By Otieno Otineo
Two weeks ago, Gor Mahia players downed their tools protesting over unpaid match bonuses.
A few days later, players of Chemelil Sugar also boycotted training in protest over unpaid salaries for the last five months. At Sofapaka, all is not well as President Elly Kalekwa has confirmed that players’ are owed two months salary.
This three scenarios are just a tip of the iceberg in regard to the financial struggles being experienced by Kenyan Premier League (KPL) clubs despite the league enjoying massive sponsorship from SuperSport and now East African Breweries Limited (EABL), who signed a three year deal as title sponsors.
Cases of players going for months without being paid are becoming very common in the league that it is no longer news.
The clubs mostly affected are self-supporting sides especially those with limited shirt sponsorship. However, some company sponsored clubs are also affected like Chemelil Sugar. Among the self-supporting clubs who are struggling to pay their players are Nairobi City Stars and Mathare United.
Nairobi City Stars chairman Peter Jabuya admitted that the team owes its players salary arrears and said he is worried they may not hold onto some of their best come the June transfer window.
“Last month, I just paid them half of their salaries. It has been very difficult to operate without a shirt sponsor and unless something drastic happens we may not be able to hang onto our players and this will affect our performance on the pitch,” he told Goal.com.
Jabuya admits that bringing on board a shirt sponsor has remained a herculean task given the fact that the team has not produced good results in the past.
“Most firms want to be associated with success and yet we need finances to perform. It is a difficult situation for us,” he added.
Midfielder Athman Mzee who was expelled at Chemelil Sugar for leading a players’ protest over delayed pay says they have never been paid a full salary since October last year.
“All we get are salary advances which are not even adequate to meet our needs. This is despite the fact that we have valid contracts that state how much we are to be paid and when.”
Mzee said most of the players have been living on winning allowances which is lower and easier for the club to pay.
Even with a shirt sponsor in place, Gor Mahia Secretary General George Bwana says the money is not enough to cover up for all their expenses.
“When you add continental duty to our general expenses, the money we receive from Tuzo is inadequate but it just covers for the basics. That is why we are negotiating for a new contract and we are happy that it is better.”
Despite their situation, local clubs are to blame for their problems because they lack visionary leaders who can go out and source for sponsorships.
The teams are content with the annual grant they receive from KPL and sit-back failing to make any effort towards getting any more sponsorship. This is despite the fact that SuperSport and KPL have invested heavily in educating club managers on how to source for sponsorships.