TIMOTHY OLOBULU / AIPS in NAIROBI: Kenya could soon be confronting the threat of a world football suspension after its two warring football factions – Kenya Premier League Limited and the local FA – failed to agree on the format of the 2015 championship.
The federation wants the league to expand to accommodate 18 teams while the company running the league wants the status quo, a 16-team format, retained.
Sports Cabinet secretary Hassan Wario had met the two Monday afternoon and ordered them back to the negotiating table, threatening them his ministry will take necessary action if an agreement is not reached imminently.
With the meeting ending in a debacle, all eyes will now be on Wario to deliver his verdict with most pundits seeing him dissolving both KPL and FKF, with a caretaker committee being formed. This, will see Kenya being slapped with a ban from world governing body FIFA which does not condone government interference in football running.
KPL officials walked out of the negotiation meeting on Wednesday evening following FKF’s call for a vote after whole day talks failed to yield a solution. KPL through the chairman Ambrose Rachier, a renowned Nairobi lawyer protested the decision saying FKF clearly enjoyed the tyranny of numbers as they had called in all their branch chairmen, something that was not agreed upon.
“The fact is that we have not agreed on anything. We had a stalemate and that is why the chairman has called for a vote and we cannot call for a vote when FKF have called in all their branch chairmen when this was a meeting between the KPL Governing council and the FKF NEC. They would be voting between themselves,” said Rachier as he led KPL representatives out of the meeting.
“Our league will continue as planned with the first match set to be played on Saturday. We don’t know why we are being forced on an 18-team league when we have not been shown reason why. We have contractual obligations that bind us to 16 teams and we will stick to that to avoid breach of contract.”
FKF chairman Sam Nyamweya addressing the press after FKF had walked out said they would also go on with plans of their league which had already began with a match being played last Saturday, newly promoted side Shabana beating another newly promoted side Nakumatt 1-0.
“The talks have collapsed and seeing them walk away from our meeting means they are no longer part of us. We are continuing with our plans for the league and if KPL clubs do not confirm participation in our league, then we will replace them with National Super League clubs. There are very many clubs yearning for that opportunity to play in top flight football,” Nyamweya said.
All the 14 Kenyan Premier League clubs which retained premier league status from last season signed a binding agreement to remain in the KPL and thus FKF will now most likely look up to the National Super League clubs to fill the remaining 14 slots. Already, Nakumatt FC, Posta Rangers, Shabana and Kakamega Homeboyz have been promoted and will thus play in the FKF Premier League.
“We had backed down on our stand and given them a leeway for talks but they have disrespected us and walked out. We had decided to let them retain the task of running the league, but accept an 18-team format. Because they said it would involve additional costs, we said we would cover up for those costs and in addition, give each club Sh1million from our new sponsors, but they disagreed,” Nyamweya added.
“They told us, they had been given instruction by Supersport that if they accept an 18-team format then they would walk out. I have to talk to Supersport and get the truth behind all this. But as it is, we are moving forward with our plans,”
However, Supersport who are the broadcast rights holders of the premier league say they have no problem with either an 18 or 16-team format. Supersport East Africa General Manager Auka Gacheo said; “Our work is not to run the league and that is left to the relevant authorities. We are here for our jurisdiction and cannot dictate anything on the league. We maintain our stand that we don’t have a problem with either an 18 or 16-team league but all this change should be done in the right way,” Gacheo said.
FIFA had given FKF an ultimatum to sort out the mess and in a letter addressed to Nyamweya from FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, FIFA said they would be monitoring the progress of the talks from Zurich and ‘they hoped a solution would be reached soon’
With two league snow set to kick off this weekend, all is now left to FIFA to try again to sort out the mess.