The foundation onto which club football in Uganda was built is made of sand and cannot sustain club football any further until we go back to the basics. The football administrators over 4-decades have not analysed the situation to build on what was started by the founders
To understand my frustration, you owe to appreciate the Uganda Super League Formation History. The genesis of club football in Uganda was an idea copied from England by Mr. Balamaze Lwanga (RIP) and Rev Polycarp Kakooza (RIP). The puzzle came from the fact that Uganda had participated in the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 1962 and 1968 both held in Ethiopia without any significant competition for the top prize. Ultimately the intention of starting the Uganda Super League was to create a strong national team with players coming from teams playing throughout the year. The identification of players from the grass roots was going to be easier and systematic. This is as was told to your columnist by the late Balamaze Lwanga in 2008
On the other hand, there were no clubs to form a league so institutions were contacted to form teams and in the far end districts were also convinced to create teams. The 1968 inaugural top flight league comprised of Prisons, Army, Coffee, Express, Jinja, Masaka, Mbarara and Mbale. These were 3 institutions, one club and 4 districts.
There existed an illusion of a football league and it served the purpose as the Uganda Cranes qualified for the final of AFCON 3 times in the 70s with the epitome of 1978 when we lost in the finals to Ghana. I have also heard so many analysts claiming that we go back to the days of Lint, UEB, and Coffee as football teams. Personally I believe this is where the problems of clubs football in Uganda began. We banked on institutions which had the human and financial resource of the organisations to run football clubs yet the clubs did not develop their own structures and facilities. Coffee Marketing Board had the elite human resource, with excellent governance processes, with finances, with the office and training ground facilities but their main business was buying and selling coffee and when the times got tough, it was the football that was “dustbined”. All the history of this club went to ashes and nothing had been built or left of a club.
A professional football club on the other hand, comprises of a business unit whose ownership is clear, with finances, medical setup, stadium, offices, training grounds, youth setup, a sound senior team, a marketing arm, an event management function, a means to recruit and maintain a huge fan following and proper communication strategy to the fans, owners, employee, other football organizations and the entire public. Such an organization cannot be a department of another organization.
Fast forward to the current situation, there are 10 institution and 6 individually owned clubs. Whereas UPDF, Prisons, Uganda Police consider their clubs in USL as a recreation arm of the forces, URA, BIDCO, National Water, Masaka, UTODA, KCC, and Fire Masters are looking at the PR mileage from these clubs for their core businesses. With due respect, Bunamwaya, Proline, Hoima and Victors are just football enthusiasts with the love for the game but still limited by resources and expertise. Left with Express and SC Villa as the only football clubs created for football purposes and it is not by accident that they are most supported clubs in Uganda but with random, unfocused, lacking the know-how and self-centred administrations over years, these clubs have equally been run down from continental giants to relegation survivors with a combined domestic league trophy drought of 23 years.
In the current status quo, the USL club officials are a cocktail of Institution staff and “hang-arounds” holding out as club officials, club owners, club coaches, etc and this mixture do not hold the same agenda and consequently can never forge into the same direction. How representative is Lt. Tom Lwanga of Simba on matters of the club when decisions about the budget to run the club are done at another level? Will Kitandwe deliberate on cardinal issues of Bunamwaya without consultation? Mwebaze Asaph, Oyet Julius and sometimes Charles Ayeikho have represented their respective clubs. Do not get me wrong, these guys have done a huge role to feel the gap but that is how far it can go.
I would imagine if the club owners forum had Brigadier Adda (Simba), Allen Kaginna (URA), Kale Kaihura, Lawrence
Mulindwa (Bunamwaya), Mujib Kasule (Proline), Katongole (UTODA), Jennifer Musisi or is it Lukwago (KCC), Col Bell (Victors) etc then real clubs business would be discussed. The challenge is that the institution clubs de-facto heads have no time for this kind of business and do not even appreciate this as one of their roles. This has benefitted the delegated persons to offer voting numbers required by at the whelm of USL, without the consent of clubs de-facto heads, in exchange of their petty personal satisfactions
The way forward is to go back to the basics and create real football clubs. We need to properly address the ownership issues. Let the institutions move into owning companies called football clubs. Let the institutions, owners, name boards of directors who shall be tasked to pave for long term development of clubs with 10-20 years goals of creating self-sustaining entities.
There must be a clear separation of roles of the owners, the employees (technocrats) and the customers (fans). There is no longer room for clubs owners to take over roles of the board and eventually the management. Uganda Police Force as the Owners of Uganda Police FC Ltd, need to appoint a board which may include other people from outside the Police Force. The Board shall be required to hire a CEO and Staff (full time and professional) to conduct the day-to-day business of the club
Without laying strategies of fans development, there is practically nothing that will evolve on its own. Football income comes from fans. The Value of Media Rights, Sponsorships is directly proportional to the fan following. Gate collection and Sale of Merchandise are dependent upon fan following. FUFA and the USL have no means to mobilise fans for clubs. It must be the clubs themselves through long term strategies using strategic thinkers or outsourcing.
Otherwise there is no club in Uganda with the moral authority to sack a coach for poor results. There is a lot lacking underneath for a coach to deliver a football result
About the Author: Magogo is the Vice president of FUFA in charge of Administration and a FIFA certified Administration Instructor. Besides Football, he is a professional Engineer working with African Development Bank in Kampala City. He will be posting a weekly Topical Opinion of matters of subject every Friday)