Only dialogue can solve the StarTimes-Express impasse

Monday September 24 2018

Express players Shafiq Kakeeto (L) and

Express players Shafiq Kakeeto (L) and Edgar Bwogi (R) dispossess SC Villa’s Yubu Bogere with Martin Kizza a metre from the action. File photo  

By Editor

The Shs27b 10-year StarTimes deal with the Uganda Premier League has invited mixed reactions from the football fraternity.
The deal saw the Pay TV company secure broadcast and title rights for the Uganda Premier League and Fufa Big League from the football governing body.

However, there is an exclusivity clause that bars clubs from securing sponsorship from StarTimes rivals like DStv and GOtv among others.

The clubs, especially Express that hoped to secure monies from GOtv, feel the UPL board did not represent their interests fully. Express argue rightly that StarTimes did not secure their commercial rights so they can secure sponsorship from any company.

To understand where StarTimes are coming from, you have to look back at the irony that their predecessors Azam TV allowed competitors to sponsor teams in the league. Indeed StarTimes gained from this through their shirt deals with KCCA and SC Villa, two of the country’s most supported clubs.

Aldrine Nsubuga, the StarTimes vice president, actually told this paper that such unsolicited publicity counted for Shs13bn.

It is, therefore, understandable that they would not wish to help their competitors advertise for free on their platforms.

However, their threat to pull out of the deal altogether if Express secure the aforementioned deal doesn’t auger well for a game that has just secured such amounts of money at a critical time when Azam TV did not feel it feasible to renew their contract

Express enthusiasts have made their case stronger by citing cases in England where Liverpool secured sponsorship from Standard Chartered in 2010, a time when the English top league still had Barclays as title sponsors.

The counter claim is that Standard Chartered does not operate on retail basis in the United Kingdom but exists in emerging markets all over the world. In England they can’t be seen as direct competitors for Barclays.

The FA Cup was at a time sponsored by Fly Emirates yet Manchester City wear shirts with Etihad Airways. These are rival airlines from Asia.

While this could be a valid argument, it’s important to note that Man City secured theirs before the FA Cup, which in all fairness doesn’t command the same appeal in England as it did decades go.

But also look at how much advertising space teams from England provide their sponsors - not only for club sponsors but title sponsors for competitions are bound to be sold on; perimeters boards in stadiums, match tickets, shirt sleeves and social media platforms among others.

Rather than jostle over what is right or done elsewhere, it is high time clubs and sponsors sat to dialogue over which marketing avenues to explore.