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Is composition of KPL a red herring? KPL has some clarifications to make, with regards to the recent Player of The Year awards

FOOTBALL By Omulo Okoth | November 30th 2014
Sofapaka FC Chairman Elly Kalekwa (left), FKF President Sam Nyamweya (second left), KPL Chief Executive Jack Oguda and Gor Mahia Chairman Ambrose Rachier (right) after a recent meeting with FKF National Executive Council to discuss football violence that rocked a KPL match between Gor Mahia and Sofapaka in Machakos on October 28. [PHOTO: JONAH ONYANGO]

The public is being treated to a somewhat confusing debate on the composition of the Kenyan Premier League (KPL). Hard positions have been taken. KPL, supported by host broadcaster, SuperSport, has stuck to 16 teams. FKF has said the decision on 18 teams is final and irreversible.

FKF has given a deadline for fresh registration of clubs. Accusations of misappropriation of funds are flying from very unusual quarters. Which makes one wonder whether the polemic of 18-team or 16-team KPL is a red herring.

To many Kenyans, among the few positive things about our football is the Kenyan Premier League. Its competitiveness is healthy for the game.

Look at the last stretch of the recent competition, which sent adrenaline levels soaring through the roof. The other positive thing is our referee Aden Marwa getting selected to officiate at the recent Fifa World Cup and the African Cup of Nations. I don’t remember any other.

KPL has some clarifications to make, especially with regards to the recent Player of The Year awards. But that FKF, which has constantly been on the offensive regarding what borders on interference of the running of the league, when KPL has its judicial organs, leaves one wondering what special interest it has, apart from the now oft-repeated narrative that it is the sole authority mandated to run football.

From the surface, the debate (for 16 or 18 clubs) would have been very healthy. But when claims of funds being misappropriated start flying all over, it is perhaps important to dissect the whole thing.

FKF conveniently kicked off the polemic only to issue gagging orders, which is contrary to Article 33 of the Kenyan Constitution on Freedom of Expression. After meeting with FKF-KPL Joint Executive Committee (JEC) and forming a four-man committee to look at the matter and report back after two weeks, the FKF pre-empts this by issuing a statement that the 18-team decision is final and that there is no backing down.

As to the issue of taking the matter to the public domain, who went public with the matter in the first place? FKF says it reserves the exclusive right to make all decisions on issues of football in Kenya and that such mandate is inalienable.

Has Parliament passed such legislation? To the best of my recollection, I don’t remember. Do members of Parliament or institutions of learning need authority from FKF if they wish to organise  football tournaments?

Is it inclusivity of teams or the quality of the competition that matters? If it is inclusivity we are craving for, does it mean Harambee Stars should also be made up of players from each of the 47 counties?

Some promotions have left a bad taste in the mouths of sporting purists. If this debate degenerates further, it could compromise the integrity of the gains made by KPL since 2004. If the goal is to improve the competitiveness of the league and the national team, then the size of the league should be decreased to 14 rather than increased to 18 teams.

Perhaps, FKF should lead by example in awarding the NSL and other FKF leagues. We know the NSL group “winners” don’t get any cash, but did they get even a trophy this year?

We must avoid reverting to the old KFF/KFL/FKF tactics of desperately trying to divert attention away from own shortcomings, among them, the absence of national youth teams or youth development programme despite claims of having future of the football, by frantically wagging fingers in public then issuing gagging orders.

— The writer is Senior Associate Editor, Sports ([email protected])

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