Why TFF, Premier League Board must relax club sponsorship rules

26Mar 2020
Michael Eneza
The Guardian
Why TFF, Premier League Board must relax club sponsorship rules

GROWING pains are being felt in a number of Mainland Tanzania Premier League clubs in the wake of a premature ending – virtually, though – of this season’s match fixtures owing to the coronavirus outbreak, or rather feared outbreak in Tanzania.

Mwanza’s Mbao FC

Two sides, Mbao FC which takes part in the current Premier League, and First Division League (FDL) club, Mawenzi Market FC of Morogoro, are said to be ‘in the market,’ though that is a false presentation of the issue for anyone who is at least familiar with being in the market. It means the real news is much worse.

What the two clubs are actually saying is that they are in say the first phase of bankruptcy, in that they have failed to run the business. They would otherwise seek a bailout arrangement but they aren’t constituted by shares in which case they are selling an entity rather than marketing its shares, or their price is lowered and it has more people wishing to capture portions of it, etc. The whole talk of being in the market is a non-starter commercially for it ought to have been there in the first place, and if it wasn’t there, in what manner does it enter, now?

A preliminary question that comes up is whether indeed there is a ‘market’ for such entities or there is a situation of failure that seeks a bailout, which can only be organized by giving someone else the title of owning the club. There are already a number of conditions floated by Mawenzi Market FC and Mbao FC on their own, even before some advice or regulatory fiat is made upon them by the usually stingy upper authorities in the culture or sports sector. That augurs rather badly for them.

There are some preliminary questions which a city observer may raise especially by virtue of not being too close to the way upcountry municipal authorities move to organize soccer clubs. How far are clubs that are in the market the property of individuals, or are they part of a widespread community or municipal arrangement and in what way do they wish to keep their prerogatives? And what of the support base – can it shift to a private entrepreneur or he is supposed to work with some municipal officials who shall have a veto on the decisions he makes? Is it this that is meant by members of the two clubs being part of the ownership structure if the clubs are in private hands? In that case is it the clubs that are being sold or shares?

If the selling format that is being suggested by either of the two clubs or both of them has problems, the responses that were made by TFF president Wallace Karia on the sort of problems being faced by the two clubs were to say the least rather astonishing. The radio pundits had organized a clear question – though they later appeared to have been swayed by the suave TFF leader’s answers – that there is an undue monopoly sought by the chief sponsor of the premier league. The sponsor refuses to have a competing company sponsor a club in the premier league listing.

There was a background case which Karia admits its monopolist parameters and stood by those restraints as if there was no problem at all, but premier league clubs ought to organize themselves within those restraints. That is where the problem is, for sponsorship of tournaments like the premier league, and for that matter a club at that level to be able to compete with others, requires substantial amounts of cash to spare. Often it is the same sector where the principal sponsor is found where other sponsors could be found for individual clubs, and then these undue restraints.

The points the pundit were raising when interviewing the TFF president was that there is no need for restriction on clubs obtaining sponsorship from companies competing with the main premier league sponsor. The current sponsor – and has been there a while now – is Vodacom and as in England the league is known after the sponsoring firm, the Barclays Premier League in the latter context. But there is Standard Chartered as sponsors of league top contenders, Liverpool, and it i fine.

Depicting the usual nationalism and dismissing the matter nearly offhand, the TFF leader said that what the British do isn’t relevant here. He stamped the view of the principal sponsor that they use plenty of money to sponsor the league they need to be preserved from competition. In that case the other clubs ought to find other sponsors in different sectors. And this is where clubs suffer for they are rather in short supply whereas telephone companies could compete for a share of the cake.

There is consequently a need to diminish the scope of sponsorship so that it just retains the name of the league and the logo on all teams, and then the front part of jerseys be reserved for team sponsors. And the idea of not competing with the main sponsor need be kept out. It is implausible in commerce, but inducements could help; by what has been uncovered in soccer governance worldwide, it is disturbing.