Why Gor Mahia have one eye on league title
Gor Mahia Kenneth Muguna celebrates a goal against Nzoia FC in a KPL match at Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Homeboyz boss against cancelling the league, wants play-offs to determine title winners.

Opinion is divided on what will happen should the 2019-2020 Kenyan Premier League season end prematurely due to coronavirus crisis.

Whether the league is concluded as it stands, or it is abandoned altogether after the government announced a one-month widespread suspension of public gatherings last Friday as a precautionary measure against the virus, it will be difficult to please everyone.

While Football Kenya Federation (FKF) are already mooting using the current league standings to declare both the champions and teams to be relegated, the league organisers (KPL) have stressed that they will not rush a decision over how this season will end.

But even as the two football bodies continue seeking other alternatives including staging play-offs, any decision to conclude the season prematurely would definitely be met with huge controversy.  

KPL adhered to government’s directive on banning public gatherings last week by postponing the next two rounds of league matches (March 18-19 and 21-28) throwing the season’s conclusion into doubt as they continue to monitor the situation.

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And with less than 10 matches to go, record champions Gor Mahia are seven points ahead of Kakamega Homeboyz (47) having played a game more and remain favourites to clinch their fourth consecutive title.

Tusker are third on the log with 46 points and with a game in hand, while at the bottom, Kisumu AllStars are tied on nine points with 17th placed Chemelil Sugar. The league is supposed to end on May 23.

This means, that if the league is cancelled, Chemelil will join already relegated Sony Sugar in National Super League (NSL) next season, while AllStars will battle with third-place finisher in NSL in the promotion/relegation play-offs.

Though the federation will still consider all the available options, FKF CEO Barry Otieno says they are likely to use the current KPL standings to determine the league winners, if the coronavirus pandemic persists.

“There is a possibility that we could use the current Kenyan Premier League standings to determine the champions.  But this is not the definite position because we are still deliberating and we don’t know how long it will take for the coronavirus to be contained,” Otieno told Standard Sports.

“We are still engaging the government as we monitor the situation because this is a global problem. But in case it will not be remedied in the foreseeable future and because CAF will need us to submit a name for next season’s Champions League competition, we will have no option but to use the current KPL standings to make that decision.”

Asked about the FKF Betway Cup, whose committee is set to meet today to decide the fate of Gor Mahia, KCB and Bandari, who skipped last weekend’s round of 16 matches, Otieno said:

“For Betway Cup, it has to be played to its conclusion because we don’t have an alternative to choose the team to represent the country in the Confederation Cup. We are engaging the government and all those involved to ensure the Cup comes to its conclusion to the best interest of all stakeholders.”

But for KPL CEO Jack Oguda, they will only make the decision on the league after getting the green light from the government.

“It is our hope that the league will come to its inclusion but this depends on the state of the coronavirus as updated by the government. The league might stretch and then force teams to have a short preseason. Those are some of the possibilities,” said Oguda.

“Even CAF and Fifa have said they will have to monitor the situation closely and there could be a change in calendar. That’s why as KPL, we are not in a rush to make a decision and we will make so after getting a directive from the government.”

Kakamega Homeboyz chairman Cleophas Shimanyula differed with FKF CEO’s opinion to award Gor Mahia the title.

“As far as I’m concerned, if this coronavirus persists, then we should have a play-off between the top two teams in a neutral ground. I think this will be a fair decision to determine the champion because this title race is too close to call,” said Shimanyula.

However, for Tusker chairman Daniel Aduda, FKF and KPL should borrow a leaf from European league’s rule book.

“This coronavirus is beyond our control but if push comes to shove and we are forced to end the league prematurely then we should take a leaf from the other developed league’s rule book. Let’s go with the best practice in the world,” said Aduda.

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