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Starlets face AWCON uncertainty over funds

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Harambee Starlets players line up before their African Women’s Cup of Nations qualifier against Equatorial Guinea at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on June 6, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 23 – National women’s football team Harambee Starlets faces the possibility of missing out on next month’s African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Ghana over lack of funds, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) boss Nick Mwendwa said Tuesday.

Starlets qualified after CAF eliminated Equatorial Guinea following Kenya’s appeal over the West African’s fielding of ineligible players, but the joy might be short lived if they don’t find an immediate respite for a Sh43mn budget required to take the team to Ghana.

Mwendwa says the Sports Ministry said it cannot afford the Sh43mn budget presented to it and now, FKF’s only hope lies with the operationalization of the National Sports Fund.

“We had a meeting at the ministry yesterday (Monday) where we presented this budget and we were told they don’t have that kind of money. Our hope now is on the Sports Fund because we have been made to understand there is some money for the Sports Fund that is yet to be disbursed,” Mwendwa said at a press briefing Tuesday morning at the Federation’s offices.

He added; “I am making an appeal to those responsible in Parliament to finish up the processes they are finishing up so that we can have these funds available to us. Sports should be getting 35pc of the fund and this will go a long way in helping us.”

Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa addressing the press during a briefing at the Federation’s offices on October 23, 2018. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

There is currently a push and shove between the Sports and Finance Ministries with Treasury attempting to create a parallel fund to the Sports Fund which will basically do away with the latter which has been entrenched in the Sports Act of 2013.

On Tuesday, National Assembly Finance and Planning Committee said it will summon the National Treasury and the Ministry of Sports to appear before it to clear the air over the status of the Sports Fund.

The Fund which was established as a state corporation under the Sport Act, is mandated to raise funds through sports lottery, investments and any other means and disburse the funds for the development of sports and recreation.

While appearing before the Committee, Treasury Cabinet Administrative Secretary Nelson Gaichuhie admitted they diverted Sh3.4 billion which been collected between July 2017 and December 2018 to Consolidated Fund after it emerged that the Sports Fund was not properly constituted.

This is however in contrast with what Sports Principle Secretary Kirimi Kaberia informed the same committee last week, saying the Fund was operational.

Deputy President William Ruto listens to Football Kenya Federation boss Nick Mwendwa as Sports PS Kirimi Kaberia and Sports Kenya Chairman Fred Muteti listen in at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani on October 12, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Whilst visiting national football team Harambee Stars before their game against Ethiopia last week, Deputy President William Ruto promised that the Fund would soon be operationalized, but this has now seemingly blown away with the wind, if the Treasury CAS’s words are indeed true.

Parliament is making efforts to reclaim the Sports Fund and stop Treasury’s bid to create a parallel fund managed by them.

The Committee on Delegated Legislation chaired by Uasin Gishu Women Rep Gladys Shollei recommended for the annulling of the regulations citing that it was formulated without the participation of stakeholders as is required by the Statutory Instruments Act.

This is now what the sports fraternity is hoping will go through to enable the Sports Ministry fund national team activities directly from the monies collected by the 15pc remittance from gaming firms and a further 2pc from telecom companies.

Just recently, the Kenya Rugby Union was calling for help to enable the national 15s team travel to France for the World Cup qualification Repechage tournament and even had a paybill number asking for well-wishers to donate towards the course.

Harambee Starlets players Mwanahalima Adam and Sheryl Angachi celebrate with scorer Teresa Engesha during their African Women’s Cup of Nations qualifier against Equatorial Guinea at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on June 6, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

FKF now say they might be forced to go the same way to enable Starlets travel to Ghana for the Cup of Nations which is in less than three weeks’ time.

The team is already scheduled to enter camp on Monday with two friendly matches planned against Uganda and a second country to be confirmed.

“If this fund does not come through, then we will be forced to go back to Kenyans and ask them to help us take the team to Ghana. What can we do? Even the sponsors we are talking to are saying they are waiting to know what the Sports Fund will do so that they can come in,” Mwendwa noted.

The Federation is now faced with a huge financial headache if the Ministry does not divulge finances as they are faced with a packed calendar.

President Uhuru Kenyatta shares a joke with Football Kenya Federation boss Nick Mwendwa during the FIFA World Cup trophy hosting ceremony at State House on February 26, 2018- PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

The national men’s team is supposed to play Sierra Leone in a 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier next month, then play Ghana in March next year in Accra. Three points off those two games will guarantee Kenya a place in next year’s AFCON, meaning more funds.

The Federation has also entered the Under-23 team to the qualifiers for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo Japan and will play Morocco in the first round qualifiers next month.

Overall, the Federation says it has a budget of almost Sh500mn that will cover all teams till the African Cup of Nations next year.

“I am calling on the people responsible in Parliament to move quickly and get us the Fund going. If it is operationalized we won’t have problems taking the team to AFCON or qualifying for the Olympics. I want to make this appeal because now it’s becoming serious. Every time we go into camp, we go into debt,” Mwendwa pleaded.

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