According to Football Kenya Federation (FKF) CEO Robert Muthomi, it has increasingly become a concern that teams are opting not to take part in the domestic cup and in a bid to curb this, the federation is set to make participation for the tournament a mandatory for clubs playing in the top two leagues in the country.
The tournament, held annually, comprises of teams from across all divisions in the country and it is a passage to the CAF Confederations Cup for the winner.
But in recent seasons, teams have opted against taking part in the tournament with the latest being Tusker FC who confirmed on Thursday 7 March, right before the draw for this season’s tourney was made, that they will not be taking part.
It is not just Tusker, who won it in 2016 and are four time winners of the tournament, but unconfirmed reports are also suggesting that Ulinzi Stars are weighing their options with the tournament expected to take a toll on the players in this season’s shortened campaign, something that clubs are not willing to risk.
Speaking to Soka after Thursday’s draw, Muthomi confirmed that the federation’s Executive Committee will be passing a rule on Friday 8 March to have all teams in the KPL and NSL be required to mandatory participate.
“As is the rule of law in participating at this tournament, clubs are required to write to our competitions department to confirm their participation. This is what Tusker did and it is why, despite the news of them pulling out, they have been included in the draw,” he shared.
“The news of them pulling out is a concern, same as it has been with the other top tier teams who have done so in previous campaigns. They are failing to show interest not knowing that this is a low hanging fruit whereby winning it is a direct passage into continental football.
“But we understand their concerns fully as they are looking out for their players’ welfare as well as prioritizing winning the league which is not a unique thing anywhere in the world but so as to maintain the tournament’s relevance and address their concerns, our Executive Committee will be meeting tomorrow to pass new regulations with one of those being, that teams in the two top leagues will be required to participate by law in the tournament.”
Financial struggles have been an issue for clubs and fighting it out on more than one front has stretched teams’ coffers which is one of the reasons that some chose to concentrate on the league. Mathare United is an example, with the club having stayed away from the tournament since 2014.
Things though according to Muthomi will be looking up once the Sports Fund by the government becomes operational.
“The Sports Fund will help us take the burden off teams. At the moment we are paying for the match venues but everything else is for the clubs to facilitate. That is transportation, accommodation, meals.
“What we can do as a federation once the monies are made available to us by the Sports Ministry, is for example, increase the prize money so that it is not only the winner and the runners-up that are rewarded but maybe ensure that those who reach the quarter-finals can get something as well.
“We are also on the lookout to have more sponsors come in to put more money that can help increase the level of competitiveness in the tournament and also make sure that the team that wins it all is properly funded to help cope with the askings of continental football,” he concluded.
This season’s tournament has seen a reduction in participating teams, with 32 and not the usual 64 teams, drawn to face off in the opening round.
The kickoff will be on the weekend of 16-17 March with the final being played on June 1, four months ahead of the usual October 20 date.
Kariobangi Sharks are the reigning champions having defeated Sofapaka in last year’s final.