In a commendable move, the Ministry of Sports has initiated a process to cushion footballers in the wake of Covid-19 as seen in a call for official contact information of footballers playing in key Kenyan leagues.
While it is not yet clear whether the players will get money transfers or food packages- the move by the Ministry is timely especially bearing in mind the financial struggles most football clubs have been through in recent times.
The ministry, however, can do more than just handing fish to the sector. While the fish is a welcome relief to thousands of players, many are at home bored, unfit and itching to get back to what they love most.
A little support from the government can facilitate a smooth completion of the remaining fixtures, especially in the Kenyan Premier League during this partial lockdown.
At the beginning of April, President Uhuru gave out Sh100million to artists to entertain Kenyans during these tough times through TV, Radio and Internet – some artists have done well since the announcement.
The source of the funds was the Sport, Arts and Social Development Fund. Nobody can deny that sports and football, in particular, is a source of premium entertainment for millions of Kenyans.
With a TV production partner and a broadcast partner already, the Kenyan Premier League has an opportunity to reach millions of Kenyans during this period of staying at home and without the usual competition from other alternative leagues across the world.
Both the corporate CEO and marketing guru who have been reading about the league of the sponsorship proposals and newspapers now are at home and have an opportunity to watch and evaluate the potential return on investment of our game to their business were they to invest in it.
CLUSTER TESTING AND CAMPING
Coronavirus is dangerous and anyone who downplays it does so at their own peril. But being a virus, it is a reality that the world has now moved on to learn how to live with and thrive – at least till a vaccine is discovered. While football is a contact sport and goes against the gospel of social distancing – cluster testing and disciplined self-isolation through camping of Premier League players and such key stakeholders as referees, production crews can significantly minimize chances of infection.
Resuming closed-door games can serve triple functions of introducing the game to masses across Kenya -most of whom have stayed away from the game, resuscitating the hospitality industry as well as giving premium entertainment to Kenyans in these gloomy times.
The players and the key stakeholders needed to pull closed door games will be less than 700 in number. With universities and major hotels closed, affordable accommodation arrangements can be made.
With camping, three games per week is a tough but not an impossible schedule to pull through for clubs- which means that the remaining fixtures will be done in slightly over a month’s time.
With the limited infrastructure that has seen us twice awarded and twice denied opportunities to host CHAN coupled with near-empty stands during matches, no team can solidly claim home advantage if they played home matches away from home.
With a sizeable number of Premier League clubs coming from Nairobi and the Western regions of Kenya, clustering these teams into two and ensuring clubs within these locations face each for their remaining fixtures first can reduce the travel and accommodation costs.
Ruaraka and Kasarani stadium can serve as neutral game venues to minimize movement and maximize on production logistics for Nairobi-based clubs with Kisumu or Kakamega for western-based teams. Ulinzi, Zoo Kericho and Bandari can join either the western or Nairobi clusters.
New Schedules can be planned in such a way that allows maximum number of games to be televised or streamed online to entertain Kenyans.
Covid-19 has left many sectors re-evaluating and reflecting on their models of doing business. Even as we seek solutions to the election impasse at the federation, may this pandemic and the government intervention to cushion footballers, be a challenge to football stakeholders on the need to grow the sport so that the issue at hand could have been how much is Kenyan football giving towards combating covid-19 as is the case in other countries.
Hezbon is a freelance Sports TV producer/director