In February 2019, an image of the 1995 Uganda league table was shared on social media. In this image, the league had 15 teams, 11 of the 15 clubs were institutional teams.
Back then, institutions injected funds into football because they had the capacity to pay salaries and handle other costs that come with playing the league.
These institutions must have relied on tax payer’s money, something you can’t rely on upon forever to fund football.
Fast forward to 2019, only KCCA FC among the 11 institutional clubs that played in the 1995 league is still active.
Considering that Uganda’s budget was generally funded by donors and some taxes (I stand to be corrected) they were sane enough to ensure that money allocated from the budget doesn’t end up as recurring expenses in football.
The other 10 clubs have since closed shop because they didn’t have funds to operate a football club in the league.
The 2018-19 UPL season had seven institutional clubs. Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Police, Maroons, Ndejje University, Kirinya Jinja SS, Bidco (BUL) and Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) in addition to those clubs in the top flight, Plascon, Army (UPDF) and Water FC are other institution teams in the second-tier league.
It’s shocking that 10 institutions exited football years ago but a separate group of institutional clubs are still active in football. Have they researched why the other institutions exited?
Institutions had the funds to operate football clubs because government expenditure wasn’t monitored and football was amateur. Let me stick to the amateur football explanation for the rest of the article.
Amateur football doesn’t care how much revenue you make, all you need is to show up and play. The organization is basic too, all you need is a committee of volunteers earning allowances to do whatever has to be done.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
Football is now professional, not fully in Uganda but at least it’s starting to paint the picture of being professional.
Professionalism comes with its demands. You have to EMPLOY the RIGHT people; you need a corporate governance module to ensure self-sustainability and the other basics that come with being professional.
In football, the challenges of being professional are much more demanding because a club is expected to spend according to how much money it makes from football-related activities.
KCCA FC has done very well to start its journey to self-sustainability, they have employed the right people and managed to attract sponsorship that funds almost 60% of the club’s budget.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER INSTITUTIONAL CLUBS?
As football in Uganda continues on the journey to professionalism, the other institutional clubs will drop out of football because they have struggled to do the basics of football management.
Starting with employing the right people that work full time to make the club professional.
On matchday 30 of the 2018-19 Uganda Premier League (UPL) season, KCCA FC hosted Maroons FC on coronation day (trophy ceremony), KCCA FC had to give Maroons FC playing shorts to use (let that sink in).
Maroons will give you reasons for borrowing a playing kit from KCCA FC but no sane mind would entertain that excuse.
There are plenty of examples in which institution clubs have struggled to show the kind of organization expected out of them. When Police FC hosted Paidha Black Angels (PBA) at Lugogo, the match was stopped at a certain point after a PBA fan threw objects at the assistant referee, officially the stop was recorded as a water break while the offender was dealt with swiftly. Is that security lacking at a Police match or a case of the offender being daring?
URA FC is working on employees wearing jerseys as a sign to support the club but by the time a person joins URA as an employee at an average age of 25, good luck turning them into supporters.
Police FC had merchandise to sell for the 2018-19 UPL season, on inquiry, a customer needed to move to Naguru to buy a Police FC branded cup/flask.
Was it possible to have those cups available in every police post to make it easier for buyers? I am not a marketing expert but neither am I moving to Naguru for a flask I can easily get next door.
In the 2017-18 UPL season, Stanbic Bank donated (lack of a better word) money to support Maroons then for the 2018-19 season, Centenary bank donated money to support Police FC.
Those two banks don’t appear on playing kits. Have those two clubs attempted to find out why a corporate company is willing to give them money but not appear on their jerseys?
SOLUTIONS FOR INSTITUTIONAL CLUBS
KCCA FC is able to attract sponsorship revenue because they have a combination of pedigree, fan base and organized at the moment. Apart from the name, they have tried to be independent of their mother body.
URA, Police, Ndejje University, Kirinya Jinja SS and the rest can attract sponsorship revenue by changing football team names.
Let’s use an example of URA FC since they already have land in Naggalama (I had better be right on that).
If URA FC renamed to Mapenzi FC, URA would be the owners of Mapenzi FC operating as an independent company, the club would initially benefit from being funded by owners to set up a stadium in Naggalama.
The residents would identify with the club and start supporting it, more supporters would increase revenue from matchday, commercial activities like selling club merchandise and TV rights which would attract sponsors.
How long would it take for Mapenzi FC to break even?
Why shouldn’t URA FC use Naggalama FC as a name? Using Naggalama FC would have restricted URA to one area yet URA has a nationwide presence.
When URA stops funding Mapenzi FC, the funds can be used to set up grassroots structures across the country.
Imagine having a Mapenzi FC grassroots structure in every region of Uganda. Mapenzi would have achieved in having first sight on talent that can go on to play for the club and generate money when transferred secondly, Mapenzi FC would have extended its footprint across the country to attract supporters (more revenue) when they are still young (then it will be possible to make an employee proudly wear a Mapenzi FC jersey).
DO INSTITUTIONAL CLUBS HAVE ROLE MODELS?
My example of what URA FC and other institutional clubs need to do by changing names might be coming from an amateur that lacks an informed opinion.
I suggest they benchmark CSKA Moscow in Russia because it’s owned by the army.
I am sure Police, UPDF, URA, Maroons and the rest can easily afford a trip to Moscow.
Disclaimer: The writer doesn’t have anything against institutional football clubs, all examples were used in good faith.