When Fufa prematurely ended the 2019/2020 league season, a section of clubs coughed dust for days. Of course, dust is wont to dissipate and disappear. And so it did. But not the issue as their grievances had not even been resolved by the time the dust had settled.
Fast-forward to 2021 and Fufa again announced the end of the league season in much a similar way. In between, the local football federation decided to broadcast Uganda Cup games live, leaving some club officials fuming. They had not been consulted before the decision in which Fufa expects to generate revenue after creating more value for commercial rights was arrived at.
“There was no formal communication made and all we saw were vans parked at stadia to broadcast the games,” KCCA chief executive Anisha Muhoozi told Daily Monitor.
Thaddeus Kitandwe, one of the directors at Vipers, shared Muhoozi’s sentiments. He said:“Whereas the initiative is good, it should have been communicated formally to clubs.
“Must clubs just allow to be on TV just because someone put their matches there?”
Generally, however, has hardly been any reactions. At best, topflight clubs today just go with whatever Fufa and Uganda Premier League throws at them. The days when clubs made decision on their fate appear to be receding fast – to the echelons of history.
Football has millions of supporters countrywide and it undoubtedly remains the most popular sport. But the clubs are limping with governance and financial issues. SC Villa, for instance, is only just attempting to vote in a first leadership since 2005.
Two attempts by Ben Misagga in 2014 and 2018 were cosmetic acts that were deemed threatening to Fufa’s strategy of controlling the Jogoos. While Express finally voted Kiryowa Kiwanuka chairman in 2018 after years of flip-flopping.
Most of the teams in the top-flight simply appoint their leaders without any democratic vote. But the problem with appointments, according to Musa Atagenda, director of Wakiso Giants, sometimes brings in people who care less about the sport.
“Most of the appointed chairmen actually earn a salary from their organisations. For them, it is their job that matters most,” he said.
This creates an environment for weak clubs that only look at survival not thriving. The divide makes such leaders comfortable with anything that does not hurt the status quo. But for the majority of teams that are funded by individuals, their plight becomes complicated.
“For us we are suffocated by the day. But the bigger problem is that many people fear to speak because they think they can be relegated but when you are not doing the right things you can be relegated too,” he added.
This has compromised in part, how clubs are run. They are struggling to cope with the demands of the modern game while each seems to exist on its own.
The biggest challenge the clubs face is that they have surrendered their powers to the UPL board and Fufa whose third vice-president is supposedly a representative of the clubs. The result is that it is UPL and the third VP (Florence Nakiwala) supposed to address the concerns of the clubs with Fufa.
Each Upl club has a vote at the Assembly, making it 16 in total. Fufa have often used its invisible hand in controlling the clubs and ensured that both its third vice-president elected or selected by clubs and the board of Upl are “friendly faces.”
The challenge is that some of the UPL top leadership such as chief executive Bernard Bainamani are tied in bed with Fufa supremo Moses Magogo at whose private companies they serve as directors.
Bainamani is listed as directors in PearlSporto, Magogo’s family company, whose shareholders are the Fufa boss, his wife and two children, according to documents at Uganda Registrations Service Bureau.
Former SC Villa boss Misagga, who was instrumental in the changes at UPL that brought in Arinaitwe Rugyendo and Fred Kawuma, rues his decision. He admits he must have been “used by Fufa” to drive away Abbas Kaawaase and Richard Omongole.
After ousting Hajj Kawaase in 2015, the Fufa Super League Limited (FSLL/UPL) ushered in a new era led by veteran journalist Rugyendo, David Sserebe (retained his vice president seat) as Peter Kibazo, Humphrey Mandu and Kawuma joined in the board in September 2015. The clubs thought a new dawn had set in but little has changed. The Fufa Ceo has remained a principal signatory to the league accounts.
Rugyendo and his board have done less to improve the league but gone on to successfully alter the Memorandum of Associations that runs the FSLL three times to remove term limits and extend their stay from a one-year term in July 2015, a two-year term in July 2016, to his current four-year term that runs up to 2023.
All was done under the watch and protection of Fufa.
“Among the key factors why clubs are the way they are include Fufa’s tampering with the legal status of FSLL, which now does not work in the interests of the club but Magogo as a person. There is incompetence at FSLL at both the board and secretariat level,” Vipers’ Kitandwe told Score.
During the run-up to Magogo’s sole candidature as Fufa president for a third term, the clubs did not have a common voice. Whereas URA, Villa and Express were blessing the appointment of third vice-president Nakiwala, others were silent while a few condemned the appointment as illegitimate.
Outspoken Dinah Nyago, of Busoga United, termed it as impunity.
“In whose interest can only three clubs out of 16 elect a representative for the remaining 13,” she wondered.
Asan Kasingye, the chairman of Police, said his club was not invited while Atagenda of Wakiso Giants called the manner of Nakiwala’s election an “act of disrespecting clubs since the notice was issued in less than 24 hours.”
Fingers have always been pointed at how Fufa have infiltrated the clubs to promote their agenda.
Nyago said in a recent interaction: “There is something that does not add up in the football fraternity. I have been led to think that maybe it’s because I am the one who is the odd man out because of gender,” she said.
Magogo faults clubs
The problem is partly embedded in the structures. Among the members of the executive committee, none has played football to the elite levels.
“This means there is no need for them to fight for the interests of footballers,” Ali Ssekatawa said in a recent interaction.
He suggests a constitutional review that would empower former footballers to take up leadership positions.
Not that there are no capable persons among former footballers but there is fear all over. A former professional who played in Europe said in an interview not related to this story that if anyone pulls out their neck, all their ambitions can be ended prematurely.
“I am still beginning my journey. I want to earn my badges. If you talk about politics there is no way you are going to survive. They can end all your dreams,” the ex-international said in confidence.
But in an earlier interview with Magogo, he explained that clus are lacking in basic infrastructure and they should be to blame for their problems.
“We cannot run the clubs. They have to run their business professionally and this is where they are failing to capitalise,” Magogo said.
Verbatim: Soltilo Bright Stars’ Ronald Mutebi
Infiltration of VEK, Police and URA has divided clubs and weakened their blocks. These clubs have been conned to think that if they join the rest openly to demand proper governance, they are putting the image of the game into disrepute and by default their own brands. Unfair amendments, interference in UPL elections, shoddy commercial deals plus many other misdeeds all have landed on soft ground because of this split.
This is worsened by Vipers’ selfish and double-facedness. This leaves other clubs exposed and makes it impossible to reverse certain things. It is also of strategic importance for Fufa to maintain a non-functional board and secretariat to further cement their position. That explains why the likes of Robert Kabuye, Daniel Kalinaki, Henry Njuba and Josephine Namukisa were opposed to join UPL Board because of their perceived independence and strong-willed character.
The FA and clubs are scattered in opinion because Fufa is largely focused on consolidating political and commercial interests whereas clubs are interested in their institutional survival and sustainability. This departure in interests causes a natural split especially for clubs funded by individual investors.