Football Football

Defiant KPL releases 16-team 2017 fixtures

Kenyan Premier League representatives consult with lawyer Geoffrey Obura (left) during a meeting at the Sports Disputes Tribunal on January 26, 2017. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – Just when it seemed the long standing dispute between Football Kenya Federation and the Kenyan Premier League was over, KPL has now released fixtures for the 2017 season for only 16 teams and includes Sofapaka and Muhoroni Youth who were relegated last week for failing to meet club licensing requirements.

This is despite FKF’s wish to have 18 teams taking part in the 2017 season after seemingly having agreed on the financial costs for expanding the league only last week.

The fixture released involves the top 14 KPL teams from last season as well as Nzoia United and Kariobangi Sharks who finished first and second in the National Super League.

Nakumatt FC and Zoo Kericho who had been promoted in the protracted 18-team league as well as Vihiga United and KCB who were picked up to replace Sofapaka and Muhoroni Youth have been excluded in the fixture.

KPL in a statement now say the expansion of the top tier league has to be agreed on at least one season prior to implementation as per the 2015 agreement signed between the two parties and as such, the expansion cannot be implemented this year.

The decision was reached after a KPL Governing Council meeting which also resolved to stand by Muhoroni and Sofapaka and support them in any case they resort to appealing the decision at the relevant judicial bodies.

In the statement, KPL has also accused FKF of ‘misrepresenting’ the figures of the cost of adding two more teams. FKF had earlier announced that Sh36mn would be needed as an additional cost for the expanded league, but the league managers now quote the figure at Sh40mn.

“FKF’s demand to expand the league this year not only violates the FKF/KPL agreement, it’s also unrealistic. The three stadia used in Nairobi for over 35 percent of all KPL matches will soon be closed for repairs. Moreover, other stadia outside Nairobi will be used for political rallies in the run up to the national elections,”

“As a consequence, in 2017 it will be difficult to avoid fixture congestion and complete even our 16-team league,” the KPL statement noted.

KPL in its statement have also queried the decision to demote Sofapaka and Muhoroni based on club licensing requirements and not sporting merit, arguing there is nowhere in the club licensing handbook which says teams will be relegated if they don’t meet the rules.

Sofapaka boss Elly Kalekwa disputed the FKF verdict to relegate them and Muhoroni from kpl.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

“Instead, for reasons which are obscure and unreasonable, FKF arbitrarily insisted on a compliance period of four months based on an FKF AGM decision on an item which was not specifically and officially listed in the AGM agenda,” the league managers further underscored in their statement.

KPL further accused FKF of political agenda in their push for an 18-team, citing some members of the federation had personal interests with their clubs set to benefit if the league was to be expanded this season.

This will now open a new battlefront between the two bodies who had seemingly reached an amicable agreement after a mediation process overseen by the Sports Disputes Tribunal through Chairman John Ohaga.

The FKF National Executive Committee is expected to have a meeting on Tuesday and make a decision on KPL’s stand.

“We have a meeting and from there, the consequences will be known. About the 18-team league, the tribunal was very clear in its ruling so I don’t know why they are disobeying the decision,” FKF NEC member Chris Amimo told Capital Sport.

According to the released fixture, defending champions Tusker FC who will be playing in the CAF Champions League on Saturday begin their campaign on Wednesday against Posta Rangers in Meru, same as CAF Confederations Cup side Ulinzi Stars who will face Sofapaka in Nairobi.

Gor Mahia, the 2015 champions are scheduled to play Kakamega Homeboyz in Mumias, newbies Kariobangi Sharks start off in Mombasa against Bandari while Nzoia plays AFC Leopards in a ‘western derby’ in Nairobi.

KPL Weekend Fixtures:

Feb 11: Bandari FC v Kariobangi Sharks (Mbaraki), Chemelil v Sony Sugar (Chemelil), Kakamega Homeboyz v Gor Mahia (Mumias)

Feb 12: Mathare United v Thika United, AFC Leopards v Nzoia United (Kasarani), Western Stima v Muhoroni Youth

Feb 15: Sofapaka v Ulinzi Stars (Nyayo), Tusker FC v Posta Rangers (Kinoru-Meru).