FOOTBALL | Express FC revival continued Tuesday with the unveiling of a Shs400 million deal that club chairman Kiryowa Kiwanuka termed as a ‘partnership rather than sponsorship.’
Kiryowa took over as chairman at Wankulukuku to continue the legacy of the club his grandfather founded in 1959 and, in the three months, the club has seen remarkable changes.
The club has since signed partnerships with Uganda Breweries Ltd, Buganda Land Board, and Equity Bank. While these ties were in other sectors of the club management, the Betway deal comes as a shirt sponsor, the missing chink in the FC armour.
The lottery giants, with global presence and ties with some major European clubs like AS Roma (Serie A) and West Ham United (English Premiership) has agreed a Shs400 million a year deal for the next three years.
“The sponsorship package that Betway has extended to Express FC will go a long way in ensuring the footballing success of the club. With Betway’s continued support, we look forward to shared Express FC footballing glory,” Kiryowa said.
“I do not use the term ‘sponsors,’ at Express FC, we welcome partnerships which build a strong family. Express FC is a way of life. Express FC is for the heart. Today, Betway you have become our marriage partner. This is a brotherhood we intend to embrace on the principle of strong partnerships, build and mutual development,” he added.
The Express-Betway sponsorship deal also answers StarTimes Uganda vice-president and brands and marketing manager Aldrine Nsubuga Snr, who sensationally called out the Wankulukuku side for lacking brand identity and recognition ‘good enough to attract sponsorship.’
On November 20, 2015, days after StarTimes had announced major shirt deals with KCCA FC and SC Villa, Nsubuga posted on his Facebook wall explaining why the pay television firm had ‘snubbed’ Express — the only other team in the VEK umbrella.
“For the past week, I have been bombarded with questions, requests and appeals from Express leaning fans, officials… to add them onto our sponsor mission. Express FC is not structured as a club but as a team,” he said.
“When is the last time they held an elective fans meeting or AGM? Who chooses their leadership? Who is their leadership? What is their address? What is their image or brand reputation? (They take pride in hooliganism). What happened to their fans? Where are they? If they have one thing to offer or sale to a sponsor, what would it be? In summary, what is their brand value?”
If anything, the Betway sponsorship is a statement that the club has since answered so many of Nsubuga’s questions but without having to go back and ask for kitty from the TV programme vendors.
The Wankuluku-based said has had a lot of upheavals since Sam Ssimbwa guided them to their last league title in the 2011/12 season, with matters coming to a head last season when they had to rally their nerves on the final day of the league outing to see of Masavu and secure their continued status.
The Red Eagles had retained their status as the only club never to have been relegated, but the future did not like anything and many feared for the worst this season.
However, the club leadership embarked on rebuilding that saw Kiryowa take over the mantle of leadership with a vow to return the glories of past at Wankulukuku.
The seasoned lawyer promised to rid the club of negative image associated with fan hooliganism.
“My promise, and the Executive’s, especially to the fans, was give us a disciplined support base and we shall find the right partners for the club,” he said.
Kiryowa reiterated his leadership’s commitment to good corporate governance, accountability and transparency, working through established structures, discipline and planning as well as continued stakeholder engagement.
Meanwhile, closing his remarks, Kiryowa dared Vipers FC ahead of Wednesday’s league clash at Wankulukuku stadium, saying the champions will know what ‘ndiba yokka’ (strictly football passion) means when they visit.
Vipers lead the 16-team table standings with 14 points from six games but are unbeaten. However, the Red Eagles can still leapfrog the visitors with victory of any kind tomorrow since the two sides have a slim goal difference between them.
Express have 11 points from six games in a table standing that so far has six teams within a shot of the top. KCCA FC, in third position, are due to take on SC Villa at Namboole Stadium hoping to end a run of draws against the struggling record league champions.