soccer clubs struggle to overcome financial woes


AFC Leopards head to Nyayo Stadium for a past football march against Gor Mahia. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL



  • Teams rely mainly on Sh80m in title rights from SportPesa, out of which Sh20m goes to KPL as administrative duties.

Most clubs in the Kenya Premier League are struggling to finance their operations, officials say, citing narrow resource bases and shrinking sponsorships.

Under the current four and a-half year deal with SportPesa, clubs only get Sh3.4 million each season, a drop in the ocean in the light of ballooning season-long expenses.

Hosting a low-profile match costs at least Sh100,000 while a big match of the profile of Gor Mahia against AFC Leopards can cost as high as Sh500,000, says Kenya Premier League (KPL) Chief Executive Officer Jack Oguda.

In a season where clubs have eight premier league matches at home, costs cross the Sh1 million mark before away matches, domestic and continental engagements are taken into account. A breakdown of hosting a single game paints a grim picture for the resource-starved clubs.

Clubs pay Sh20,000 for a low-profile stadium outside Nairobi, while the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani costs Sh35,000.

Other expenses include food and supplements for players, ambulances, ticketing, security and the public address system.

High-risk matches like those between AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia, which call for additional security measures, cost as much as Sh500,000 each. To play the mandatory two derbies per season costs at least Sh1 million. “It has been challenging following SuperSport’s exit last year,” Mr Oguda told the Business Daily in reference to the withdrawal of South African pay-TV SuperSport in 2016 which has cost the clubs Sh122 million a year in broadcasting rights.

The clubs currently rely mainly on Sh80 million in title rights from SportPesa, out of which Sh20 million goes to KPL for administrative duties. Clubs share the remaining Sh60 million. Only Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards rake in millions from gate collections especially during the derby, while the other clubs get paltry returns owing to a dismal fan-base.

With the narrow resource base, financing an entire season is even harder for self-supporting clubs like Kariobangi Sharks which relies on the SportPesa funds and well-wishers. According to its CEO Lynda Ambiyo, the team’s expenditure per season is estimated at Sh30 million.

The club is eyeing several corporates for sponsorship, but like many others it faces challenges trying to sell itself. “Being relatively unknown has made securing a sponsor harder, but we are currently looking at several partners in efforts to ease the financial burden,” Ms Ambiyo said.

Few others like Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, Tusker, Ulinzi Stars, Posta Rangers, Bandari, and Mathare United are lucky to have the government, corporates or shirt sponsors foot their bills.

Institutional clubs, mostly in the Western sugar belt, have particularly been vulnerable as fortunes of sponsoring state parastatal dwindle.

Financial challenges have left several Nairobi clubs without home grounds, and most fans are unsure of where their team is playing next.

Constant change of venue inconveniences fans who do not show up, losing out on gate collections.

The closing down of Safaricom Stadium Kasarani for renovation until last month, and Nyayo which is still unavailable, forced clubs to constantly shift venues outside the city.

Mr Oguda says that clubs should partner with counties to use stadia that are getting a facelift like Kenyatta in Machakos and Kinoru in Meru.

This, he says, will help them establish fan bases outside the city, translating to revenue from sale of merchandise and tickets on match-days. “Kariobangi Sharks is for the people of Kariobangi who identify with the team. We need to have a home ground closer to the people,” said Ms Ambiyo.