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Western Stima players organize for a set piece during their Kenyan Premier League match against Gor Mahia at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on February 29, 2020. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

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COVID-19: Kenyan football hits fresh struggle

Western Stima players organize for a set piece during their Kenyan Premier League match against Gor Mahia at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on February 29, 2020. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 31 – Even before the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the blowing of the half-time whistle on all football activities in the country, the top-flight of the Kenyan game was struggling financially.

With the spread of the pandemic now threatening even the world’s biggest economies, the fragile and already crippled financial state of Kenyan Premier League clubs is not spared either.

Already, Kakamega Homeboyz has asked its players to consider taking a 50pc pay cut from April, according to the club’s majority shareholder Cleophas Shimanyula whose businesses have been greatly affected by the virus.

Shimanyula owns businesses in Kakamega, chief of which is around the transport sector which has been slowed down, he has understandably found it tough to continue bankrolling the club.

“We will pay the players their full salaries this month, but next month, if the situation does not improve, we will have no choice than to ask the players to take a pay cut,” Shimanyula told Capital Sport.

Team captain Allan Wanga however says they will need to negotiate with Shimanyula because most players will be hugely affected with a half wage reduction.

Gor Mahia midfielder Kenneth Muguna during a training session at the Camp Toyoyo Ground on March 5, 2020. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

“We understand him and support the decision for us to take a pay cut. But we will have to negotiate because there are some players who earn low wages and cutting it by half will leave them with almost nothing. We will find a middle ground definitely I believe we can meet this coming week to find a solution,” Wanga, also a sports officer with the county government stated.

It is just the tip of the iceberg for what is facing Homeboyz. For most clubs though, the situation is dire.

“I think Homeboyz are even better because they can at least to pay half. For us, we are in a terrible situation,” Gor Mahia’s treasurer Sally Bolo told Capital Sport.

K’Ogalo, the reigning Kenyan Premier League champions have not paid its players for more than three months and the most they have done is offer them a paltry Sh3,000 after they raised concern that they were struggling to make ends meet.

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“The situation is horrible. Some players have gone for almost five months without pay. Since last August, we have only been handed between 10,000 and 20,000 depending on your salary and if you calculate that amount comparing to what you should have received in full salary, the arrears can date back to five months,” a player at Gor who requested anonymity stated.

Gor Mahia fans rallying behind their team as they faced DC Motema Pembe at the Kasarani Stadium. Photo/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

He added; “Things are really tough for us. The only amount we have received so far is Sh3,000 that the chairman sent to us last week after we petitioned the TM. But again you get that money and wonder what can you do with Sh3,000 at the end of the month.”

“We are disappointed more because of the lies the management gives us every time telling us ‘oh this week, next month’ and all. We are grown ups and we understand the situation. You would rather just come and tell us the truth and do something to try and help the situation,” further stated the player.

Bolo has admitted that the club is struggling to make ends meet and the situation has been made worse by the lockdowns effected after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were hoping to get some sponsors but now everything is at a standstill. There were some people we expected to come in from outside the country but now, companies are not spending. No one is spending and getting money has become tough,” she noted.

Rivals AFC Leopards are also in a similar predicament with their sponsors SportPesa having left last year.

“We are struggling to make ends meet and we have made the players understand that. We are seeing teams abroad ask players to take pay cuts but here we can’t do that because how can you ask a player to take a pay cut when you can’t even pay him for months. As management we are trying everything we can to get some finances and cushion the players before everything goes back to normal,” AFC chairman Dr. Dan Shikanda said.

AFC Leopards hurdle together for a prayer before a training session at the Kenya Technical Trainers’ Institute on March 4, 2020. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

The two clubs are struggling more because even the paltry proceeds they were getting from gate collections as well as a few coins in training and match day allowance are no longer available.

Only a few KPL clubs still have things going business as usual.

Tusker FC is one of those which are still paying their players, though chairman Daniel Aduda.

“At the moment we are able to pay the salaries of our players but they can’t get all other allowances they were getting while playing. But just like all businesses, our sponsor is also bound to have some effect so until then, we will wait to see what happens,” Aduda told Capital Sport.

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He added; “But we are aware of the situation and we really feel for the clubs which are being faced with these difficulties. Hopefully this is contained soon,” he added.

Tusker’s situation also resonates with Wazito, KCB, Bandari and Ulinzi Stars, the latter being part of the Kenya Defense Forces and well shielded from any potential economic crisis.

Upcountry clubs Western Stima and Chemelil Sugar are also on the same red zone, with Stima having been notified that their sponsors Kenya Power and Lighting Company are withdrawing their sponsorship after making catastrophic losses in the last financial year.

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