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Clubs need to step up fans engagement

For many ardent football fans, the off-season is an exciting and trying period. It is a period to lift fans’ spirits with every new signing for the club.

The more the signings, the bigger the hope ahead of the new season. Oftentimes, clubs use this period to reenergize their endearment to fans by trying to sign star players and hot prospects – even when it is clear they cannot afford them.

Another manoeuvre is to host a regional giant in a friendly match, declare lofty ambitions like a permanent home base or creating partnerships. Incidentally, these are things that take place in club boardrooms daily but most times, fans rarely get to know about the information until something is finalized.

To me, this is where clubs lose touch with their fan base and in this era of ICT and social media, Uganda Premier League (UPL) clubs have not exploited the situation to create solid fan bases.

The reactive nature of most teams leaves fans out of touch. Back in the day, we would be holed up in downtown Kampala hotel to monitor the transfer window. The tension would be palpable in the city if Express try to sign a Villa player and vice versa.

This kept fans in the loop about the club’s plans and strengthens on top of solidifying their bond. But as we head towards the end of the current off-season, there are hardly any headlining manoeuvres in the UPL. There is no intensity and it is as if clubs have accepted their submission to Fufa.

Nonetheless, Villa is leading the way in keeping fans updated but the same cannot be said of the competition. A few days ago, I watched highlights of Vipers FC’s stunning win over Yanga in a near-full capacity stadium.

You could see the passion of Yanga fans on display but Vipers returned home on a whimper, hardly recognized for their inspiring victory. Today, there are some club bosses who are hardly recognized by their own fans. This is an absurdity that cannot take the game forward.

By the way, it doesn’t cost much for a club to at least hold a weekly press conference and update fans. I know no club can end a week without a single breakthrough. Some clubs even have no websites!

To me, I believe many UPL clubs are taking fans for granted yet it is the fans clubs turn to when they need morale-boosting. With an increasingly younger generation of fans, we cannot continue to talk football when referring to what is in Europe. We can tap into their passion but keeping our local clubs in their faces. Embracing ICT and social media is inevitable for every club if it is to sustain or grow its fan base.

The author is SC Villa first vice president in charge of mobilization

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