OPINION: FIFA Ban Spells Doom for Kenya
The story of elections in Kenya has always borne stormy times and the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) polls have not been spared either. Initially scheduled for October 2019, the elections are not yet concluded and now there’s a looming showdown, with a FIFA ban a big possibility.
Twice, the Sports Disputes Tribunal (SDT), operating under the auspices of the Kenyan judicial system, nullified FKF elections and the turning point was when world football governing body FIFA rejected the tribunal’s recommendation to form a Normalization Committee to run Kenyan football.
FIFA also went on to reinstate the federation’s National Executive Committee (NEC) which the SDT had dissolved after cancelling the FKF elections and explicitly stated that it does not recognize the SDT as a legal entity but only recognizes decisions made by the Swiss based Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
The Kenyan Sports Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador Amina Mohammed on the other hand, had welcomed the SDT ruling that was delivered ten days before the FKF national elections, which were slated for March 27th, setting the stage for a confrontation with FIFA.
Should Kenya reject FIFA’s directive then FIFA will consider it interference by a third party and ban the Kenyan federation on account of that interference, which is in contravention with Article 13, par. 1 and article 17, par. 1 of the FIFA Statutes. Under this regulation, member associations are obliged to manage their affairs independently and with no influence from third parties; failure to heed that leads to a ban.
Just like Kenya as a country subscribes to the regulations of the United Nations (UN) as a member, similarly, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) is bound by the membership dictates of Fifa as its member.
A suspension of the Kenya FA from international football would have far reaching implications on the development of the game in the country.
Among the consequences of a ban, no Kenyan team will be able to compete in international (CAF, FIFA and CECAFA-organized) competitions whether at club level, or in International friendly matches during the period of suspension in accordance with article 14 paragraph 3 of the FIFA Statutes.
The most immediate effect is that Kenya will not be cleared to participate in the upcoming 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifiers. This will mean Kenya misses out of the competition.
The ban will also affect the preparation of all other national teams. The Harambee Starlets have a series of qualification matches in preparation for the upcoming Africa Women Cup of Nations to be held in November in Tunisia starting against Tanzania on April 6th and 12th.
Women football in Kenya has particularly registered massive gains in recent times, with a number of girls securing deals abroad. Annette Kundu, Ruth Ingosi (Lakatamia, Cyprus), Corazon Aquino (Atletico Ouriense), and Essie Akida (Besiktas, Turkey) are among the top players to have gained from international exposure and a FIFA ban will mean they can’t feature for the national team, and will miss the chance to advance their careers. It will also mean no new talents can be scouted, or signed at the pro level.
The other impact a FIFA ban would have on Kenyan football is that the available and prospective sponsors will walk away as they will see no commercial sense with the cessation of football activities.
Over the past year, FKF has been able to secure a number of sponsorship deals which have availed funds to various levels of Kenyan football. Losing all the investment due to a ban will break the back on which Kenyan football is built. It would have a terrible effect on the projects set up by the federation and will affect future plans too.
Betika, sponsoring the second-tier league, Betway handling the FKF Cup, Odibets sponsors of the County leagues, Safaricom pumping funds into the Chapa Dimba youth tournament are among the companies partnering with FKF to keep the when of Kenyan football rolling.
In addition, neither the FKF nor any of its members or officials will benefit from any FIFA or CAF development programmes, courses, training or appointments for continental and international assignments during the suspension period.
In 2019, Kenya managed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) for the first time in 15 years. This was greatly aided by the relative calm which brought about stability in Kenyan football during Nick Mwendwa’s administration’s first term in office after being elected in 2015. Such are gains we need to build on, and it won’t be possible with a ban staring down at us.
It is also under the current administration that the women’s national team, Harambee Starlets made history, qualifying for their maiden Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) finals, in 2016 before dethroning CECAFA Women’s Challenge Cup holders Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Queens at the Chamazi Stadium, Dar es Salaam to lift their first ever regional title last year.
As stakeholders in the game, we should strive to uphold the good practices that will ensure we not only operate within the stipulated regulations but also propagate growth of the game for players’, clubs’, sponsors’ and everyone’s