It has been a bleak weekend for Kenyan sports – Gor Mahia lost 0 - 5 to a visiting team from Rwanda, Zimbabwe has now defeated Kenya four matches in a row in Cricket at Mombasa & Nairobi, but most shocking was the sudden shutdown/collapse of GTV – who for the last two years were the main broadcasters of the English soccer premier league in several African countries.
Their statement attributes the collapse to the ongoing global credit crunch, but their demise seems similar to that of Kirch Media who spent big in the late 90’s to acquire the rights to broadcast two World Cup events and also 100 years of formula one races among other media properties - but who folded shop a few years later in one of Germany’s biggest corporate collapses.
What next? I expect Multi-choice DSTV to step in and pay the liquidators of GTV about 30% and take over their broadcast rights in Africa (and perhaps hike their prices too), while in Kenya, a successful bid for GTV’s soccer rights could also be an opportunity for Wananchi's Zuku to make a nationwide impact.
Business impact in sports
The local impact of the economic crisis is likely to be replicated in sports.
- The local soccer league did well last year (2008) with private interests participating and sponsoring the teams & competitions – there was huge fan interest, media interest (for once local radio stations actively previewed, reviewed and encouraged attendance of local soccer matches) and a private security firm (G4S) was in charge of the ticketing and match revenue collection.
But will the economic crisis affect things? Will sugar teams like Sony and Chemelil continue to support sports when even the only profitable company in the sector (Mumias) has profits down 80% this year? And what about Sher (Flower) and other small company-sponsored teams?
- The local motoring scene was mainly supported by KCB last year and fortunately, despite the banks ongoing problems - particularly with a fellow sponsor (Triton), they have agreed to also sponsor the 2009 rally season. However the loss of Paris Dakar to South America shows the global nature of sports and that events (like teh Safari Rally) can be translocated elsewhere if countries don’t pay attention to details of sports management. in 2009, pressure shifts to South Africa to progressively move nearer the completion of stadiums for the 2010 world cup.
- Rugby continues to be well organized, attract top notch sponsors, and the annual Safari Sevens is the premier sports
Another problem in Kenya is bad management - and while every sport has behind the scenes ramblings and wrangles, Kenya is no exception with motor sports, cricket and soccer feuds that have long been a distraction for the sports.
Also all sports go through generational changes - and in the off season, Athletics Kenya management went through elections that were well contested. However in Kenya we need to have longetivity of athletes, not management officials; it is rare to have someone (except for Catherine Ndereba) participate successfully at more than one Olympic event. Other countries stars like Haile Gebreselassie, Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele have successfully represented their countries at consecutive Olympics - while in Kenya it is sad that it is mainly the officials who show such endurance - and that people who were ‘in charge’ of sports like soccer in the 1980’s and 90’s are still in charge today (Sammy Obingo, Sam Nyamweya) – and continue to bicker and blame each other for the problems in the sport.
Having recently read Foul, FIFA comes across as a corrupt institution that does not care about individual countries attempts to improve management of their sports affairs – FIFA wants to dictate who will be the local managers of soccer, and no matter how bad or corrupt they are, they are FIFA’s people who should not be interfered with unless a country wants to be suspended from regional or international soccer competitions.
EDIT: Feb 4 2009 - South Africa based DSTV SuperSport channel reclaimed the rights to broadcast live all English premier league matches, including those from collapsed GTV in 22 African countries over the next two seasons