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How UPL can unshackle itself from Fufa bondage

The state of Ugandan football is not different from the colonial days when the British manipulated our forefathers by encouraging them to grow coffee and cotton (read cash crops) under the guise of promoting their economic wellbeing.

What the locals didn’t realise was that whereas growing these cash crops provided a source of income, the real beneficiaries were the British industries that badly needed these raw materials.

Fufa, like the colonialists, preys on the mindset of Uganda Premier League (UPL) clubs by seeming to provide a platform for competition yet in actual sense is using it as an extension for influence.

Fufa is perhaps the only federation in the world that controls all aspects of the top-flight league while leaving every financial burden to the individual clubs.  

Fufa is so detached that it even tactfully abandoned its 10 per cent share of gate collections from every match under the pretence of empowering clubs. The real reason behind the move is that due to the fact that clubs hardly make any meaningful proceeds from gate collections, getting that 10 per cent would expose Fufa as greedy.

All this would make Fufa accountable to the clubs and make them address the concerns of clubs. It would also tie the federation to other financial obligations clubs go through such as transport and venue costs. Even the match officials are paid from clubs’ sponsorship money.

Fufa’s only contribution is to siphon huge percentages of clubs’ sponsorship monies and any other avenue that the federation can tax.

But in spite of the glaring injustice, Fufa has resorted to the colonial divide-and-rule method of gerrymandering.
Clubs spend much of their energies fighting to be in Fufa’s good books.

That’s when you see a particular referee officiating several matches for a particular club or a fixture list that favours particular sides over others. Those who read between the lines use such trends to allege the prevalence of match-fixing.

Have you ever wondered fixtures are released in phases or why some match officials are appointed on match days? That’s a topic for another time.

So, clubs should open their eyes to the adage of grasshoppers fighting amongst themselves instead of fighting to get themselves out of the bottle.

UPL clubs sink in the most money in football yet they cannot control their destiny. It is so bewildering that Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, the Fufa vice-president representing UPL, has no attachments to any UPL club. Her predecessor, Dennis Mbidde, too didn’t represent any club. Yet Fufa was comfortable with the status quo.

It is time for UPL clubs to wake up and call a shareholders’ meeting to decide what they want because even the current UPL board is a Fufa project.

A Fufa consumed with The Cranes success will never heed to the cries of clubs yet the true quality of a country’s football is reflected by the strength of the domestic league.

Have you ever seen a Fufa delegation to State House lobbying for the UPL? Yet government funding is a necessity for the UPL to blossom. However, this would also expose Fufa to the accountability scrutiny of office of the Auditor General. It is a path Fufa wouldn’t tread yet that’s exactly what clubs need.

UPL clubs spend more than Shs 10bn every season and employ thousands yet they don’t have a single government subsidy.

It’s time all UPL clubs woke up and stopped burying our heads that we are volunteers. Football is a business and it should not be confined to individual club over the other.

The author is Nyamityobora FC president.

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