NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 2 – KCB FC and Vihiga United have been promoted to the Kenyan Premier League after Football Kenya Federation (FKF) announced that Muhoroni Youth and Sofapaka failed to meet the strict club licensing requirements for the second time.
The two clubs, alongside Thika United had appealed the decision to demote them after their papers were rejected in the first round. Thika however have been handed a provisional license after meeting the finance criteria which had previously knocked them out.
The main reason for Sofapaka and Muhoroni Youth’s demotion according to the FKF boss Nick Mwendwa was their failure to pay outstanding dues to former and current players as instructed by the licensing committee.
Mwendwa said they relied on information from the Kenya Footballers Welfare Association (KEFWA) which has been handling most of the cases as well as the players themselves.
“The committee sat and looked at the information provided. After remarking and looking at payment details the committee has established they have not been able to clear all arrears as per the direction despite providing documents that showed they have paid up. We have a list of all the players who are owed and we have verified this information,” Mwendwa said while announcing the bombshell.
But despite Mwendwa’s announcement, a huge battle is expected with Sofapaka coming out clear and saying they will play in the 2017 KPL season.
“This is just a battle between KPL and FKF and we cannot accept. We have invested millions in raising the team and someone cannot just come out of nowhere and tell us we have been relegated and not on sporting criteria,” a fuming Sofapaka president Elly Kalekwa told Capital Sport.
“We have not heard anywhere in the world that a club has been relegated because of club licensing. I am not worried at all. This is a small issue. There will be no Kenya Premier League without Sofapaka. KPL is a company with rules and as far as we are concerned, we are lawfully in the league,” Kalekwa affirmed.
He also added they produced all necessary documents required. The club had been told to deposit money in their bank account as guarantee they were in a position to run the team successfully, something Kalekwa said they had done.
“They are saying that we have not paid some of our players. Those are lies. I can confirm that we have paid all outstanding arrears and the few we have not paid for one or two months, we explained why. We have been in football for 14 years since 2003 and we know how the game is run. Sofapaka is not a Congolese team but a team for all Kenyans,” the enraged businessman added.
Mwendwa is confident that even if the teams sought the help of the Sports Disputes Tribunal, they will not overturn the decision as the issue has been dealt with above board. The only recourse for the two clubs now is the highest court, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
The federation chief has now asked the two clubs to within the next 14 days submit their documents to be admitted into the National Super League failure to which they will go down lower to the National Division One League.
“The appeals committee was very clear that the petitioners had to declare that once they re-submit and we check and the committee confirms, that will be the end of the matter. We therefore expect them within 14 days apply to be in the 2017 NSL season. Their chances are there and open and we expect them to move there,” Mwendwa noted.
Thika United meanwhile had been asked to show clear details about their financials and how the club makes use of the sponsorship money from Brookside Dairies. They were also asked to present player contracts with financial values.
The club had availed contracts in the first submission, but they lacked any monetary value in terms of salaries. Mwendwa has confirmed the club submitted all the required documents and will now be eligible to play in top flight.
Mwendwa said the decision to promote two more clubs from the NSL was necessitated by the Tribunal’s ruling that the 18-team top tier can take effect from this season.
This brings the total number of clubs promoted from the NSL to six. KCB who were relegated from the top tier at the end of the 2015 season and Vihiga United will join Nzoia United, Kariobangi Sharks, Nakumatt FC and Zoo Kericho who finished in the top four last season.
-KPL transfer window will not open-
However, Mwendwa said the two new clubs will not be given an extension to sign players. The KPL transfer window closed on January 31 while the NSL window was expected to close on February 8.
“We are very excited to be back in the Kenyan Premier League. We had already finished our transfer business with our focus having been to win the 2017 NSL and get promotion to the KPL. The players are also quite happy with this news,” KCB chairman George Odhiambo has said.
KPL whose officials are in Germany for a working tour is expected to draft the fixtures for the new season by next week.