NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 9 – In a fresh blow to the already financially crippled Kenyan sports industry, betting firm SportPesa has announced it will cancel all its local sponsorship agreements due to the impasse with the government over the new betting tax laws.
In a statement released on Friday evening, the leading betting firm says they have been operating in an extremely challenging business environment since the government suspended their licenses over what it termed as failure to comply to new rules.
“Sportpesa as a business has been subjected to punitive measures by regulators such as delayed license renewal and the suspension of paybill numbers with these actions considerably reducing the level of business operations,” SportPesa said in their statement.
It adds; “This despite the existence of a court order prohibiting the regulator from taking such actions. This has brought about immense pressure on the business necessitating a reevaluation of some plans.”
The betting firm is one of the leading sponsors of sports in the country and the announcement will throw most of the entities, notably the Kenyan Premier League, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards into disarray.
This is barely three weeks before the new season kicks off.
Sources intimate to Capital Sports that operations at the league managers’ office in Westlands have been brought to a halt due to lack of funds from SportPesa who are the league’s lead sponsors.
Staff have gone for months without pay and this is threatening to delay the kick off of the new season which is set for August 30. Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards officials have also confirmed they are yet to receive any money for the new season.
SportPesa also sponsors boxer Fatuma Zarika as well as the Football Kenya Federation Shield.
Word on the street is that there is a lot of uncertainty at the company’s offices with members of stuff said to be worried about the future of the company which has created employment to thousands.
“This is more of witch hunt and nothing to do with tax. They just want to push out the owners so they find some business space of their own,” a senior manager at the firm intimated to Capital Sports.
Already, Kenyan sports is suffering due to acute lack of funds with the government itself playing cat and mouse in financing national teams going out for assignments despite the existence of the Sports Fund.
The national women’s basketball team left the country for the FIBA Afrobasket Championship in Dakar, Senegal with zero funding from the government.
They were forced to travel with a slim squad of 10 and only three members of the backroom staff.