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UPL visibility struggles require new innovation

Uganda Premier League game between Express and BUL FC. Photo: courtesy

Uganda Premier League game between Express and BUL FC. Photo: courtesy

At the tail end of my rein as SC Villa president, I had the chance to meet with officials from Pitch PR [now Pitch Marketing Group] to discuss how to form a partnership.

For those who may not know, this is the firm hired to market the English Premier League (EPL). They intimated to me they would be bending over backwards, but offered to partner a local public relations agency.

They also reasoned to me that it could make much sense if they marketed the Uganda Premier League (UPL) and would be contented to settle for a cut instead of having the UPL pay them for the work as it is with the EPL.

This proposal to key UPL board members was quickly rebuffed in what they viewed as ‘giving the league in the hands of foreigners.’ Any would-be negotiations died at that moment and matters were not helped when I threw down the towel at Villa. Five years down the road, the level and quality of the UPL continues to sink but the UPL board and its big brother Fufa don’t seem to be concerned.

Why should they, anyway, since they don’t incur any costs as they continue to draw funds at will. On the flipside, it is the clubs that suffer the consequences of UPL and Fufa’s ineptitude. At the moment, we are witnessing some of the dullest football in domestic league history and in the absence of a strong marketing and promotional strategy, our football is continuing to go down the drain and this is reflected in The Cranes’ recent performances.

It is not surprising that fans are increasingly becoming cynical of The Cranes. The marketing of the league is so deplorable that just last week, I was shocked to learn about SC Villa’s 2-0 win over Jinja SS on CBS FM’s Kaliisoliiso w’Emizannyo show.

In fact, let me take this opportunity to alert that Villa takes on Express this Friday. This was once the biggest game in Ugandan football, but it has been reduced to just another fixture. Back in the day, such a fixture would be hyped for a whole month and everyone would be looking forward with anticipation, but the league organisers seem to be clueless on the best ways of coordinating big fixtures involving the Big Four of SC Villa, Express, KCCA and recently Vipers.

Sometimes, the fixtures have all of them playing on the same day and in Greater Kampala. How do you expect to attract a full house at Lugogo, Wankulukuku and Kitende on the same day?

Going back to the Pitch Marketing Group incident, I believe the UPL would be far if they had hired a marketing agency. As we speak, Pitch Marketing Group has just negotiated a four-year £6.7bn television deal for the Premier League. Meanwhile, UPL is still choking on a 10-year $7m broadcast deal.

So, it is clear that after almost 10 years of having the same individuals sitting on the UPL board, they no longer have the vigor or creativity to lift the ratings of the league. It is doing the same thing, and expecting different results. Even for the World Cup, which is known virtually by every person in the world old enough to know football, Fifa partners marketing firms to hype it up.

It’s also the very reason popular companies like Coca-Cola, MTN and Nile Breweries, among others, are always in our faces telling us the obvious. Unknown to many, a great part of their budgets go into marketing yet when it comes to football, Fufa and UPL spend a big portion on workshops. UPL and Fufa can pick a leaf from Pitch Marketing Group.

The author is SC Villa president emeritus

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