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StarTimes, Fufa labour to explain the meat and bones of league sponsorship

After adding clubs only Shs17 million from the Azam deal, StarTimes, despite a bigger package worth Shs27 billion, cannot allow them get sponsorship from rival pay TV service providers.

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MARITAL WOES | An elephant in a room by all means, legitimate or otherwise, begs an explanation. This is what the situation is like for local football federation, Fufa, when it walked StarTimes Uganda into Fufa House in Mengo with much ceremony.

In a ten-year billion-shillings deal, Fufa and StarTimes Uganda last month exchanged diamond encrusted rings and said ‘I do’ as clubs and soccer fans cheered the union.

However, like all such unions, the backstory that culminated in the marriage proposal usually begin to show and when they do, queries arise.

The StarTimes league sponsored deal is not any different and on Wednesday, its vice president in charge of marketing and branding Aldrine Nsubuga, and publicist Christine Nagujja Kikomeko, and Premier League chief executive Bernard Bainamani, Fufa marketing committee chairman Rogers Byamukama and Fufa Super League (FSLL) board member Humphrey Mandu sat in front of a packed media hall at Namboole to try and make sense of the newly-signed deal.

The Chinese company purchased the broadcast and title rights of the league for the next ten seasons at a price of $7.24 million that is about Shs26.7 billion going by the current dollar rate. Some $600,000 will be given per year for the next four seasons before increasing to $730, 000.

Despite the fact that the meeting lasted way past the planned one-and-half hours, the three parties kept taking the newsmen though a game of snakes and ladders regarding the exact amount each club is expected to earn.

Finally, UPL CEO Bainamani closed the chapter by stating that the “details of how who gets what will be revealed later; we are still discussing.”

During the previous sponsorship like that of Azam, clubs received only 45% of the total package (Shs1.81 billion), Fufa got 10% (Shs176 million), referees 16% (Shs281.6 million), agents 8% (Shs146 million) and secretariat retained 21% (Shs389 million).

However, a reliable source has intimated to C24 Sport that there was a heated exchange at the same venue a day before between the club chairmen on one side and the FSLL and UPL CEO on the other.

That the board told the chairmen each of their clubs would get a uniform figure amounting to Shs67 million, an addition of Shs17 million from the Azam deal.

“We were surprised to hear that clubs will be getting only Shs67 million! This is very little and worst is they have sold both the title and broadcast rights without even consulting us,” one of the participants of that meeting told us on condition of anonymity for obvious reasons.

What’s in the deal?

For the ten years, the league will be called the StarTimes Uganda Premier League. They will be the sole broadcasters and any other media house that wants to use any content must officially approach the company for content and permission.

That –unlike the Azam deal–no club will be allowed to get a sponsor who is a direct competitor of StarTimes. This will affect Onduparaka and Express FC who, according to our sources, were close to sealing deals with Azam and DStv respectively.

Express FC would be extending its deal, but StarTimes maintains that once Fufa and clubs signed allowing the Chinese pay television the rights, no other club will be allowed to sign with a rival pay TV going forward.

The deal means only sponsorship prior to the entrance of StarTimes will stand and when they expire, they cannot be extended until after ten years of StarTimes marital bliss with Fufa.

“The details of the deal are even worse: they are restricting some companies from sponsoring clubs yet we have been engaging in talks for long,” another member from one of the two clubs mourned.

Nsubuga lashed back at those claiming the money is little, saying StarTimes is not (directly)sponsoring any clubs.

“We are not sponsoring Uganda Premier League clubs. So, the clubs still maintain their commercial rights. That is to say they can sell their rights to anyone willing to buy. It is therefore wrong for anyone to state that StarTimes is giving clubs very little money. StarTimes has not given any club any money,” Nsubuga told the media.

He added: “However, we have an exclusivity clause in our contract; that a club will not be sponsored by any company who is our direct competitor.”

In a lay man’s language, this means that the additional Shs17 million triggered that clause.

Nsubuga further confirmed the rumours that they will only televise games from only three venues; Lugogo, St. Mary’s Kitende and Namboole. This irked the chairmen further.

“We understand the challenges we have in the country but clubs have been trying to improve the facilities and that’s why Azam has traversed every pitch. They were also beaming games on an international platform.

“If you give me Shs67 million and ask me to look for another sponsor other than your competitor and again limit my coverage, what do you mean? How will I convince a local company to bring in money when he doesn’t see the visibility? No home games!” the club chairman added.

The StarTimes boss cautioned the UPL that they will not tolerate fixture changes. That any changes on the fixture, for whatsoever reason, should be communicated 30 days before.

Nsubuga also revealed that the games will be aired live on Sanyuka TV, which will be transformed to a 24/7 sports platform.

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