How will SuperSport's exit affect the growth of Kenyan football

Kenya Supersport cameraman.
The pan-African broadcaster have ended their relationship with the KPL, but what exactly will the consequences be?

On Friday, SuperSport announced the decision to cut short the deal signed between them and Kenyan Premier League Limited concerning broadcasting rights that had already been extended to 2019.

The South African-based broadcast firm have been operating in the country for the past ten years, and in 2015 extended their stay by signing an improved offer. In a letter obtained by Goal, the broadcasting giant cited 'foul play' by the body running the top tier as main reason that led to the termination of the contract.

In an excerpt from the statement, SuperSport outlined a key reason why they were dropping their coverage of the top flight. 

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"You warranted to us contractually that the KPL is the only body recognized by Fifa to run, administer and be responsible for the administration of professional club football in Kenya, known as Kenyan Premier League and any of its successor in the title, which warranty is directly contradicted by relevant SDT ruling and the views of have failed to and cannot in the future grant such warranty to us. You have furthermore not taken any steps to challenge that ruling."

Nick Mwendwa

The statement is meant to insinuate that the termination of the initial deal does not mean that SuperSport are shipping out, but perhaps that they want to make things 'right' by signing a 'legal and binding' contract with Football Kenya Federation, who are keen to retain all commercial deals affecting the game.

Certainly, other market players have been waiting for this opportunity and soon the likes Startimes, Bamba Sports, Azam, Kwese Sports or even Zuku could join the fray and compete for the rights.

However, what will happen if these other potential successors to SuperSport do not step up and compete for the rights?

Gor Mahia striker Meddie Kagere celebrates putting the former champions ahead against Kakamega Homeboyz.

Consequences of the exit

SuperSport's exposure over the past ten years has brought about more advantages than disadvantages, as it allowed the nation's players to get a much broader exposure and for fans to familiarise themselves with the KPL's top players in a way that wasn't previously possible.

Even beyond the domestic market, SuperSport helped the KPL's top stars enjoy a profile elsewhere in the continent, giving scouts the chance to get to know some of the league's most talented players. 

An argument can also be made that, thanks to SuperSport, players are encouraged to go the extra mile and improve their performance knowing that their contribution will be seen elsewhere. Others will argue that the likes of Mcdonald Mariga, Dennis Oliech, Mike Okoth, Musa Otieno among others made it to Europe without Supersport, but ask yourself, how many more have made it following a wider coverage?

Similarly, the pre and post-match discussion that accompanied live games often prompted discussion and a greater focus on the performances of local players and coaches. Without the programming, these shows will die a death, and the KPL will be the poorer for their absence.

KPL CEO Jack Oguda and FKF boss Nick Mwendwa

Who's to blame for SuperSports's exit? | FKF CEO Nick Mwendwa and Jack Oguda (CEO KPL)

On Wednesday, AFC Leopards played host to Ulinzi Stars at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos. It was shameful to see papers being used in place of substitution boards, something that would never have happened in a live match.

It's not the only example of a drop in standards when the SuperSport cameras aren't in town; imagine all those ugly incidents that do happen in the 'dark'.

Indeed, when the broadcasters go away, will Kenya be set to welcome back sub-standard officiating and hooliganism?

As Gor Mahia prepares to take on Muhoroni Youth in the final of KPL Top 8, Goal presents past winners

Financial Impact

The clubs, who benefit from monthly grants from the official broadcaster, are also set to miss out.

This income helps KPL teams offset bills incurred during matchdays, and with various clubs-including Zoo Kericho, Muhoroni Youth, Kakamega Homeboyz-not having sponsors, many of the league's teams depend on these sponsors.

Another message from Gor Mahia fan Jaro Soja

Beyond the obvious casualties, Kenya have other companies that have benefited from SuperSport's 'invasion' in football. Those, who have been employed by the company, cameramen, presenters, producers, directors, and other personnel, where will they start from?

Nusu Nusu Productions, a company that has been producing majority of products/programs for Supersport, also find themselves looking into the abyss.

This article has only begun to scratch the surface of the significant consequences of SuperSport's decision to opt out of KPL coverage. It's obvious that their departure does more harm than good, and the FKF should act fast and re-negotiate with the broadcaster...or one of their rivals...before things fall out of place.