On July 26, the Uganda Premier League (UPL) will go to polls to elect new office bearers after the expiry of the five-year term of the current board led by Arinaitwe Rugyendo.
Back in 2014 when I seconded Rugyendo for the UPL board chairmanship, I found resistance from Fufa president Moses Magogo because he viewed Rugyendo as an outsider.
It took a lot of convincing for Rugyendo to win approval amid pessimism but I had no doubt that given his media background, he would market the league, attract sponsors and streamline UPL operations by developing a long-term plan that would put club interests at the forefront.
In fact, he ascended onto the UPL board leadership to lead a one-year transition and implement a charter that had been developed to allow Fufa and clubs harmonise interests.
Five years down the road, I wish to commend him and his team for stabilising UPL but there is a lot that needs to change at the helm of the body that should be the focal stakeholders of Ugandan football.
Rugyendo has done well in fulfilling personal ambitions with minimal footballing success to showcase.
For instance, UPL lacks a strategic direction for the league and there is no platform of communication between Fufa and clubs. He has also been very influential in approving and implementing policies that enslave clubs and making them weaker.
A case in point is when clubs approved budgets and he rescinded them on instructions from Magogo not to mention signing the StarTimes contract without engaging stakeholders as well as extending his leadership without elections.
This is not a vote of no-confidence, but this is a chance to have fresh minds at the helm to fight for the core interests of UPL clubs.
What’s more, the position of board chairman is open to every football enthusiast who can show credentials that he can elevate UPL. Community clubs still bear the huge financial burden of keeping afloat to compete with institutional clubs.
Secondly, UPL has done little to advance the interests of more than 500 players, many of whom live off football as the major source of income.
Thirdly, and most importantly, UPL continues to lag behind when it comes to sponsorships, which is the foundation for the success of any league.
Lastly, the UPL board has failed to detach itself from the overbearing influence of Fufa, something that has rendered it as an extension for the misdeeds of the federation.
It is on those premises that there is a need for fresh minds to take the body forward. Anyone who understands the dynamics of league football will tell you how sacrificial it is for community clubs to compete in the UPL and in an era when identity means everything, UPL needs to rebrand itself into a corporate entity capable of attracting serious sponsorship.
The last five years were fertile grounds for UPL to thrive, especially after acquisition of Azam as league sponsors before StarTimes took over.
Incidentally, those two sponsors were brought on board by Tadeus Kitandwe and me, respectively, yet you would have expected that by now, the league would be having a multitude of other sponsors.
That hasn’t materialised because the UPL brand does not resonate with potential sponsors, who want an entity they can associate with. It is for that reason that I propose a fresh brain that is not entangled in the murky football politics we are used to.
CASE FOR KABUSHENGA
The name that comes to mind is Robert Kabushenga, the Vision Group CEO, who is eligible for the chairmanship due to his proven track record in branding and marketing.
Having such a respected figure would be a coup of sorts for UPL given his close association with organisations that may be willing to sponsor the game.
However, as popular as he is, such brainy people are seen as threats by Fufa, which would do anything within its powers to frustrate him.
I’ve already been informed how the Fufa leadership is calling various club officials with the message of retaining the current board in spite of the underachievement.
They are even flouting the procedure of membership by including the newly-promoted clubs before they get endorsement of the general assembly.
My prayer is for UPL to rethink its sense of direction by putting the politics of survival aside in the interest of fostering football development.
The writer is the Nyamityobora FC President!