2 January 2018

Kenya: Gor, AFC to Pull Out of CAF Competitions

Nairobi — Following the cancellation of all local sports sponsorship by betting firm SportPesa, Kenya's representatives at the 2018 CAF assignments, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards have hinted they will withdraw from the competition due to financial constraints.

On Tuesday, the betting firm dropped the bombshell after losing a case last week in the country's High Court challenging the implementation of a 35 percent Government tax on revenue that came in force on Monday.

Gor Mahia chairman Ambrose Rachier, said they would hold a crisis meeting later Tuesday where they would write to continental body, CAF, stating their withdrawal from the 2018 African Champions League.

"A one-way air ticket is costing Sh3.5m, accommodation, Sh3m and we will need Sh10m for one match, to and from and we cannot sustain that budget," Rachier said after the announcement of withdrawal.

"Our gate collections are not enough to cater for that expense and also pay players and technical bench, we are in dilemma. This is tantamount to killing football in the country. No Kenyan club is going to successfully stay in the 2018 KPL," Rachier lamented.

His Leopards counterpart, Dan Mule, also said his team who won the 2017 GOtv Shield will follow suit and pull out from the 2018 CAF Confederations Cup.

"We have no sponsors right now. We are going to withdraw from CAF assignments. We are urging other like-minded corporates to emulate SportPesa and support community clubs in Kenya. I don't know how we will pay the 10 international players we have signed ahead of the season," Mule told.

Besides Gor and Leopards, other organisations staring at a bleak future include Football Kenya Federation, Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) and the Boxing Association of Kenya are the federations affected by the move to terminate their biggest source of funding.

SportPesa was also catering for the bulk of the pay for newly hired national football team head coach, Belgian Paul Put and Technical Director, Andreas Spiers from Germany.

The Kenyan Premier League (football), National Boxing League as well as the annual Super 8 grassroots football tournament are the domestic competitions that will be affected by the move.

"The cancellation of this contract forces us to completely re-examine our structures and we immediately call upon the government to step into the breach and provide the necessary support as guided by the Sports Act," KRU said in a statement.

"Our 2018 calendar includes the Rugby Africa Championships for our U20s in April, Lionesses participation at the HSBC Women's Sevens World Series qualifiers in Hong Kong and as well as the Commonwealth Games, and the Women's Africa Cup 7s in September," KRU added.

Second division side; Nakuru AllStars FC and Kenya Harlequins (Rugby) are the other teams lost their main sponsors on Tuesday.

World Boxing Council women's Super-bantamweight champion, Fatuma Zarika, local rally driver, Leonardo Varese and a number of grassroot tournaments are others affected by the drastic move.

"This tax is on revenue before we pay the other tax, SportPesa we are here to stay and we will try to be efficient and unfortunately, we have to drop sponsorships," Karauri emphasised.

Karauri who is also the Association of Gaming Operators in Kenya, called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to initiate dialogue to resolve the standoff pledging SportPesa would make a swift return to sports if an amicable solution is found.

"No one has called me to come and talk, request the President to sit down with me as the chairman of the AGOK so that we come to a solution. I remain optimistic but our attempts at dialogue have not been fruitful.

"We will appeal the case since it was grounded on equity and fairness in taxation. You can only be optimistic for so long, we cannot shoulder the burden and keep our employees and business running. We will be very limited in what we can do," the CEO noted.

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