UPL clubs to wait a little longer for funds

Thursday March 19 2020

League sponsors StarTimes and Fuf

League sponsors StarTimes and Fufa/UPL are locked up in pitchside ad rights. Photo by Ismail Kezaala.  


Kampala- Uganda Premier League (UPL) clubs will have to hold on a little longer before receiving their third quarter of sponsorship money as a standoff between official broadcasters, StarTimes, and Fufa remains at large.

The title and broadcast sponsors, and federation and UPL on the other hand, are embroiled in a pitchside advertising skirmish as well as other areas, including non-consensual third party partnerships.

The three parties met last week and Fufa was asked to return with a common position before StarTimes could release the pending third quarter of funds toward league operations.

Fufa did return on Tuesday, but along with the UPL board, they feel their final suggestions can only be fully acted upon by StarTimes chief executive Andy Wang, who sits in Nairobi, Kenya, and not the home office in Kampala.

“The board felt it necessary that the issues that are dear to the league are addressed directly with decision makers at StarTimes and, therefore, agreed to meet again with the CEO,” said a source privy to the events in the Tuesday meeting.

When contacted about what transpired in the meeting, UPL chief executive Bernard Bainamani said: “We will let you know at an appropriate time.”


‘Sponsors can’t help it’
StarTimes branding and marketing manager Isma Lule confirmed Fufa, who are the main agent as the country’s soccer authority in the 10-year deal with the Chinese Pay TV company, contacted them after the board meeting.

“They called in saying they want to meet our CEO Andy Wang. Unfortunately, he is away in Kenya,” said Lule of the Chinese who went into self-isolation immediately after last week’s meeting in Kampala.

“But if they really want to meet him again, Fufa president can call him and whatever they agree with him, for us here we will implement. For now, unfortunately, the situation stays as it is; no disbursements.”

The cause of the standoff is interpretation of a section in the contract about display of pitch side advertising boards, as well as Sanyuka – StarTimes outsourced production company – “miscommunicating” MTN as the league’s official broadcast sponsors, instead of “airtime sponsors.”

While Lule says “we have in the interim sorted with Sanyuka the miscommunication that came with MTN announcement,” Fufa and UPL are unhappy that they are ambushed by these third party deals.

“All we want are league interests taken care of in all this,” said a source from the league.

StarTimes duly released the first two quarters of July-September and October-December in the first round of the league, but it is the penultimate third quarter for January-March, which was due by February 3, that it has withheld.

Third party feud
StarTimes are also unhappy that Fufa/UPL denied their agents from placing pitchside boards for UNAIDS – their partners in the fight against HIV/Aids using football – at football matches insisting the contract provides for that.

But Fufa marketing and communications committee chairman Rogers Byamukama said the part being cited by StarTimes only provides for the sponsor’s own advertisement.

“It does not cover third parties, and if they had to have third parties, they had to consult us (Fufa) and UPL, which they did not do,” he said.

Both parties, however, remain optimistic that this will be resolved as soon as possible.

StarTimes, Fufa and the UPL in August 2018 entered a 10-year deal worth $7.2m (Shs27b) to broadcast the competition. For every quarterly payment UPL receives, 10 per cent goes to Fufa and $20,000 (Shs73m) to referees – through the FA.

Each of the 16 top-flight clubs is entitled to about Shs60m a season, while the rest goes toward league administration and operations.