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Uganda’s Football Shs10bn TV Deal A Scam Or The Next Big Thing?

Tongues have been twisted with the new broadcast deal that effectively locked out Azam TV out of Uganda’s football at least until December 2022.

FUFA sanctioned the USD3, 000,000 (Shs10bn) deal that will see Sports Broadcasting Limited the official broadcasters of the Uganda Premier League (UPL), the Big League and the Uganda Cup.

What we know is that Sports Broadcasting is going to be a sports content provider and does not own any television channel although so much is likely to change between now and the time the new league season kicks off in September.

According to the company’s Managing Director Dennis Mbidde, who has been at the heart of every broadcast deal in Uganda’s league football since GTV to SuperSport, the deal is a great opportunity.

He said during the launch that a sports only television is on its way. He asserted that the opportunities will not be limited to football but the entire sports spectrum. He was indeed reading from a familiar script that current FUFA President Moses Magogo had with his sports only TV, PearlSporto, which was born, lived and died in just 16 months.

Mbidde hinted that the company has already worked on importing an outside broadcast van to be able to broadcast the games and be able to produce sports content.

How Sports Broadcasting was born?

Sports Broadcasting Ltd is a company jointly owned by Brutus Kagingo and Warren Namara and as well as a Dutch partner. These businessmen are the owners of Prime Media, who have most of the branding contracts of Kampala Capital city Authority (KCCA).

When Azam TV became reluctant of renewing its contract with the UPL as clubs demanded an improved offer, it became evident that negotiations were headed for dead-end as football-mad competitors StarTimes made a bid of their own. From the USD500,000 that Azam offered, insiders intimate that they were only willing to add USD60,000 and surrender the naming rights.

Because of frosty relations between StarTimes vice president, Aldrine Nsubuga and Magogo, the deal could hardly progress. This is when a new company was registered with Mbidde, a man who is privy to all Mengo affairs being fronted as the Managing Director.

In fact, StarTimes will most likely offer Sports Broadcasting the much needed TV channel through Mbidde who is now the middleman. The two worked tirelessly under Lawrence Mulindwa to bring GTV and SuperSport. Whereas Nsubuga, a critic of Mengo politics opted to portray Magogo as a hungry monster, Mbidde carefully caressed Uganda’s football boss. He even went ahead to break ties with Ben Misagga at SC Villa to keep his vice presidency role. Misagga was reportedly unhappy with how the clubs were being undermined.

Why UPL Clubs are bitter

One could say that clubs sold their soul to the devil. The UPL board, according to their CEO, Bernard Bainamani, is mandated to run business on behalf of clubs without even consulting them.

“In corporate governance, we can only report to them about the decisions we have taken. You cannot consult 16 teams and don’t expect the deal to fall through,” Bainamani said.

“But overall I think this deal is good for the clubs,” he added.

According to the breakdown, the UPL will get USD600,000, the Big League an unprecedented USD80,000 while the Uganda Cup will also take a share of USD70,000.

But clubs remain bitter that they were left out of negotiations that directly affect them with the past problems of unfair commissions to middlemen and FUFA the most prominent.

Their voice may never be heard after they were neutralized with the representation of Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, who is still learning how football and its politics work. But even then, Magogo warned anyone who risks to start war.

Where will the money come from?

It remains questionable how Sports Broadcasting can manage to pull off this deal. But football is never short of opportunities especially if you are in the good books of FUFA.

Azam TV has been minting money from CAF and FIFA for filming national team games. It is estimated that CAF through TV5, who own the broadcast rights, have been giving out up to USD60,000 per game for filming the national team games while FIFA gives in excess of USD100,000. These deals should now by default be in Sports Broadcasting’s coffers.

On top of that, Mbidde is a proven marketer. When he brought SuperSport, he enticed partners like Uganda Breweries and EcoBank in. The cast could be different this time, but the script will surely be the same. With Airtel stretched with over Shs10bn commitments to the national team, the obvious target could be MTN to take up the vacant naming rights of the league. Nile Breweries is also in good working relationships with FUFA and they could join the new venture. Uganda Breweries were left wounded in the past deal with the prize of the car for the MVP getting to the winner from Mbidde via court threats.

The opportunity

TV offers clubs an opportunity to get their own sponsors instead of looking at the money that will come from the UPL. KCCA FC has harnessed this opportunity well. On top of StarTimes, they have Prime Media and MTN as sponsors. Onduparaka too has made great strides in acquiring money from Betway and MTN.

The clubs can grow their outlook and seek partners willing to harness into the power of sport.

“Clubs are not restricted in getting their own sponsors. We only sold the broadcast rights and they can look for several other products to sell,” Bainamani reasoned.

From whichever angle one looks at this deal, if it works, the opportunities abound. If it doesn’t, it will be marked off as another white elephant following the defunct Sports TV and Pearl Sporto.

But the principle of successful business is all about proper timing and speculation.

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