In Summary
  • Power Of Television. StarTimes deal is without doubt big and it can grow the game in Uganda.

D o you sometimes wonder why StarTimes would buy broadcasting rights for a game that seems to have been abandoned by all, but the chaps who hawk roasted groundnuts and cigarettes by the stick?
$7.24m (Shs28b) is a lot of money, right? And even if some will say it is spread out over 10 years and at current global rates wouldn’t fetch you a goal keeper with leprosy, it is still the biggest commercial deal in the sports history of Uganda. So, why would anyone take such a risk?
To understand this, one needs to ignore the logic that suggests that televised football is a product that evolved because there were more people willing to watch football games than could fit in stadiums, and go back to the 1950s a time when English clubs stopped turning away Tv for fear of losing match-day revenue to accepting it as an alternative revenue stream and partner in growth. As it turns out, not only did Tv pay for broadcasting rights but the beaming of live match images also made those watching in their living rooms develop an appetite of going to actual games.

Attendances grew and when the stadia filled up, Tv figured out how to broadcast beyond the clubs’ locality to a global audience. The rest is history.
And this brings me back home. StarTimes will be airing an average of two games per weekend with this opening weekend games being Vipers vs Ndejje University and Police vs BUL. Don’t be shocked if the TV director insists on images of the pitch alone. There will be nothing to show in the stands and it is this phenomenon of empty stadia in a football mad country, that makes people question the wisdom of this broadcasting deal. But like English clubs in the 1950s discovered, Star-Time games can help bring out fans in Uganda. I personally find it inconceivable that a town of four million people can fail to fill four stadia with a joint capacity of 80,000. Where do all those fans go to after Cranes games?

I think they just need to be coaxed out of their living rooms and here is how. First, we must accept that we aren’t one of those countries like Egypt where the domestic game is already sold and Tv comes in to export it.

Uganda must first re-build the appeal of its game domestically and it is the duty of Fufa and clubs to create an enabling environment because at the end of the day, Star-Times is just a hawker not a manufacturer of the game.
The way I see it, we might swing the gates open, rent colourful bands and fill up VIP with catnapping dignitaries and their bleached wives, but unless we set up and follow rules that apply across the board, price the games well, provide proper sanitisation, pay players enough, sign shirt sponsors, improve our intra-connections as individual stakeholders, the Uganda Premier league will remain a competition at which empty rhetoric, must compensate for the lack of mass appeal.