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Sony Sugar: The first KPL club to fall; who's next?

12:22 GMT 22/11/2019
Sofapaka v Sony Sugar.
The Sugar Millers have been relegated after a quarter-century in the top tier owing to financial constraints, but is this a sign of things to come?
It was a sad state of affairs at Awendo on Wednesday, as Sony Sugar's 26-year stay in the Kenyan Premier League was ended.

Having failed to honour their top tier game against Zoo Kericho, the Sugar Millars left the officials with no option but to hand the home team a walkover. It was the third time Sony Sugar had failed to turn up for the game having failed to play AFC Leopards and Tusker FC.

“As it stands, Sony Sugar are relegated,” KPL CEO Jack Oguda explained to Goal."Any club in a league format that does not turn up for three [3] fixtures in a season and their explanation, under Article 4.1.7 is not acceptable in all the three [3] incidences to the committee, will be suspended for the rest of the season, will be relegated to a lower league for the next season and may face other disciplinary action."

“The rules are very clear, if you miss three matches in a season, then you have to be relegated so Sony Sugar have already missed matches against AFC Leopards, Tusker and now Zoo FC.”

However, the club might be pardoned if they come up with a reasonable explanation of why they missed the game against the Kericho-based side.

“They still have 48 hours to write to us and explain why they missed the match,” Oguda continued. “If they give a good reason and the National Executive Committee feels it is genuine, then they will not be relegated.

"So we give them another 48 hours to see if they will respond, but as it stands they are relegated.”

Former Shabana and Kakamega Homeboyz head coach Gilbert Selebwa believes the 2006 league champions have been let down by both the Football Kenya Federation and the KPL.

"First, we had no enough resources to accommodate 18 teams in the top tier and the Federation pushed for it," Selebwa told Goal.

"It contributed to the exit of Supersport, who were the official broadcasters. I understand the economic conditions were and are still tough, but who knows, Supersport could have maybe come up with another solution in favour of the league.

"Then we have the issue of club licensing; who cleared Sony Sugar?" Selebwa asked. "That person should be held responsible because he lied to the public and the fans that the club can sustain the financial obligations when it was not the case."

Following the relegation from the KPL, Sony will be in the cold for the remainder of the season before starting all over again from the National Super League in the 2020/2021 campaign. How will it affect the players and the entire Awendo community?

"The decision to relegate the club has automatically rendered many people jobless, many of them being the youths," former AFC Leopards Secretary General Oscar Igaida told Goal.

"Due to despair, some of them might resort to drugs and crime because of the idleness and loss of income. It means the level of insecurity will be high in the region and it will not be safe again. 

"Talents are bound to be negatively affected and hope in football will be negatively impacted as well."

Something ought to be done before the situation gets out of hand; Kisumu All-Stars coach Henry Omino states the players should remain focused and continue training.

"It is a tough situation, but now that it has happened, we have to find a lasting solution," Omino told Goal. "I will sign two players from Sony, and I urge the remaining ones to try and search for greener pasture anywhere.

"It is a disappointing situation but they have to rise and get another team to play for."

Formed in 1982, Sony Sugar's finest hour in the top flight was in the 2005-06 season when they clinched the league title under coach Francis Baraza with an eye-watering record.

Another team facing relegation are Chemelil Sugar, who skipped their second match on Wednesday, against KCB.

Chemelil had also missed a league match against Bandari FC and will be thrown out of the league if they miss another league match. While it may be too late to save the historic Sugar Boys, efforts must be stepped up to ensure that more teams don't go the way of the 2006 champions.

"I challenge the KPL and FKF to work together as a unit, improve the top tier and find a suitable sponsor," Igaida concluded. "A lot should be done to make the product attractive to potential sponsors.

"Clubs are suffering, and controversies between the two bodies are not making the situation better. If they work together, they can arrest the situation."

The message is clear, but will the two relevant organising bodies heed this advice?

The KPL is still in the market for a title sponsor after the exit of SportPesa at the beginning of the season, and unless a solution is found, the KPL's big clubs will continue to look over their shoulders nervously.