NAIROBI, April 26- SportPesa have with immediate effect closed their financial taps on Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards by indefinitely suspending their sponsorship over incidences of hooliganism that have clouded the two sides in the past two weeks.
AFC Leopards caused abandonment of their match against Ulinzi Stars at the weekend in Mumias while Gor fans caused a stoppage of close to 20 minutes in their match against Tusker on April 16 with a section of their fans attacking match officials.
The damning announcement was made by an enraged SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri on Tuesday evening even as the Kenya Premier League and Football Kenya Federation announced new stringent measures to curb the rising cases of hooliganism involving the two most supported clubs in Kenya.
“We have decided to suspend the two sponsorships with immediate effect. We have summoned officials of both clubs within the week and we will reinstate once we are satisfied actions are being taken to curb this vice,” Karauri said.
He added; “As sponsors we will not sit back and watch as our brand is tarnished. It is unfortunate some teams feel they are above the law. If something happens like loss of life or damage of property, it is our brand which is damaged and that will be irreversible. We would rather act now before that happens,”
SPortPesa had entered into five year partnerships with both clubs in the deals unveiled within a span of three days between each other. The suspension will now mean SportPesa will not be entitled to pay any remittances to the two clubs until they are satisfied they have put measures in place to contain their rowdy fans.
Capital Sport has reliably learnt that contracts between the two clubs and SportPesa included clauses which make it possible for the sponsor to halt its support in cases of hooliganism, and as it seems the sponsor has had enough.
Speaking to Capital Sport, AFC co-chairman Dan Mule has admitted they are on the wrong but adds they will be pleading their case to the sponsors and indeed show they are working to restore the lost image.
“It is very unfortunate that some fans and stewards have taken us back to the old dark days. The sponsor has a right to suspend the sponsorship and as a club we would not want to soil the name of the sponsor. We will have to sit with them and demonstrate the measures we will be taking and hopefully the sponsorship will be restored,” Mule said.
He has disclosed they will be revoking all their current stewards and will work with branches to recruit others with condition they should come with certificates of good conduct from the police.
“The sponsors had told us to give them 50 stewards and they would train them for free. When we told our stewards that and asked them to bring certificates of good conduct, none did. We will have to recruit new ones,” Mule opined.
An AFC steward was taken on camera attacking a match referee in Mumias and Mule says they are working to apprehend the individual and hand him over to the police.
This comes even as Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa announced new sanctions that will seek to curb hooliganism. He also said they will constitute a security committee to handle Gor and AFC matches.
“We cannot sit and watch this happen, hooliganism soil our beautiful game. We have sponsors who have put in a lot of money to these clubs and the league. We cannot afford to bring down the game. This time we are serious and we will implement this to the latter,” Mwendwa warned.
The new rules will take effect immediately, but the current cases involving Gor and AFC will not be subject to the same punishments. The two cases will come into mention at the KPL Independent Disciplinary and Complaints Committee (IDCC) on Thursday.
Already, Ulinzi Stars has been awarded three points from the botched match against AFC last weekend.
Mwendwa has also touched on the contentious issue of refereeing, something that has come under sharp scrutiny over the last few weeks.
“At the moment we are working jointly with KPL on the matter of referees and we will ensure that the best are picked. Already, there is action taken on the incompetent ones and it is something we will continually work on together,” Mwendwa opined.
Below are the new measures announced;
- That a player or team official who by their actions is deemed to cause or aggravate crowd trouble or incite fans, players or team officials to actions that could lead to crowd trouble, match disruption or abandonment will be banned for four matches and incur a fine of Kshs 20,000 for the first offence.
A repeat offender will be banned for one calendar year.
- Any player or team official who attacks or attempts to attack a match official will be suspended for one calendar year. The team that the player plays for will be liable for any and all damages caused to the match official (s).
- That the club whose players or fans are liable for causing the abandonment of a match will;
- a) Lose the match on a 2-0, three point basis.
- b) Be deducted six points
- c) Will play its next home match in an empty stadium.
In the event that the team repeats the offence it will be deducted six points and play its next consecutive three matches in an empty stadium. If the team commits the offence for a third time it will be relegated to a lower league and will be fined Sh500,000
- That a spectator who causes a fight or incites crowd violence will be banned from attending all football matches in the country. It will be the responsibility of the team that he/she supports to ensure that the spectator is denied entry. If a club is found guilty of not enforcing this rule the Federation will take appropriate action against the club. This action could be a fine, playing home matches in empty stadiums or deduction of points.
- If a supporter of a particular team invades the field of play with an intention to cause violence on players or match officials, the club that he supports will be fined Sh 100,000 and play three of its consecutive home matches in an empty stadium.