February 14, 2019

Rwanda Soccer: Are Institutional Clubs Promoting Unfair Competition in Local League?

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Going into the second leg of the 2018/19 national football league, pundits have already started predicting who the title contender will be.

The sports fraternity, in particular, is saying that clubs like Kiyovu SC and Police FC cannot win this year’s league title.

Rather, they have heaped praise for military side APR FC to defend the title, among them is football writer Adams Mihigo who says he is 90 percent sure.

When asked why, he cited “APR FC is financially stable, while other clubs like Kiyovu SC, Musanze FC or Sunrise FC face that challenge.”

Well, just recently the military side won the 2019 Hero’s Cup, apparently, the sit at the top of the league standings with 35 points, 27 points ahead of bottom side Amagaju FC which has eight points in 15 games.

Others neutrals have not overlooked the fact that the primary reason why clubs like Sunrise FC, Gicumbi FC,  Musanze FC or Bugesera FC can’t afford to win the title at least not now is that of lack of huge sponsorship deals plus a strong firm financial base to sign better players.

Interestingly, they cite Police FC for having the resources but they fail to do enough when it comes to winning the first league title.  This is among the reason why the law enforcers are among the clubs with a small fan base.  

Is APR FC enjoying a better advantage over its rivals in the local soccer league? It all depends on who you talk to

APR’s success and achievements has come because the military side has a solid backing and support from the political authority Rwandan Patriotic Front since 1993.

The distinction between our local teams is that some are community or district funded team while others are institutionally funded.

Institutional teams like Police or APR have a huge influence when it comes to acquiring players during the transfer window.  They can afford to hire good managers besides they pay players wages and coaches’ salaries on time at the expense of other opponents.

Football agent Steven Kagire says that they have all the funding.

What gives an advantage to a team like Rayon Sports to compete alongside APR is that it has a huge fan base, which at most cases steps in to donate wholeheartedly for their team.

Apart from the fan base, Rayon has set a long term strategic plan, a reason why they attract sponsorship deals from SKOL brewery ltd and Fezabet Rwanda.

“We cannot have fair competition in our local league because other teams have a better advantage over the others. Teams like Sunrise FC, AS Muhanga or Bugesera, depend on district funding: Retired Kiyovu SC defender Jean Pierre Kalisa says.

“The government’s decision to reduce spending on some sports activities means football clubs’ access to funding is now limited, that is why players in some clubs are not motivated since they’re spending months without receiving a salary. Unless the playing field is leveled, we cannot have fair competition in the game.” He pointed out.

Over 11 football clubs out of 16 clubs in the Azam Football league depend on local government district funding.

“Until when other clubs become self-sustaining, that is when the game will not be one-sided. Take a look at how it is done in Europe, the notion of institutional clubs is out-of-date” Kalisa adds.

Teams like Barcelona or Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are registered professional associations football clubs. FC Bayern was founded in 1900 by 11 football players, led by Franz John. These clubs brands are registered differently from their metropolises cities.

Teams like Mukura VS have tried to compete among the other top clubs because of passion from their president Olivier Nizeyimana Olivier who owns Volcano Transport Company.

“No club can compete with APR FC when it comes to a signature of a player, that is how our game is distorted. The impact can be seen at national team Amavubi. We need to understand that football is now a business.” Another retired coach who prefers not to be named thinks.

In his comments, African football writer and commentator Boniface Osano thinks that football clubs are supposed to be self-reliant, financially they should be able to generate enough money to help them fulfill their core functions.

He further explained that institutional clubs like APR tend to have what can be perceived as an unfair advantage in terms of financial support. Community clubs like Rayon Sports if well managed can be more financially healthier because they attract stronger fan base which they can leverage on to get corporate sponsorship.

“They can also ride on membership, the sale of merchandise etc as other revenue streams. In Kenya, for example, institutional clubs like Tusker FC and Bandari cannot match a team like Gor Mahia financially and in terms of competition because their budgets are controlled by the companies that own them and it depends with how much profit they make.” He noted. 

He added, “And you don’t want a weaker APR it’s for the other clubs to work hard look for other sources of income, they must be creative. They can nurture talent and sell to make money etc.”

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