The 2015-16 Azam Uganda Premier League (AUPL) season concluded on Friday 28th May 2016. The highlights were; KCCA FC winning its eleventh league title, U.R.A FC striker Robert Sentongo was the top scorer with 18 league goals, Sports Club Victoria University, Simba FC plus Maroons FC were relegated and that’s all, YES YOU READ IT RIGHT, that’s all that happened.
Sports journalists, UPL administrators and competitions committee officials at FUFA will give you a list of more highlights including another one that KCCA FC won just three of their last eight games before clinching the title with a 1-1 draw against cross-city rivals Express FC (championship winning form in a non-competitive league)
To an ordinary football fan in Uganda, getting to know the champion, relegated teams, and KCCA’s form before winning the league title would be news, one out of 20,000 football fans in Uganda would be able to tell the three mentioned highlights.
That the AUPL lacks competitiveness is not news anymore, without competitiveness it’s very hard for the media to have good stories to report about Ugandan football, without good media coverage it’s very hard to attract fans into the stadiums, without fans clubs cant have good sources of revenue, without good revenue for clubs there’s no money, that’s the cycle and story of the AUPL.
16 TEAMS IS A CROWD FOR A LEAGUE THAT’S STRUGGLING WITH LOW-QUALITY FOOTBALL
The standard of our football is still very low. What is the justification for having sixteen teams in our league? The number of teams in the AUPL should be gradually reduced from 16 to 12 teams. With fewer teams in a league, the sporting gap between teams is reduced, this increases competitiveness,
The Scottish Premiership has an incredibly creative 12 team league system designed to make it very competitive and at the same time increase the number of games played (just in case you were worried at the number of games played in a 12 team league).
These twelve teams play each opponent three times to make 33 games then after that part the league gets split into half, the top six teams compete for the trophy in a championship league while the bottom six clubs fight to avoid relegation by playing a further five games.
By the end of the league, its 38 games played. How competitive is it to make it into the top six? Does it make the SPL competitive? Definitely yes, because there’s a lot more to play for.
Vipers and KCCA FC battled for the AUPL title until it was decided on matchday 29. Those two teams will confess to the league’s competitiveness because they had something to play for but I wonder what JMC Hippos, Lweza FC, Bright Stars, Soana FC, Police FC, Sadolin FC and Bul FC (yes, those are the teams we have in the AUPL) had to play for the moment they realized that they couldn’t be relegated.
I can also imagine what they would have to play for if the AUPL had a top eight tournament, a cash prize breakdown based on merit or any other creative idea designed to make the league competitive.
WHAT DO CLUBS COMPETE FOR IN THE AUPL?
Imagine going for a 100-meter race against Usain Bolt and a samurai wrestler. Before the start of the race you all get paid a flat appearance fee of 100,000 United States Dollars, the only thing on your mind would be not to finish last then go home and enjoy your earnings. Would the race be competitive?
That is the exact setting of the AUPL, at the start of the season each team is guaranteed to earn 50 million Uganda shillings from league broadcasters Azam Television and that’s it.
The English Premier League prize payment breakdown is very creative, it brings out the most competitive edge in each team. 50% of the sponsorship fee is equally shared among all 20 teams, then 25% is paid on a merit basis. This is the best part because clubs are paid according to league position. 25% merit money starts with £1.23 million for the 20th placed club then increases by £1.23 million for every position all the way to top where champions will get £24.7 million.
If a team in the ninth position (earning 19,918,368) had a chance to win its last three games to leapfrog into 5th position (to earn 21,968,793), that would be an extra £4.92 million. Would a club compete for that? What a stupid question to ask. Is there a difference between a team finishing 9th and 5th in the AUPL?
Would a club in the AUPL fight hard to leapfrog from the 9th to 5th position? You don’t have to answer those two questions but now you get an idea why our league is not competitive, why most of the 240 games in the AUPL season are played for pride which makes the AUPL very vulnerable to match-fixing.
16 teams should have more than a league trophy and relegation to play for, UPL should be creative so that every team has something to play for.
FUFA HAS LED THE WAY WITH FJL, AUPL CAN DO FAR MUCH BETTER
Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA) made the FUFA Juniors’ League (FJL) very competitive by coming with up with a very simple idea that every team that scores more than two goals earns an extra point for each extra goal scored. This simple but creative decision ensured that every game played in the FJL had a lot at stake.
The SportPesa Kenya Premier League with its Top Eight tournament, the UEFA Champions League cash prize breakdown system, the Belgian Jupiler League and the Premier Soccer League of South Africa with its Q-innovative system are all examples of how creative ideas can make a league very competitive.
2015-16 AUPL champions, KCCA FC will represent Uganda in the 2017 CAF Champions League, they’ll find it very competitive yet they haven’t been prepared for that level of competitiveness because of a less competitive league. UPL usually helps teams that have continental engagements by postponing league fixtures but the REAL HELP should come in the form of being creative to make UPL competitive. It’s only then that KCCA FC and future UPL champions will be able to qualify for the group stage of the CAF champions’ league, which pays a lot.
With higher levels of competitiveness, you get better players, with better players you get quality matches which increases the number of fans in stadiums. With more fans in stadiums, clubs would make more money from gate collections and be able to attract sponsors to earn more revenue. The cycle gets bigger and better.
League organizers all over the world constantly meet to review how to make their respective leagues more competitive. Football fans usually discuss ideas like head to head, play-offs, Europa league winner qualifying for champions league e.t.c All these twists are meant to make the league/tournament more competitive. UPL C.E.O Benard Bainamani and his board have the power to make the AUPL competitive through implementing creative ideas.
Challenges are solved through creativity which in turn pays a lot.
A competitive league markets itself to sponsors. Football can’t attract money at the start BUT through creative decisions, we can generate revenue that would be needed to develop Ugandan football in the long run. UPL as a major stakeholder in Ugandan football has the power in their creative minds to change and develop Ugandan Football.