In the wake of the predictable exit of The Cranes from the African Nations Championship (Chan) at the first hurdle, there was need for some respite.
Last Thursday, the football fraternity was thrown into excitement by the announcement of a new broadcast deal for the Uganda Premier League, Uganda Cup and Fufa Big League.
The four-year deal between Fufa and Sports Broadcasting comes into effect on June 1 and is worth $3m, roughly Shs 10bn.
This will put to an end Fufa’s stale marriage with Azam TV, which both parties were more than eager to terminate.
The most conspicuous bit about the new deal is the sharp increase of sponsorship and prize money towards clubs. For instance, each of the top-flight clubs will earn around Shs 150m per season, up from the Shs 56m they have been getting.
Meanwhile, whereas UPL clubs have been sharing a meager Shs 20m prize money for the league, they will now have Shs 460m to break down.
It is worth noting that the Sports Broadcasting deal further covers naming/title rights to any of the competitions, which leaves company with another opportunity to make a kill.
However, as exciting as these developments may be, I’m hesitant to applaud because we have been in this position before.
Back in December 1997 when Nile Breweries came on board to take over Ugandan football, they were met with shock at the level of disorganization in football.
A split between the clubs and Fufa threatened the 1998 season so much so that Nile Breweries ended up spending more sponsorship money on 17 clubs than they had agreed in the initial deal with Fufa to sponsor eight teams and split the top-tier into two.
Incidentally, the Sports Broadcasting deal has already been questioned by several club bosses, who were never consulted in the negotiations.
Nile’s resilience to hang onto the league amidst chaotic management came to a halt in 2003 at the height of negative publicity of the local league.
Do you remember the creation of VEK (Villa, Express and KCC FC) alliance in 2000 and how it instead brought on board Uganda Breweries to sponsor them in a league bankrolled by Nile? How about the notorious referees dubbed the ‘Arrow Boys’? Or the infamous 22-1 score line Villa inflicted on Akol in 2003?
Not long after that debacle, Top TV entered the fray as league sponsors in 2004. However, their three-year partnership with Fufa would be rocky from the onset to the extent that Fufa solicited City Tyres for the infamous 2005 season that was played under a knockout format. It was a stopgap measure by Fufa to cover up for Top TV’s financial woes.
Several rounds of court battles saw Top TV reclaim the 2006 season sponsorship rights but it was in 2008 that a new dawn came to Ugandan football with the arrival of GTV.
The company’s five-year $5m deal with Fufa was quite refreshing and, among others, gave all top-flight clubs $20,000 that season.
However, GTV’s sudden collapse in 2009 left several clubs stranded. Yet again, SuperSport came on board to fill the void in April 2011 with their own $5m five-year deal with Fufa in which clubs were to share Shs 2bn every season.
However, power struggles between Fufa and the Uganda Super League Limited (USLL) greatly dented the deal to the extent of forcing out SuperSport against its will.
That’s why Azam’s 2015 takeover wasn’t met with much pomp and indeed, as we have come to see, it didn’t really make sense for both parties.
All this leaves me wondering whether Sports Broadcasting has what it takes to not only fulfill their monetary obligation but also the capacity to broadcast the matches.
The most curious thing is that Dennis Mbidde, the Sports Broadcasting managing director, has been at the forefront of all the recent deals stretching back to GTV in 2008. I am hoping he has learnt a lot from those deals to avoid falling into another pitfall.
Otherwise, I wholly welcome the deal if it is to be followed to the book.