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How SportPesa plans to support Kenyan sports despite crackdown

SPORTS By Clinton Nyabuto | August 5th 2019
SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

East African betting company SportPesa has pledged its continued support to Kenyan sports regardless of the government's action to withdraw their payment services.

According to a local website, SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri confirmed that the betting giants will continue with sponsorship deals with a number of sports entities, with the firm having no intention of pulling down the deals.

"I will continue supporting," Karauri said.

SportPesa has been the main sponsor of many local football clubs, leagues and perhaps this is a huge relief to the clubs as they prepare for the new season that kicks off later this month.

On August 6, 2015, the betting giants signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with the Kenya Premier League (KPL) reportedly worth Sh450 million to gain naming rights.

The league, which Kenya's top-flight football league, was renamed SportPesa Premier League.

SportPesa also sponsors the SPL perennial champions Gor Mahia and their rivals AFC Leopards in a deal worth Sh120 million each year.

Withdrawal of sponsorship by the betting company possibly could be a huge blow to the clubs which have no other sponsors.

"The sponsorship from SportPesa accounts for 80-per cent 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 also sponsors the SPL perennial champions Gor Mahia and their rivals AFC Leopards. [File, Standard]

SportPesa had its Pay Bill suspended by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) last month which meant that its clients could not deposit funds. This reportedly led to heavy losses to the company.

However, SportPesa described the move by BCLB to suspend its M-Pesa pay bills and SMS short codes as unlawful and in contravention of a court order.

The firm which is owned by the Pevans East African Limited sued the government as they are seeking compensation for money lost since the shutdown began.

SportPesa nevertheless assured its customers that they can still bet and withdraw their winnings.

When contacted by their customers, SportPesa responded: "If you have funds in your SportPesa, you can play with us and withdraw your winning as usual."

About 27 companies also had their licenses cancelled following negative findings of the BCLB that they were not tax-compliant with some failing to renew their licenses by July 1 deadline.

The government is yet to lift the suspension of the betting licences.

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