It’s a waiting game for fixtures release

Tuesday September 15 2020

False ball in sight. Onduparaka’s Caesar Okhuti cannot go chasing down the ball on the pitch as the freeze on the game has left UPL board chairman Arinaitwe Rugyendo (top) and his team hoping against uncertainty. Photos | John Batanudde

By Darren Allan Kyeyune

The football-mad are already occupied with 2020-2021 activity, especially after the kickoff of the new England Premier League season in.

The new StarTimes Uganda Premier League (SUPL) season was tentatively set to get underway on October 17 after a consultative meeting with nine of 14 clubs, the UPL Board and Fufa on June 10.

And release of fixtures for the upcoming season had been scheduled for this Thursday but it might take longer, according to UPL Secretariat.

First, sport in the country is still suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic and despite recent interactions between Fufa and the Office of the Prime Minister, little has materialised for activity to commence.

Consequently, the timelines earlier set have been affected.
“The fixtures can only be released when the Fufa club licensing process is completed,” UPL chairman Arinaitwe Rugyendo told this paper.

The Fufa licensing process includes administration and personnel, financial (budgeting), sporting (youth and senior teams), legal, technical (coaching) and infrastructural requirements. In the latter, therein is inspection of clubs’ facilities such as office premises, stadiums and training grounds.


But there is another chain on UPL’s feet. “The 16th club is yet to be determined through Fufa Big League (FBL) play-offs yet to be scheduled after lockdown on sports is lifted,” Rugyendo added.

Due to the pandemic, the 2019-2020 UPL season was cut short with five matches left and Vipers were crowned champions on May 20. Myda and UPDF earned promotion.
But four FBL clubs Kiboga Young, Kataka, Kitara and Ndejje University are still to  in the play-offs to get the third team that will grace the top-tier.

Can fixtures come first?
So, can’t the season match schedule be released to facilitate planning for the league even if licences are not ready? “You can’t have a fixture without Fufa licensed clubs,” UPL chief executive Bernard Bainamani said.
“You can’t have a fixture without approved venues. You can’t have a fixture for 15 teams out of 16 teams. Otherwise, fixture making is a one-day activity if we have all the information required to prepare it,” he added.

Bainamani and his UPL board, though, are only looking at the fixture as a day-long activity but not its impact on the wider preparation, including television coverage planning.
League broadcasters StarTimes, for instance, would need fixtures to budget for coverage and prepare their activities.

Regardless, UPL are continuing to prepare for the new season with KCCA and Express leading the way in the player transfer window.
However, during that June meeting in Mengo, the closure of submission and uploading of players’ documents on the Fifa Connect System & Domestic Transfer Matching System (DTMS) had been initially set for August 14 but later moved to September 21.

“As a club, we are making sure that we get ready for the upcoming season so that events don’t take us by surprise,” Express CEO Isaac Mwesigwa said.
“We expect the federation to communicate soon on the events calendar so that we prepare for the season accordingly,” Mwesigwa added.

For last season, UPL released the fixtures on August 14, with newcomers Kyetume opening up against SC Villa in Namboole 15 days later.
And for the season prior, fixtures were released on September 24 and Vipers who opened up against Ndejje University at Kitende four days later.

But like Express, Wakiso Giants too don’t want to be taken by surprise in case sport is allowed to resume.
“Fufa calendar indicates that the league is slated to begin on October 17. Based on history it would be suicidal not to prepare or get ready within those dates,” Wakiso Giants chief executive Sula Kamoga said.

“Basically, we are working within the Fufa dates since closing the transfer window is slated for September 21. And we have not gotten any communication as regards change of the calendar or otherwise.”

Food for thought

A fixture spells out deadline for clubs to tidy up in black and white and besides following a written procedure, UPL officials will skirt around questions on what licensing and venues have to do with it. If fixtures were released, wouldn’t clubs make a mad dash to tidy up instead?