You only have to look at how it is done in Europe to understand why the notion of institutional clubs is outdated
By Immanuel Ben Misagga
With barely a breath caught as the Azam Uganda Premier League reaches its climax, our football partners throw spanners in the works with assessment of the AUPL clubs, particular the contenders.
A few days ago, opined on Facebook that Villa and Express are ‘victims of failure to plan long term in the mid-90s.’ they further insinuated that it would be ‘plastic’ if Villa won the league title. In the same thread, he heaped praise on well-run Onduparaka but overlooked the fact that its primary rise to fame has nothing to do with football but regional and cultural identity.
And following KCCA FC’s 2-0 win over Al-Ahly in the Caf Champions League, our football gurus have been in media telling all and sundry how KCCA is the model club. They cite KCCA’s recent achievements on the continent, solid financial base, huge sponsorship deals, player welfare and its stadium in Lugogo. They then chides Villa for not doing enough to reach those levels.
First of all, there is a huge distinction between running a community club and an institution like the Kampala Capital City Authority, whose scope of influence goes beyond football. On hindsight alone, this gives an institutional side an unfair advantage right from acquiring players to sustaining the club. Put simply, it cannot be an even contest when one club is funded on taxpayer’s money at the expense of the opponents. Is this a level-playing field?
There is no doubt Villa has the biggest fan base in the country and other clubs feed off gate collections in matches involving Villa but behind the scenes, there are things we cannot compete with favourably with institutional clubs.
You only have to look at how it is done in Europe to understand why the notion of institutional clubs is outdated.
Giants such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich are registered association independent from the metropolises they represent. Even regionally, clubs such as Lusaka City FC, Nairobi FC and Maputo FC are not dependants of the political/city authorities. So, until KCCA becomes self-sustaining, it is holding an unfair advantage over the rest of the competition. So, unlike in Europe where change in government or city policy doesn’t affect the club’s standing, any such change in Uganda greatly hit an institutional club’s brand value heavily.
What differentiates KCCA’s success from that of UPDF FC, Maroons FC or Police FC is simply the level of funding from the respective institutions? When Allen Kagina, the former URA commissioner general, was still enthusiastic about football, URA FC dominated everything. Meanwhile, we all saw what happened to Umeme FC when Simon D'Ujanga left the parent institution. The day Jennifer Musisi decides to close a tap on the more than sh5b KCCA sets aside for the club every season, it would be a different story.
And, the advantage institutional clubs hold over community clubs extends to leverage. I once failed to secure sponsorship from a leading telecom on grounds that Villa cannot influence anything beyond football. To me, institutional clubs distort football industry rather than growing it. It also creates a wrong and artificial representation of the league before different stakeholders such as regulators, sponsors and fans.
As things stand, no other club can compete with KCCA for the signature of a player.
Ask yourself; how many clubs have the financial capacity to play on the continent?
So, in a league like ours which is still yet to reach full professional status, it would be unfair to praise an institutional club for basically doing what it is supposed to do. Instead, UFSL and FUFA executive would be expending their energies in promoting community clubs, whose financiers and funders do so for the passion of the game. I have on several occasions compared notes with people like Lawrence Mulindwa of Vipers FC, or even Bright Stars chairman Ronald Mutebi, Ali Sekatawa of Nyamityobora who have greatly invested in football to see the game develop. These are the real heroes in our game because they are able to compete with teams facilitated by taxpayers.
In fact, you will realise that the AUPL is dominated by community clubs (10).
Amidst the imbalance, the remedy lies in government’s interest, if any, in seeing the game develop.
Times have changed and today, football is a business, first, before entertainment.
Football is a major business in Uganda and generates billions of shillings through revenue, sponsorship and of recent, betting. If only government could set aside a fraction of the taxes collected from football to facilitate the clubs that generate it, that would be a huge first step to correct the unfairness.
Author is the president of SC Villa