East African Premier league is inevitable

All over my travels in East Africa, I found the Kagame Cup was the talk of the town, and not just the woeful incidents at the APR-Mazembe match. It was a rare chance to see the region’s best teams battle for supremacy and many fans said that it made them wish for an East African league.

All over my travels in East Africa, I found the Kagame Cup was the talk of the town, and not just the woeful incidents at the APR-Mazembe match.

It was a rare chance to see the region’s best teams battle for supremacy and many fans said that it made them wish for an East African league.

The level of football has fallen badly in recent years in our region, the mega-clubs have died away, fans have left in droves, and sponsors run a show with no-one to advertise to.

The story is the same everywhere; SC Villa, Express, KCC, Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, Yanga FC, Simba FC, Rayon, Kiyovu, and the like all have great fan bases but are dying in this modern age. In their place are company teams with no fan bases, for example in Uganda the top two teams are from very unpopular institutions; the Tax-men (URA) and the Police. No fan in their right mind would support them or want tax-payers money to subsidise a PR exercise for government institutions.

All our stadiums are mostly empty except for big games, our fans support English clubs and are totally disconnected from the local game.

Sponsors have so much power that they are not content with having their name on the shirts but they want to name the team, the weakness of our leagues gives them such power.

The Rwandan league after years of prevaricating finally got a sponsor but it might be too late to save it. Looking at the Kagame cup, we might have a solution.

We are integrating economically, our transport networks are improving and it makes sense to integrate our football. Our national federations are imploding; in Uganda, there are two separate FA groupings claiming legitimacy, the same in Kenya and petty in-fighting will only cause more damage.

No wonder fans have switched off and boycotted the game. So the Cecafa club championship is like a moment of sanity in a sea of madness.

It seems that most countries only have capacity for 3-4 decent teams meaning only 6 really competitive games a year, no wonder our regional clubs cannot even sniff the group stages of the African Champions League.

Our markets are not fully developed so they find it hard to find to attract sponsors and advertising but a market with 120 million people would be worth it. More companies are regional now, like MTN is in 3 East African countries with affiliates in all 5 EAC countries, there is room for synergies where they can get more coverage for less.

What fans want is a high level of games, a nationalistic support for club fans like when APR play a foreign team they even have Rayon fans on their side, sometimes anyway.

The logistical obstacles are the biggest problem but this can be overcome with tours, for example coming to Rwanda to play APR, Rayon, Atraco. Then our teams travel to the other countries to play their teams.

The demand is there, we can have the East African league by 2015 if our federations get together but we need someone to own this idea and push it further. If we are to integrate into a federation of states, then our football needs to reflect that. 

Next week we finally talk about a certain football competition in SA.

Ends

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