FKF unveils Azam TV as official Premier League broadcast partners

FKF president Nick Mwendwa (left) and Azam Media Ltd Chief Operating Officer Yahya Mohammed display signed documents during the unveiling of official FKF Premier League broadcast partner at Boma Hotel. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The blackout in the FKF Premier League is finally over.

This is after Football Kenya Federation (FKF) yesterday unveiled Tanzanian pay TV Azam Media Limited as the league’s broadcast partners in a deal worth Sh1.3 billion ($9.1 million) for seven years.

As per the agreement, Azam will pay an initial fee of Sh145 million ($1,000,000) to the federation for the first season, with an increment of 10% ($100,000/Sh14.5 million) for the subsequent seasons.

The Premier League will be returning on television for the first since 2021 after Chinese firm StarTimes Media opted to cancel its multi-million seven-year deal with the federation after just one year.

Before the arrival of StarTimes, local clubs had gone without broadcasting revenues since the abrupt departure of South Africa’s satellite channel SuperSport International in April 2017.

While Azam are set to start beaming four matches live on their Pay and Digital platforms (in HD) in every round after the upcoming international break (September 4-12), some matches will be broadcasted by a yet to be confirmed free to air provider.

Though he didn’t reveal the amount of money each club will receive annually, FKF president Nick Mwendwa said it is one of the best deals the clubs have ever received in recent years.

“People have been asking us where Pay TV, but the jam is over and we are now here with Azam TV. It has been tough and lengthy negotiations, but I’m glad we are finally unveiling this historic deal. In this deal, we envisage we to have another provider for free to air,” said Mwendwa.

“As Pay TV, Azam will broadcast the matches first then the remaining matches will go on free to air. If we won’t manage to deal with the free to air issue, then the agreement is that Azam will broadcast the match then free to air TV transmits it.

“We are going to have a dedicated channel on Azam TV (Azam Four) for Kenyan football alone. This means, it will not only be about matches but we will create different content about players, coaches, grassroots football and other matters on Kenyan football.”

He continued: “As explained to the club bosses earlier this week, we are still finalising with a few more partners, once we are done we will reveal the details on how much each club will get per season. We want our clubs to get better funds. And I can assure you, it is way more than you have ever got before. I believe this is the biggest step in Kenyan football for those years we have been here. To make my work easier in renegotiating, I kindly request Kenyans to buy Azam decoders.”

Even as he expressed excitement and commitment to help in the development of the domestic league, Azam TV’s Chief Operations Officer (COO) Yahya Mohammed urged the federation to consider fans when scheduling the fixtures.

He also urged federation and club officials to ensure the funds are well spent and clubs managed properly.

“We want to replicate the level of broadcasting in Tanzania here in Kenya. Through this partnership, we want to improve sports tourism and generate job opportunities in Kenya as well share the good stories about Kenyan football,” said Mohammed.

“But the most important thing in broadcasting is to market and expose players, that can only be done if we televise the matches at a convenient time. For us, friendly-fixtures schedule and time is key in marketing the league. That’s why I humbly request the federation to consider fans’ availability when scheduling the fixtures.

“For instance, it will be great to see big clubs like Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards play their matches on different days. This will attract more viewership and fans to the stadium.”

He added: “We have Simba and Yanga Days in Tanzania, we want to see Kenyan clubs embracing such festivals to unite fans and celebrate their cultures.”

In rejoinder, Mwendwa said: “We don’t want you to have a problem with fixtures schedule, we will do as you want. For now, we would like you to understand that we will not be able to have night football because most of our stadiums are still under renovation.”

Clubs chairmen led by Elly Kalekwa (Sofapaka), Robert Nyaoga (Kariobangi Sharks) and Jared Nevaton could hide their excitement.

“Football is business. It’s so difficult to run and manage a team playing in darkness; scouts are not able to spot the talent, with this partnership, it’s a blessing to Kenyan football. The funds need to be felt on the ground,” said Kalekwa.

Nyaoga said: “We have been in the cold for a while, Kenyan football has been in a very bad place. Having Azam coming is a very big step in our game. As a team, it’s going to assist in what we are doing. We need these resources to nurture the talent for the future. When you look at our monthly expenses, it’s still a far cry, but we are grateful for this partnership. We expect more sponsors to come on board.”

Nevaton added: “It’s a great moment for Kenyan football, this development will help us continue nurturing talents. I hope more sponsors will come into football. The money will give clubs a big boost, it will change the direction of Kenyan football if managed well.”

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