End of the road?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020 00:00 |
Mathare United players in past league action. Photo/PD/DAVID NDOLO

It is now official that Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League will have 16 teams this season instead of 18.

This after the official suspension of Kericho-based side Zoo FC and one time league champions Mathare United from the top tier for going against the wishes of the local football chiefs and 16 other clubs by refusing to sign an endorsement for a broadcast deal between the federation and StarTimes Kenya Limited.

The two have been excluded from the official league fixtures for the entire season, according to a statement released by the federation secretariat on Sunday afternoon.

FKF during their impromptu National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday last week, decided to suspend the two teams, but gave them two days to change their minds on the endorsement letters, failure to which the suspensions were to be effected.

“Regrettably and despite being given ample time to sign the StarTimes Media and Commercial Rights, following extensive engagements between the federation and the two clubs, both failed to sign the said endorsement as had been directed by the FKF NEC,” FKF chief executive officer Barry Otieno told People Sport.

He added: “Inevitable and for the smooth running of the league, the federation has taken the painful decision to remove the two clubs from the FKF Premier League and revised the leagues 2020/2021 fixtures, to comprise 16 teams.”

Otieno also noted that players of the two teams were now free agents and have been given a window of 14 days for them to look for new employers to continue playing in the league.

“We have given players of Mathare United and Zoo FC until December 28 to be registered by other potential clubs, following the revocation of their registrations with their previous clubs.

Further and in accordance to article 15 (3) of the FKF (2017) constitution, all members are advised not to entertain sporting contact with the suspended members,” Otieno said.

The axe comes in the backdrop of a series of letters from Mathare United lawyers Rachier and Amollo advocates, raising concerns over serious legal issues and emerging questions that required legal clarity and agreement.

“Our client is part of the legal binding commitment and agreement entered into by all the Kenyan Premier League clubs at the KPL Annual General Meeting in 2010 to pool and sell their broadcast rights collectively through the KPL. The said agreement remains in force and is still legally binding on the clubs and their successors.

Therefore, our client needs to be assured that it would not be committing an illegal and possibly fraudulent act by signing an endorsement letter for the recent agreement between FKF and StarTimes on the same broadcast rights which are still owned by KPL and not our client,” read part of the letter written to FKF by Mathare United lawyers.

 It went ahead: “Our client is aware of recent rulings by the Sports Disputes Tribunal (SDT) which need to be clarified as the SDT declared that the mandate of the FKF National Executive Committee (NEC) ended on February 10, 2020, which in the absence of the NEC to provide the necessary approval, imply that when the FKF president unilaterally signed the StarTimes agreement on September 29, 2020, he lacked the legal authority to do so.”

The two clubs are expected to contest the decision to suspend them through the courts, and if they lose the battle, it would be the end of Mathare United’s 26-year old fairy tale that saw them lift the local league title in 2008 and also produce some of the best players in the history of the country’s football.

Zoo had also established itself as the team of choice for football mad Kericho County, but all that could be gone for now.

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