Fufa has invoked the 75 per cent rule to declare Vipers as the 2019/2020 StarTimes Uganda Premier League champions.
No doubt KCCA might see this as a lost opportunity but the coronavirus crisis has left football staring over an edge it may never come back from – hardly the time to fret over a cancelled season. Instead, a return to normalcy is on many minds and that has raised many questions.
For instance, the Uganda Premier League is a ‘nascent’ and undiversified product with insignificant commercial activity and matchday incomes. Only in recent years has broadcasting as a source of income started to register.
And in August 2018 Fufa signed a $7.24m broadcast deal with StarTimes. What happens to that now?
We are two years into a 10-year deal and Fufa won’t be complaining yet. But StarTimes, which can’t be said to be making money of this agreement even before the crisis hit, is about to question it.
For one, clubs a key part of the economics, are not going to bounce back for many months. So, no televised matches. And yet broadcasters world over are being asked to drop prices due to limited content. Will StarTimes lawyers start to re-read the force majeure clause in the agreement?
What about sponsorships? Clubs aren’t playing matches and so are unable to promote sponsored products. Sponsors, too, will soon be unable to meet their next instalment to clubs because the pandemic has hit them just as hard. Will MTN, Hima Cement, Equity Bank and the rest start to ask for some of their money back?
My expectation is that one day it will be adequately safe for public transport as we knew it in pre-Covid times to resume. But will returning fans maintain a level of commitment in the post-lockdown period of intense economic turmoil?
It could be argued that clubs can call upon the security of season tickets and corporate packages. But only KCCA and Vipers can offer any such pretenses. Besides, elite customers are more likely to rank the risk of infection above the cost of a season ticket. What then?
And how about the players? If there was little money in the local game, it is about to get worse. Just this week, the league clubs wrote to
Fufa asking for a survival package. If Fufa doesn’t respond favourably, and football doesn’t start until later in the year, players are going to have to take cuts or lose jobs.
Many will start looking out of the sport to survive. I know of one player who is already doing boda-boda home deliveries. I consider him lucky. Not all will have this option.
And when all that is behind us, how will the clubs that survive secure revenue? Player recruitment costs will without a doubt fall but are we about to see the price of radio broadcasts go up? Will clubs start to hire hype-men?
So many unanswered questions to ponder. One can only hope that one day things return to normal. In the meantime, I hope you all stay safe.