A lot has been done to develop football in the country by all stakeholders, spearheaded by the Rwandan football governing body, FERWAFA.
But accusations that Rwandan clubs are run unprofessionally continue to cast a dark shadow on Rwandan football.
There is still so much to be done by both FERWAFA and the clubs if the game is to grow from the current stage to another.
Both APR FC and Rayon Sports will represent Rwanda in next year’s CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively, which means they need to be given CAF licenses before they can be accepted to take part—this calls for both to meet CAF’s tough regulations.
The system demands among other things, adapting and improving the clubs’ sporting infrastructure, improving the economic and financial capacity of the clubs through proper corporate governance and control, clear ownership statutes as well as youth development programme.
But the problem is that clubs in Rwanda have a laid back attitude with respect to adjusting to the modern times of football, especially when it comes to infrastructure, youth development and club and player transfers and licensing.
For the non-complaint clubs, this simply means, the development will leave most clubs racing against time as most, if not all, still fall short of CAF’s minimum requirements.
Some of the minimum requirements include promoting and improving the quality and the level of all football aspects in Africa; ensuring that the clubs have the appropriate infrastructure, knowledge and application in respect to management and organization.
Others are adapting and improving the clubs’ sporting infrastructure; improving the economic and financial capacity of the clubs through proper corporate governance and control and to ensure and guarantee the continuity of the international competitions of clubs during the season.
This implies that FERWAFA, as the local football body, would have to be involved in a couple of inspection visits and come out with positive reports before the CAF teams do their own inspections.
However, given the fair share of success and controversies both on and off the pitch in most local clubs, the criterion seems to be a major challenge and a long way to go for our local clubs, for instance the impact in terms of football financial criteria remains to be seen.
Some, if not all of the local clubs, rarely declare accounting records concerning assets, liabilities, equities, revenues and expenses.
Lack of transparency, proper management structures and professionalism in club management is also still a big issue, at times it has led to failure to pay coaches and wages for months.
In January last year, Rayon Sports almost got relegated by FIFA over the unpaid arrears for their former coach Raoul Shungu, but the two parties reached an agreement that the Congolese tactician would be paid his money in installments.
As for APR, whereas they are the most successful and ‘wealthiest’ football club in Rwanda, having won the national league a record 16 times in 22 years, their major setback is that they lack their own stadium.
That said, even other local clubs have not defined their gravity when it comes to long term investments in stadiums.
The issue of ownership structures should be clear for instance, in the clubs’ legally binding statutes, rules and regulations and decision making processes. Regulations should not be made by make shift-management structures, which makes it hard to avoid the ever present threat of third party influence.
If Rayon Sports or other clubs like Musanze, Espoir, intend to make it big in the game, they need to have genuine grassroots programmes. SC Kiyovu for instance may be one of the oldest clubs in Rwanda, but it has failed to get its house in order when it comes to management.
Such challenges have not only been a huge blow to the management, players and fans, but the club’s youth programmes, which has resulted in a lack of success whether on or off the field.
It is with these problems in mind that FIFA and CAF have deemed it necessary to emphasize these compliance measures so that they can contribute to stability and the growth of the game through proper corporate governance.
While APR and Rayon Sports may be granted the licence to compete in next year’s CAF competitions, in reality, they fall short on requirements ranging from stadia-infrastructure, player licensing and youth development programmes, among others.
The other good news for Rwandan clubs is that, CAF will assist clubs with a grant to support those that have made an effort to meet 80% of the requirements so that they can continue to improve with time.
As for FERWAFA, they still have a lot to do to make sure clubs are legally established and managed professionally.