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Having SportPesa back is good for sporting industry

By Christopher Owuor
Wednesday, January 13th, 2021
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In summary

When word went out that SportPesa were making a comeback to the Kenyan market, the excitement from sports stakeholders, fans and federations was overwhelming.

Light was finally shining at the end of the tunnel but, Alas! what was a fantastic long-awaited return was quickly interrupted by flimsy excuses meant to stop the comeback.

SportPesa has a track record of having invested in the development of local sports leagues and tournaments in Kenya and Tanzania.

In soccer, the betting company was the flagship sponsor of the Kenyan Premier League, Kenya’s domestic top tier club competition, as well as a key sponsor of the Harambee Stars and Harambee Starlets, Kenya’s national men’s and women’s football teams, respectively. 

This partnership saw the introduction of linkages with English clubs Arsenal, Everton, Southampton and Hull City, where the clubs’ management, coaches and players took part in various training programmes and engagements.

The company single handedly revived Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards clubs back to regional glory.

SportPesa also pioneered grassroots football sponsorships through the popular Super 8 League.

In February 2017, a team dubbed the SportPesa All-Stars, selected from the 16 KPL clubs, became the first-ever team from the country to play in England, where they lost 2–1 to a Hull City Select side at the KCOM Stadium.

This partnership was further geared towards exposing Kenyan players to the international stage.

SportPesa’s impact in local sports was also felt in boxing, basketball and motor sports. 

A hostile tax regime and business environment eventually led to the company suspending its operations in October 2019.

In addition to the adverse impact on sports from SportPesa’s exit from Kenya, the Covid-19 pandemic delivered another major blow to our sportsmen and women across all disciplines.

The company’s return has continued to suffer setbacks after the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) summoned new Sportpesa owner, Milestone Games Limited, to explain why the firm’s license should not be cancelled or varied. A case now in court.

Most recently there was an attempt by the regulator to discredit the company’s jackpots offering.

Another attempt to discredit the firms long standing credibility in the industry. 

Common sense would dictate that every support to the ailing sports sector would be pursued and investors encouraged to participate in its revival but unfortunately what we are witnessing is the exact opposite.

It is shocking that as the government is struggling with the economy, the pandemic and youth unemployment, there are people within the same government undermining genuine efforts to finding solutions for the country. 

Victimising private companies and frustrating investors for no good reason must not be allowed lest we destroy the economy beyond repair.

BCLB, Kenya Revenue Authority and other government agencies must be looking for ways of increasing revenue to the exchequer by promoting private enterprise and not the opposite.

Given SportPesa’s track record in supporting local sports, it is time the witch-hunt stopped and the company be encouraged to bring back its sponsorship prowess while contributing to the economy as a responsible citizen. Give SportPesa a break! — The writer is a communication specialist

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