Airtel coup: Soccer governing body had better make it count
Posted Tuesday, October 29 2013 at 09:08
There is no other way too look at Airtel’s snatching of the Uganda Cranes sponsorship from under MTN’s nose but as the biggest corporate coup in Ugandan sport to date.
Prior-to this bombshell dropped from out the blue yesterday (I speak for myself here for there must be plenty others who saw it coming), I would have ranked the maneouver that saw Bell beat Nile to the televised Uganda Super League gong as top of the pops, before things went haywire over there as you might already know.
Referring to the sponsorless volleyball girls who had just pulled off the truly amazing feat of beating African sports powerhouse Egypt in the World Championship qualifiers, I lamented right here just seven days ago that I felt the corporate world should delve a lot deeper into Ugandan sport than they already were, which in relative terms was a mere skimming of the surface.
I would of course never take any sides in a corporate territorial war for obvious reasons, but on the side of sport I don’t mind taking up the position of lead cheerleader to welcome any such war because of its significance. Ugandan sport has cried out for the kind of financial and material help these corporate bodies can offer, and if this sport (generally) which not so long seemed to have been abandoned and left to die a destitute death has resurrected so much as to warrant ‘hostile’ takeovers, I am all too glad.
Airtel’s entry where the Uganda Cranes are concerned has not been hostile in the literal sense of it, as I am made to understand that MTN’s contract with the national football team had run its course.
But only if MTN did not seek a renewal (which would be puzzling) or if Fufa were offered better terms by someone else would a visibly mutually beneficial marriage like this one be prematurely (as I see it) terminated.
As they lapped up the opportunity to paint the town (and he country) yellow and spread their message using this most popular of tools, MTN in turn grew the Cranes into one of the biggest sports brand in this region, turning qualification campaigns into on-running festivals and international match days into memorable fanfare; players got into television adverts and onto billboards, fans got onto airplanes to faraway venues …
For Fufa’s sake, it had better be the case, as has been supposed, that they have only jumped ship for much better terms, the billions in hard cashed being whispered had better be real.
It always seemed odd that with all the MTN support and the thousands of fans walking through the gates, as well as the occasional handouts from government, individuals and other companies, Fufa would still get stranded without air-tickets days before away trips, without money to pay allowances and salaries, stadium hire fares, taxes, suppliers’ arrears etc.
The details were always scanty but clearly the negotiators of the previous contract had fallen way short; had they been legally obliged, MTN would have afforded air travel for the Cranes (just for one) without much fuss.
In the immediate aftermath of the shock unveiling yesterday, details of the new contract were not quite forthcoming either; but for the amount of necessary noise Airtel are bound to make over the duration of this one, with the real possibility that the Cranes will qualify for the African Cup Of Nations before the new deal expires for instance, and also because they were obviously in a better negotiating position this time round, Fufa had better extract real value for money.
Mbidde, make the most of opportunity to make a real difference
But for a few understandable exceptions, appointments to any given board largely go unnoticed outside of their core realm.
Whatever Sports Minister Charles Bakkabulindi’s reasons for naming Dennis Mbidde on the board of the National Council Of Sports, here is one that was not going to go quietly because of the outspokenness of the man involved (the appointee that is, not the appointer).
I for one was never going to let this pass without mention, especially since it gives me the opportunity to return to the issues of the cultural transformations and paradigm shifts I have for quite a bit now insisted must be central to the way we govern sport in this country. To that later.
Mbidde needs no introduction in most circles, in a big way thanks to a penchant for confrontation and knack for courting controversy. Yet it is that willingness (audacity even) to hit the frontline, coupled with his versatility and the courage to venture across new frontiers that make him ideal for a role at the NCS.
He has always sought to have an impact and make a difference, the stops on this quest at varying times including SC Villa, Fufa, the USL, the Arsenal Uganda Fans Club, and Falcons Basketball Club among others.
Now part of the executive committee of the influential St Mary’s College Kisubi Old Boys ensemble (SMACKOBA), he has been well groomed and taught, and whispers from close quarters paint the picture of metamorphosing man who has attained spiritual maturity too.
That brings me back to that issue of cultural transformation in sports governance, a matter I have chatted with him about in the past.