Kenya: Transfer Fee for Women Is Pitiable

19 November 2020

The relentless immiserating in the local women's top-flight league was once more laid bare this week as the 10-week transfer window swung shut.

To nobody's surprise, the transfer period was characterised by little activity, with most clubs being forced to acquire secondary school players for cheap due to the cash crunch currently being experienced in the women's league.

Multiple champions Thika Queens managed to rope in only two players, while reigning champions Vihiga Queens acquired three. That's as exciting as it gets. The federation is yet to make the entire list of transfer season public, but expect no record fees when they do. History has it that the figures involved are often so insignificant that they just never get disclosed.

As I was scouring around for news on the transfer period, I remembered a casual conversation I once overheard from a female coach of one of the women's top-flight teams. They were sharing disturbing stories about local women footballers joining new teams for as cheap as Sh21,000... which is paid in kind!

The woman talked of teams buying players using football equipment such as balls, bibs, cones and other football necessities, as opposed to the normal way of using money and paying agent fees.

Because it is foolhardy and unrealistic to expect a sponsorless team like Makolanders FC to pay Sh300,000 as sign on fees because they simply don't have it, many clubs usually enter a mutual agreement where the selling team asks for a number of balls (usually five), a few sets of cones and some bibs. If you do the math using normal rates, it means that a Kenya Women Premier League (KWPL) player is valued at as little as Sh20,000!

To add salt to injury, most player contracts are usually crafted on one-year basis, which opens a leeway for the players to migrate en masse as free agents at the end of the season since none of the clubs offer any salary worth talking of. The result is that many women with a passion for sports abandon their talents and focus on more rewarding activities.

A look at the first ever football world governing body Fifa report containing official information on international transfers of female professional players released in 2018 shows that transfer fees grew by 16.3 per cent in 2019, with the total spent coming to about Sh65 million.

That is how far we are as a country and as a continent. Although it seems there is growth of player transfers, especially in the West, these figures serve to remind us of how gigantic the battle of achieving equality in the women's game is.

It is also a reminder that the financial aspect is one of the biggest problems in women's football. Who will save us?

Thankfully, more and more Kenyan players have attracted interest abroad. This silver lining offers hope that in the near future, local female footballers will flex more muscle and create a buzz (financially) in the transfer market.

With all my heart, I long for that day.

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