If everything had gone on normally, today May 5, would have been the date for the return of the Uganda Premier League for the final five rounds.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected sports events around the globe, forcing many events to be postponed and seasons to be cancelled in some countries, continues to wreak havoc.
On Monday, May 4, the President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni announced an extension of the lockdown by 14 days which made it uncertain for events that attract mass gatherings including football to return at least before June – only if he lifts it then.
The news implies that FUFA and the UPL plan to see out the five remaining rounds was rendered another blow with the football calendar in the country supposedly ending June 30.
In a recent interview with the Daily Monitor, FUFA President Moses Magogo reiterated that all will be done to ensure the season sportingly ends revealing that until it’s impossible by August, all scores will be settled on the pitch.
“We really hoped to do many things during the offseason for club football but with the league still in balance we are limited,” Magogo said.
“We still think with five rounds (of UPL) remaining we need a maximum of one month to determine the winners and losers sportingly on pitch.
“Not until we see that we can’t have the one month by August that is when we shall entertain the discussion of which buttons to press.”
As boring as our lives are without the beautiful game, the continued lockdown seems to make all FUFA and UPL hopes of completing the season difficult and uncertain.
For starters, even if the lockdown was to be lifted on May 19 – which looks impossible especially for events like football that gathers many people, teams will need not less than three weeks of training and that could mean the UPL resuming past mid-June.
League CEO Bernard Bainamani hinted at playing games behind closed doors if conditions allow but it’s an idea not many clubs would buy given that in Uganda, almost all clubs depend on gate collections and denying them a chance to earn revenue in such circumstances isn’t economically viable.
Besides, how safe will the players, referees, ball boys and other officials be on and off the pitch given that football is a contact sport and the virus as said by medical practitioners is highly contagious in such circumstances.
When Magogo talks of only giving up by August, does he put in consideration players whose contracts at clubs expire by end of June?
Geoffrey Kayemba alias Solo, a football agent says its inapplicable playing this season if all isn’t done before the end of June.
“Of course it’s a bit tricky if the season isn’t complete before June,” says Kayemba. “We have players whose contracts expire on 30 June, which is likely to be before the season ends and so where will they belong then especially if there is no will to renew contracts at current clubs?” he ponders.
Club officials who preferred anonymity also don’t buy the idea of playing beyond June.
“For now, we are patiently waiting to see all is back to normal soon,” said one club boss. “But having games beyond June will totally be stretching because our season budget doesn’t go beyond that,” he adds.
Fortunately, unlike leagues in the world that never foresaw this, FUFA and UPL through the competitions rule have a fall-back position on how such a season can be settled and a precedent was set 29 years ago.
“We also have a contingency rule of 75% of the league which was last used 29 years ago in Uganda.”
Article 18 (ii) of FUFA’s competition rules on failure to complete the league due to force majeure states that “where all the clubs in the league have completed the first round fixtures but less than 75% league games have been played, the table standings at the end of the first round shall be considered as the final table standing of the league.”
With over 80 per cent of the season played, Vipers would be champions with Proline, Tooro United and Maroons being relegated going by the current table standings.
In Africa, Kenya, Mauritius, Angola and Guinea have already cancelled their leagues.