It is now public knowledge that Kyetume FC who recently got promoted to the Uganda Premier League (UPL) from the FUFA Big League may not play in the forthcoming 2021-23 season. This is after their appeal against the decision of FUFA Club Licensing Committee to eject them from the league for failing to fulfill the minimum club licensing guidelines was dismissed by the FUFA appeals committee. The only hope for The Slaughters now lies with the FUFA Executive Committee which has the power to veto the decision made by FUFA Appeals Committee but as things go by, there might be little hope from there. Although there might be room for legal redress, it remains to be seen whether it is a path Kyetume FC will be willing to pursue.
For the benefit of Uganda football, there has been a wide debate about the establishment of strong club structures. FUFA passed the Club Licensing Guidelines as a measure to set minimum standards on club structures and they are applicable to all clubs from the top tier league to the Regional Leagues with certain modifications, these guidelines are subject to review on a seasonal basis.
The Club Licensing Guidelines are the main and most strategic tool being used by FUFA to influence the direction of club football development in the country. The criteria put forward under these guidelines include items like club governance, finance, infrastructure, and youth development which portray a bright future for Ugandan football if compliance is achieved. However, there is still a strong disparity between what the guidelines provide and the practice taken by FUFA and the Clubs. The guidelines are intended to cure or prevent problems that have affected club football for ages.
Football clubs, just like many other social entities, suffer and endure a lot of challenges. Many of these challenges emanate from the fact that it is not easy to grow an entity of a community or social character in this country. The reasons behind this handicap can be correlated to anomalies that inhibit or rapture social cohesion in this country. This has affected the organic growth of entities in society, a fact that has not spared the organization of football clubs in Uganda.
Club Licensing Guidelines would have been a very effective tool if they were applied and received by strongly organized and coherent units but this is not the case. In fact, many in the football circles genuinely come together because of their common passion for football but they are more likely to disagree on unifying processes like administration. It appears like where two or three converge in this country there will always be a cloud of mistrust and this state of affairs has affected the organic growth of community-based entities.
In 2021, FUFA had to contend with the administrational troubles at SC Villa. Embroiled in internal disputes, SC Villa did not have a Chief Executive Officer recognized by FUFA and at the same time, the club was scheduled to carry out its elections which were later on deferred after an injunction was issued by court.
Normalcy at the club was only attained after the intervention of the FUFA president Moses Magogo and the behind scenes negotiations of the different power brokers at the club. This thread of fragile administrational anomalies permeates across almost all football clubs in Uganda. The Villa crisis of 2021 brought about the debate of having the community ‘fans’ owning a share of their football club hence indirectly influencing the decision-making at the club. This was an initiative that was initially challenged as it was seen by those at the club as a poly by FUFA to take away the club ownership from them. However, when the dust settled the idea appears to have been accepted by the club power movers.
It is important to underscore FUFA’s fundamental role in the enforcement of the Club Licensing Guidelines. In 2021 when SC Villa, a club with a rich football history in Uganda, found itself alien territory where it was possible on the reading of these guidelines to be struck off the league fixture, such decision was not made, yet it would have driven the kind of message for which the club licensing guidelines were made. However, FUFA president went the extra mile of organizing meetings with club stakeholders with the aim of finding solutions to the challenges the club was entangled in. That proactive endeavor from the FUFA president was not only critical in ‘saving the boat’ of the historical giants but also swayed others to believe in creating a club membership model as the organizational structure for the club.
The same issues continued to manifest when the wrangles at Busoga United came to the fore as the thin fabric that ties the knots club administration in Uganda was again exposed. It also required the pragmatic approach of the FUFA president to engage the parties involved, it is as if change of mindset must not only be articulated in documents or enforced as rules but must also be negotiated and debated so as to achieve the desired end.
FUFA as a football governing body has the mandate to oversee the deliberate change of mindset in club organization and administration. The Club Licensing Rules avail it will the requisite tools to achieve this goal, however, it will require a conscious and pragmatic approach as it was done with Villa question in 2021 to navigate on a territory that has proven to be rough for all. If these challenges did not spare SC Villa then there should be a strong expectation that Kyetume FC can suffer from them, and it takes the same soft hands instead of a wipe and punish approach to resolve the two scenarios.