TIMOTHY OLOBULU / AIPS* in NAIROBI: For the second time, Kenya might be indebted to Ghana for helping them unlock a stalemate.

In 2008 when the country was enraged in a political quagmire following contested presidential election results which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people, the situation was calmed by the mediating traits of former United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan, a Ghanaian.

Fast forward to 2015 and this time, another stalemate on Kenyan soil has been mediated and solved by a Ghanaian. This time, it never had to do with the country’s politics but a sport loved and adored across the country by millions, yet facing the danger of fading under due to wrangling over the composition of the top flight league.

Ghana Football Association President Kwesi Nyantakyi on Monday evening mediated talks that finally led to an agreement between Football Kenya Federation and the Kenyan Premier League Limited over the running of the country’s top flight league. In a nutshell, both parties agreed KPL would run the 2015 season on their preferred 16-team format but the same would be transformed into the federation’s 18-team wish in 2016.

The case had escalated into unwanted heights with two parallel leagues running, both KPL sticking to their 16-team stand while FKF also started the FKF Premier League after promoting a whopping 18 teams from the second tier National Super League. FKF had also gone to court in a bid to stop KPL from running their league, a matter that was thrown out by the high court on Monday last week but FKF had an amended plaint sustained.

Initially FKF had sued KPL under its own name but according to Lady Justice Roselyn Aburili who delivered the ruling, an association cannot sue or be sued using the same name, under the societies act. FKF however had amended their plaint, listing three federation officials as the plaintiffs, a suit which was sustained by the court.

After the meeting on Monday it was however agreed that FKF would withdraw the case in court. “FIFA does not encourage settlement of disputes in the courts of justice but rather using its own internal mechanisms,” Nyantakyi said as he read out the resolutions following a two-hour closed door meeting at a Nairobi hotel.

From the agreements to form a joined Premier League in 2016, KPL will demote four teams from their current set up at the end of the season while four will be promoted from the current FKF Premier League. Two more will join the new top tier league from the Division one league to take the count to 18.

“The MoU which we will draft and sent back to the two parties within two weeks for discussion should be sent to FIFA and approved as we wish to have it signed by June. From the MoU, it is agreed that FKF will retain the authority to manage and regulate competitions in the country. They will also retain the jurisdiction to constitute judicial committees which should be elected at congress and they will also have the authority over appointment of match officials,” Nyantakyi said.

“It is agreed that this year’s Premier League shall be run by KPL on a transitional basis. The league shall be played under the name FKF Premier League starting next year with 18 teams as proposed by the federation,” added the Ghanaian FA chief.

The FKF-Premier League which was started by the federation as the legitimate top flight league has already run into match day four while the Kenyan Premier League, played by the big Kenyan teams will be running to match day three this Wednesday.

Already, FKF had gone on to sign sponsorship perks for the league with MP & Silva coming in as the broadcast rights holders.

Tanzanian Pay TV giants Azam on Friday last week bought rights to televise the league at a fee of USD2.25m for a period of three years. A tricky situation is expected next year when fresh commercial negotiations start as KPL already has South African company Supersport as broadcast rights holders with their contract ending in December this year. Interestingly, another contract extension process had reportedly taken place extending the contract to 2021.

However, FKF says it will only recognize the current contract ending in December and the Pay TV giants will need to re-negotiate afresh for new rights from next season.

For premier league teams and their players the expected scenario in 2016 will bear more goodies for them as this will mean more money poured to the teams in terms of commercial TV rights just as the same has transformed the English Premier League. Supersport and Azam, with the current state of affairs will need to share the rights and definitely each will have to pour out more cash to get a bigger piece of the cake.

** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com

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