INSIDE UPL: WHY Big Sponsors are Embracing Uganda Premier League
By Arinaitwe Rugyendo
On Friday, Uganda’s telecom giant MTN Uganda inked a Shs. 1.2 billion sponsorship deal with the Azam Uganda Premier League champions, KCCA FC. This is very good news for the future of Ugandan football.
MTN Uganda, a renowned sports supporter, had completely jumped out of premier league football for nearly a decade for reasons such as instability and insanity in league football administration in Uganda.
The continent-wide MTN are very protective of their brand. This single-leg return to test league waters through KCCA FC is therefore, very significant.
MTN Uganda now joins such companies as AZAM TV (UPL), Roofings Limited and Hima Cement at Vipers FC, StarTimes, Prime Media, Britam at KCCA FC and SC Villa (JOGGO), Betway at Onduparaka FC, Lato Milk at Bright Stars FC, and DSTV at Express FC.
All these sponsorships have been inked in a spell of three years, since the decision by FUFA and the other league shareholders to install a new board that is devoid of chaos and personal interests in the game.
Other potential sponsors have been testing the waters by sponsoring the annual Azam Uganda Premier League Awards as they carefully watch to see if indeed stability, sanity and good leadership have returned to Ugandan football.
These are Nile Breweries Limited, Century Bottling Company, Tropical Bank, BIDCO and KONKA Uganda.
What do these companies suddenly smell? Opportunity! Brands never wish to associate themselves with unstable properties that Ugandan football had become. They want stability and quality because they know sports has the potential not only to employ youths but also bring them numbers, impassioned-near frenzied followership and brand loyalty.
I am therefore here to inform Ugandans that all is well with Ugandan football. I am here to appeal to all companies in the country to support the league because the benefits are enormous, reason big companies like MTN Uganda have stated to endorse us.
In the last two years, we have painstakingly and sacrificially made it a mission to return stability, sanity, transparency and clear-headed leadership to Ugandan football. The reason is that quality Ugandan football has the potential to attract and re-attract investor and sponsor confidence. It also has the potential to galvanize the country, build unity, promote happiness, joy, employment, generate taxes for the government and bring in huge amounts of foreign exchange. Thus, MTN Uganda joining the caravan is proof that good administration, stability and sanity in the league can only build sponsor confidence and grow the game.
Focused and ideologically clear leadership at both the league and FUFA have seen the following happen:
One: During the last season, Uganda qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations after a lull of 38 years. By that feat, the country is now ranked -as at July 6th, 2017- Number 74 in the world, 11th on the continent and 1st in East Africa.
Secondly, Uganda is making impressive advances at both the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, topping its group tables. Interestingly, during the AFCON campaign last month in Cape Verde, more locally based (UPL) players featured in the Uganda Cranes first XI for the first time in recent history.
Thirdly, Uganda Cranes, again using locally based players, is making impressive strides in the African Nations Championships (CHAN), and exposing more of our players to foreign scouts.
Like I observed during the UPL Awards 2016/17 edition on Wednesday, this achievement has not come by chance. It is rather by the hard work of the football administrators in this country, their ideological clarity, their sense of purpose, their voluntarism, improved governance systems within the clubs, the fans, the Ugandan government and most importantly, a stable and focused league.
We have now clearly learnt that no sponsor, no government, no fan- just no one- would ever support and fund a league that is perennially corrupt, chaotic and ideologically disoriented; a league with no sense of purpose and direction except fights, mismanagement, hooliganism, lack of systems and complete instability.
We are SLOWLY; brick by brick, building what FUFA President Moses Magogo often calls ‘THE FOOTBALL PRODUCT.’ A good football product begets good sponsors and I am glad MTN Uganda and others are slowly taking note of this. Good sponsors mean good money for the league, which in turn builds a strong league fully equipped with strong infrastructure that then, creates a professional quality game.
As we head into the next season, I would like to inform all Ugandans, that there is no better way to express your patriotism than supporting and paying for league games. A strong league must come about because of MONEY. It is a strong league that will ultimately lead to a strong Uganda Cranes.
Along the way, I have learnt of a long-standing ideological mistake about the Ugandan Cranes, which has created confusion amongst potential sponsors. The country has this misbelief that Ugandan football starts and ends with The Uganda Cranes. This is a mistake. The Uganda Cranes does not physically exist anywhere except in the league. Ugandan football does not start and end with the Uganda Cranes. The correct ideological understanding of the Uganda Cranes is the Azam Uganda Premier League. It is this league from which the best players are fished to form the Uganda Cranes. This is why the Uganda Cranes is often just an event. It is the cooked meal- ready to eat. But the league is the garden from where this meal is harvested before cooking it.
Therefore, if Ugandans want the country to qualify for more AFCONs and World Cups, they must nurture and support the league through attending league matches, paying for them and sponsoring clubs.
Ultimately, a good and successful league will beget a good and successful Uganda Cranes.
May more MTNs come to the League now and forever!
Note: The writer is the Chairman of the Azam Premier League Board. His new sports column ‘INSIDE THE UPL’ will start featuring here every Sunday. He can be reached on Tel: 0752 466 778 and on Twitter: @RugyendoQuotes