The East African Premier League was an idea conceived in Nairobi and welcomed with both arms by Uganda Cricket Association.
The premier competition had its first edition in 2011 with four teams from Nairobi and two franchise Ugandan teams.
The tournament had two different formats played over a single weekend with the T20 games on Saturday and the 50 over games on Sunday.
The six franchises were separated into two groups and had to play each other on a home and away basis. The original format was abandoned for the third season for a short round-robin format with the tournament run within a week.
The third edition also attracted Pakistan international players as fast bowler Mohammed Sami, Kamran Akmal, and Imran Nazir and the broadcast of selected games on SuperSport added to the glamour as fans could follow their teams from afar.
With very few opportunities to expose players, Uganda Cricket used the opportunity to give exposure to youngsters and also keep the national team engaged. The tournament gave birth to players such as Arnold Otwani, Farouk Ochimi, Derrick Bakunzi who were then on the fringes of joining the national team.
However, after only three seasons the tournament suffered a stillbirth as the organizers chose to stop the event with no clear explanation. Rumour had it that the withdraw of SuperSport as a TV partner could have been one of the reasons but in an event where teams meet nearly 70% of their costs, the commitment from franchise owners should have been enough for it to go on.
Uganda Cricket Association CEO Martin Ondeko speaks high of the competition.
“The EAPL was a very good initiative for us an association and it helped us expose a lot of players. The level of competition was very good and our national team hierarchy was in charge of our franchises so this helped them to get close to players and also have a look at other options. The cost of transporting the teams as well as accommodation plus allowances was huge but worthwhile in the end. Our teams were also very successful in the competition we picked up two titles in the three seasons,” he told Kawowo Sports.
When asked about its ending and a possible return, Ondeko said;
“We are not exactly sure about the details but we never got communication why it stopped. The idea is great so maybe in the future, we shall look at doing like that our own way.”
On the other side of the border, Kenyan Legend Peter Ongondo who featured for Rift Valley Rhinos from Nakuru think lo look s priorities for Cricket Kenya changed.
“EAPL was a great initiative but the new board had a problem with spending. They questioned every penny spent with a question; what’s the return of investment? So before it was dead they killed the tours we had to Mombasa and Uganda and held everything in Nairobi to save. So let me say it went down to not willing to spend for the future.”
With the idea conceived in Nairobi, it was hard for any other board to take it up but the EAPL opened doors for those that want to invest in Sports.
Nine years since the first edition, the game has developed in the region with willing investors having the opportunity to involve teams from Rwanda and Tanzania.
There is also the opportunity to involve the ladies from the region as well. However, this is all speculation with regional boards not very keen on futuristic spending due to resources but the appetite for a regional tournament is very ripe.