The 2017-18 Azam Uganda Premier League season kicked off yesterday across different venues all over the country.
For a while now, I have sat and pondered on how all the 16 topflight teams would come together to make a concerted effort towards attracting more fans in the stadia.
It is a no-brainer that ultimately that would translate into more sponsorship for the country’s top league.
On the face of it, challenges abound. Clubs are still run amateurishly and funding out of pocket remains prevalent, Azam’s monies notwithstanding.
But anything appears impossible until small steps are taken to free the mindset. And that is where we, the stakeholders of football, must become one to grow the game.
All clubs need to embrace the basics to realise the dream of professionalism.
There is strength in numbers and if all clubs thought collectively to build a powerful, strategic brand in the name of the Uganda Premier League, it is indeed possible that each club can raise at least the bare minimum Shs150 million out of sponsorship for every season.
Certainly, not every club has the institutional backing of KCCA or URA, and in any case, those two also privately desire to be self-sustaining in the long-term.
Club chairmen, legal officers and obviously the chief executive officers should be given authority to execute their roles.
In the same way, marketing departments ought to be functional and operational not only in name, but also in works.
The economic squeeze allowed, there are still many companies out there with huge marketing budgets that do not know where to get or find value to spend on.
Few things match league football for appeal, passion, drama and excitement. The trend over the years has been for companies to be associated with the national team, the Cranes.
And while that is not the problem, sponsors ought to know that league football takes place week-in week-out and exponentially enjoys a bigger reach seeing how the new season will have Mbarara and Onduparaka, among others.
Clubs should right now be identifying and laying strategies on how to get fans into the stadiums. Community clubs in particular should be busy doing lots of activations in terms of fan mobilisation, registration and engagement so that they can have the required numbers to make a bargain for sponsorship.
Fans are the numbers that can bring in money because their presence is value to any corporate company.
As the saying goes, ‘Teka sente wolaba’. Sponsors at the end of the day ought to realise that results will gain both their brands as funders and the game.
Today, football in the country is on a high. Cranes have performed well over the last two years and are sitting pretty well in the Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers. The team also advanced for the Chan championship to be held in Kenya next year.
And while Cranes continues to soar, some clubs such as KCCA, Vipers, Bright Stars, Onduparaka and Mbarara City have just signed multi-million shilling sponsorship deals.
The game now needs all the other clubs in the league to commit to deals that will elevate the standing of the league.
Clubs such as Masavu, Soana, UPDF and Kirinya-Jinja, among others, have to put in shifts off the pitch to bridge the gap.
As of now, clubs have unveiled new players and a good number have made the terrific effort of making strides towards professionalism.
And in as much as gate collections go to the host team, there is no harm in having a joint advertising budget for all the teams in the league.
This will be to our advantage as clubs to minimise the cost of advertising.
Fan development (fighting excessive hooliganism) is another very key aspect that we must highlight and sensitise fans about if we are to attract numbers to our games as well as bring sponsors on board.
I think the 2017/18 season is going to be a very exciting and competitive season. However, let fair play prevail.
In the end, a better league will mean a better game in the country. And that is what we all aspire for as Ugandans – having a formidable league to created new levels of excitement and ultimately a very strong national football team.
Mr Ssentongo is the marketing manager of Vipers Sports Club.