How should the FKF decide KPL relegation & NSL promotion?

Nick Mwendwa FKF President.
Goal Kenya.
As the 2019/20 league's fate hangs in the balance due to Covid-19 related suspension, how should authorities in charge decide the eventual winner?

As the world battles to contain the coronavirus pandemic, sporting bodies find themselves having to consider how their suspended seasons can be resumed or concluded within the stipulated calendar.

With the revelation that Kenyan Premier League will not resume on April 4 as it had been projected, due to the situation in the country, the country's sporting hierarchy are trying to decide how to settle the situation.

Should the suspended campaign fail to resume; how would the KPL winner be decided? How will the relegation/promotion puzzle be answered? There are plenty of big questions which the FKF and the KPL must find answers to if the leagues cannot resume.

AFC Leopards Football Operations Manager Tom Juma has called for patience, and has urged the authorities to explore the ways the campaign can be concluded in its natural form before alternatives are considered.

“That is the biggest puzzle,” Juma told Goal. “We have teams that must be relegated and those, who have worked hard throughout the season, to be promoted. 

“We also have teams fighting to win the league and all these, combined, put the management into an intricate position, where they must deliver judgement in the end.

“The best thing I can stress is we must be patient, as maybe in the next few weeks we can resume and end the league in the most natural manner," he added. "Again, we have a few matches to run.”

Gor Mahia vs AFC Leopards.

The notion of picking the league champion and relegating and promoting teams, Juma says, should not be entertained at all. For him, the best way to go is to forget about the suspended season and begin a new campaign.

“If we will be forced to do that [awarding and relegating teams] it means we will have to start the league afresh, and in that situation, I think we are not prepared," the 43-year-old continued. "As of now, we have no time frame when the next season will begin."

Juma's assessment was backed up by Sammy Omollo, who claims any move to award Gor Mahia the title based on the current standings would ruffle feathers from many quarters.

“We should wait for August and start the league afresh, because the level of playing ground is not fair given the of the natural circumstances,” Omollo told Goal. “The best way to end this puzzle is to start afresh.

"If we would start from where we left of, the Fifa calendar would not allow us because it means the current campaign ends almost in December when the other one should have already started.”

The former Harambee Stars defender questions which criteria, legally or otherwise, could be used to declared one team champions, relegate and promote others, and prevent arguments and protests from the other contestants.

Posta Rangers coach Sammy Omollo.j

'Pamzo', as Omollo is widely known in local footballing arenas, states it would be unfair for Kakamega Homeboyz, who are chasing maiden KPL glory, and Tusker if K'Ogalo are declared winners.

“There is no way you can say Gor Mahia are now the champions and relegate the likes of Kisumu All-Stars and Chemelil Sugar and then bring Nairobi City Stars to KPL,” he stated. "Teams will argue 'how on earth am I being relegated when we have not finished the league?'

“One cannot agree to a decision of handing Gor Mahia the league title when the season did not end. Homeboyz, Tusker and even Posta Rangers will protest, rightfully.

“It is unfortunate we find ourselves in this scenario, but my two cents are that we start everything afresh," the AFC Leopards official continued. “Homeboyz and Tusker are chasing the KPL title and if Gor Mahia will be handed the trophy they will, naturally, be aggrieved."

JOASH ONYANGO of Gor Mahia and GEORGE ODHIAMBO of Tusker.

City Stars, under Bosnian Sanjin Alagic, enjoy a healthy lead in the National Super League, and if the season is wiped off, they would be among the big losers. They currently hold a 10-point lead over Bidco United at the top of the table, having lost just two of their 26 matches.

Despite moving to the brink of a return to the big time, the Nairobi-based club have little sympathy from Omollo.

“If City Stars have fought and were poised for promotion, don't you think it will also be unfair to relegate a team before they play all their matches?” he questioned. “You cannot tell me and Posta Rangers that the league is ended when I am still chasing my top eight ambitions and the chances are there for me to do so.

“Everyone has their own arguments, and we understand City Stars have been doing a good job in NSL, but now, because of this pandemic, it is bad luck.

“Starting afresh is a fair play which I also think Fifa would support.”

Gambian striker Ebrima Sanneh of Nairobi City Stars.

The relegation/promotion mystery also baffles Juma, who believes any decision taken by the officials risks being unfair.

“I pray that everyone should be given a fair chance to fight for what he believes he can and what he had targeted to achieve in the end,” he continued. “Nairobi City Stars and Bidco United have worked hard, up to now as per the standings, to earn slots in KPL and it will be very unfair to deny them a chance of promotion, before the coronavirus-related league suspension.

“If the league is cancelled it means they will have to start afresh and all resources they have used will just go to waste,” Juma continued. “On the other hand, the teams who should be relegated will be in the league unfairly.”

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The retired midfielder still clutches onto hope that the league will resume and that the big decisions will be settled on the field.

“My prayer is that we first manage the coronavirus issue and, thereafter, solve these questions in the fairest manner,” Juma concluded. “We can squeeze the league calendar and play the remaining matches instead of going to the extreme and making decisions which will be very unfair to other parties.”

Failing this, the FKF and the KPL will be forced to make some difficult decisions, regardless of how popular or not they are, and Nick Mwendwa's team will be forced to bear the consequences - and the legal challenges - to their conclusions.

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