Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Groping In The Dark

After the aborted elections for the Executive Committee of AFC Leopards SC, there has been anxiety and uncertainty amongst the fans of the club as regards the officials of the team.

Some fans have resorted to desperate measures and have ventilated enough about the issue with some calling upon the ‘sponsors’ of the team to appoint an interim board whilst others have threatened to take over the team. Mumias Sugar, the shirt sponsors of Leopards, has weighed in with the announcement that ‘the team is the players’ and vowed to soldier on supporting the team… er, we mean... the players.

Despite the romantic view taken by Mumias Sugar, Leopards is still a society that is duly registered by the Registrar of Societies. 

The club is made up of three main components: the members of the club (who are mostly fans of the team and who by recent recruitment figures may well be over 10,000 in number); the officials of the team, who exercise their functions on a delegated basis by the members; and theplaying unit at the time who may not owe any loyalty to the team and may come and go and have a sometimes strictly employment relationship with the club.
Some people call this relationship a tri-partite or holy trinity. This trinity is made up of the body of the club being the members, the mind of the club being the officials and the soul of the team being the players.

Now, Mumias Sugar has come in to support the team (or the club as the case may be) and in so doing is actually supporting AFC Leopards SC and not merely the playing unit, despite the fact that most of the recurrent expenditure involves the players. To this extent, one may say that the Sponsors of the team may well be the fourth component of the team, but this has no measure of permanency and they can replaced if another better offer comes through for sponsorship or they may be joined by other co-sponsors.

Unfortunately, some members of the club, have elevated the issue of officials of the team to as fetish and made it the number one priority in the way people look at the club. This is part of reason that there has been a clamour for elections by the fans or mere change of officials without any proper structures being put in place first. The obsession with one wing of the club has continued to give the club bad publicity with some people indicating that the club is in turmoil.

Some journalists have joined the band wagon and even insinuated that the wrangles at Leopards are due to the fact that Mumias Sugar has come on board with a 15 million shillings per year sponsorship deal and the persons contesting the elections are merely itching to control these funds. Clay Muganda stated in the article:-

We make so much noise about lack of corporate sponsorship, and when clubs get money; like in the case of AFC Leopards, which has received Sh15 million from Mumias Sugar, the problems only increase, and the purpose for which the funding was meant gets forgotten as people fight over the money.

Ingwe Fan has always insisted that none of the three persons who have been fighting for the post of Chair at Leopards meet the threshold to be made Chair of this very decorated club. To be an official at Leopards should be a great honour to any fan of Leopards. And this should always be a chance to serve the club rather than a title to use to pander to political wet dreams or to lord over people with quite unpopular ideas.

Honour and integrity should be a cornerstone of service to the club. In 1991, Alfred Sambu for instance resigned as Chairman only a day after being elected to protest the election of someone who was elected as Secretary General with him. (Wafula wa Musamia) How many of the current crop of Leopards aspirants for Chair have the decency to offer a resignation if they feel that their conscience will not allow them to serve the team well in the circumstances?

Amidst the confusion that has reigned at the Officials wing of the Leopards, a myriad of solutions have up some mooted by some members, hopefully in good faith, to cool the tempers at the Club.

One of the solutions was the call by members for the sponsors to appoint an Interim Board to run the club until elections are held. This solution is informed by the understanding that on 13th February 2011, when the club was scheduled to hold elections, the offices of the Executive Committee were declared vacant and since no election took place, those offices remain unfilled and vacant. On the contrary, some people argue that nature abhors a vacuum and it would not be fit for a club like Leopards to have a moment of an interregnum. This argument therefore goes that since the elections were not held, the office that was in place should remain in office and strive to hold elections at the earliest possible opportunity. In essence, until elections are held, the last office before the call for elections continues to hold the positions as they have not been replaced.

Back to the solution of Mumias Sugar appointing an Interim Board. Whilst this is a rather attractive solution, it is on the principle of independence of the club quite unacceptable as it cedes power from the members to the fourth clog in the wheel, the sponsors. This club is AFC Leopards SC and not Mumias Sugar FC. Mumias Sugar are not the owners of the team in the same vein New England Sports Venture are owners of Liverpool FC. They are just partners of Leopards. They pay Leopards sponsorship money not as a donation but with something in return. For instance, Leopards fans will become walking advertisement boards for Mumias Sugar is they buy merchandise with the Mumias Sugar logo on it. So the monies spoken about of 15 million shillings per annum are merely the pecuniary compensation Mumias Sugar gives to Leopards for the privilege to associate itself with the club. The value of such a privilege can be argued about since Leopards, despite having a huge following, has been under performing in the league and its value may probably be quite low and not warranting a sum of 15 million shillings per annum. But the marketing persons at Mumias Sugar must have done their homework and sponsoring Leopards makes sense. Mumias Sugar gets to appears on Leopards shirts in matches to be televised across Africa and to have photos imprinted with their logo appearing in the newspapers. It makes sense to sponsor Leopards that one of the teams without fans in the League such as Sofapaka or KCB. In fact, some of the teams such as our rivals Gor Mahia have not been having any dispute of officials, yet they remain sponsorless! If Leopards wins the League this year,  as Ingwe Fan hopes they do, that is a great bonus for Mumias Sugar. But at best, Mumias Sugar has made a business decision and with its roots in Western Kenya, reconnects with the most loved club in that part of the country where both brands, Leopards and Mumias Sugar have a nation wide appeal. Mumias Sugar should not risk any interference with internal dynamics of the club by taking an active role in the administration woes.

Perish the thought too that Mumias Sugar should be manning the additional revenue collection avenues at the club such as matchday gate collections. Any Leopards member may actually challenge such an arrangement if it sidesteps the persons delegated to handle matters on behalf of the members, despite their seemingly expired mandate but without forgetting the ‘no interregnum’ argument.

The other solution to the leadership crisis has been proposed by the Electoral Board after the aborted elections in which they suggested that an Interim Board be appointed (not clear by whom) to run the affairs of the team. Firstly, this Interim Board was an illegal body cobbled up on the prodding of the sponsors solely with the intention of holding the elections without giving the incumbent Julius Ochiel an unfair advantage of organizing elections and taking part in the same. As a stop gap measure, this Electoral Board was an absolute flop and made very questionable decisions that we have discussed previously.

Amongst its many sins, the Electoral Board that had three members with vested interests and representing the three persons vying for the Chairman’s position (how this was determined before the close of nominations just goes to show part of the Boards illegality. What if a fourth candidate had emerged for the post of Chairman and demanded that he or she appoints someone to sit on the Board too!). They were not clear on whether they were registering voters for the elections or members of the club. It was much like seeing the IIEC giving people National Identity cards! The registration of voters/members was to close on Thursday the 10th February 2011 for an election that was scheduled to take place on 13th February 2011! To use an oft quoted phrase, you do not need to be a rocket scientist to realize that preparing a voter register that could be perused in time was never going to be possible in the two days before the election. Even more scandalous were the reports that some candidates were registering voters/members on the date of the election.

To expect this bungling Electoral Board to nominate a credible Interim Committee  or to convert itself into the Interim Committee is a joke worth gracing a comedy show such as Churchill Live.

Hopefully next time members wish to organize an Election, they would actually ask people who are either members of the team or who have experience in overseeing an election such as the IIEC and not the Gordon Oluoch’s of this world.

No persons have been arrested for disrupting the Elections and it is not even clear if a report was made to police on this. Surely this Board had an opportunity to do something credible but they ended up messing big time on an election that was eagerly awaited by fans. When people hear about Leopards, the images they have are these scenes.

Actually, this piece deserves a full mention of the photo accompanying the story.

The third solution is to seek the Registrar of Societies interpretation of the state of affairs which will ultimately lead to the reading of the current Leopards constitution. It is apparent that Ochiel wrote to the Registrar and made presentations on the aborted elections. It is not clear whether Winstone Kituyi or Alex Ole Magelo wrote to the Registrar too.

The Registrar would have given directions in writing on what the next steps should be in terms of the expired term of Ochiel and how soon the next elections should be held.

It is not lost on observers that the Registrar is the one who had ordered that elections be held in the first place and within fourty five days so the Registrar could be blamed for exerting pressure for the club to hold elections when it clearly had no capacity to do so as has been proven the last two times elections have been attempted.

Anybody who looks at how the Barcelona FC elections for the Presidency were conducted, and there is a blow by blow account of the whole process on this blog will realise that what Leopards had on 13th February 2011 was just another fraudulent exercise that couldnt even achieve ballot papers such as this one here:-


The fourth solution seems to have taken place recently and it involved Leopards seeking directions from Football Kenya Limited, which is the ruling body for soccer in Kenya. From the press reports such as the report carried out in the Saturday Nation Football Kenya encouraged the set of officials who were elected in the last elections to be in office until the elections are held some time later in the middle of the year when the League is on recess.

The last returns for the last Leopards elections recognized by the Registrar of Societies were as follows:-

By this action, Robert Asembo and other sidelined officials such as Peter Lichungu seemingly made a comeback to the Executive Committee. 

It is not clear what the FKL was quoted as saying about the fact that teams are not allowed to hold elections during the course of the season. This solution is not attractive to some fans who feel that the Officials are extending their tenure in office and may be the ones who influenced the disruption of last elections.

The fifth solution to resolve the elections fiasco was a call by some members to the Minister in Charge of Sports to appoint an Interim Board to run the affairs of the club. There is no basis for this argument and in fact, it smirks of desperate measures by members of the club who seem to be helpless and are asking for assistance from other sources.

Leopards as a society is affiliated to the Football Kenya Limited, the ruling body of local soccer. It is not afflicted to the Minister of Sports. As a society, it falls under the Attorney General’s chambers and under the Societies Act, reference to the Minister is indicated as reference to the Attorney General. In fact, all regulations made under this Act have been made by the Attorney General. The Minister for Sports would therefore be merely exercising ex cathedra powers were he to make any orders in respect of the elections at Leopards. It is much like expecting the Minister to rule in respect of a dispute arising from leadership wrangles at Busia United or at (Posta) Rangers whose dispute has also hit the press.

Members should look at ways in which to empower themselves instead of seeking desperate measures that border on illegalities all for the purpose of making short term ambitions come true.

Any member of the team and moreso the incumbent Chair will be within their rights to rush to court to quash the decision of the Minister, in the event it is not as a result of the recommendation by the Registrar of Societies. And if the Minister is taken to court, the person to represent him is the Attorney General! And just like recently when the President was sued over the legality of his decision, this may turn out to be a case where someone says: Is it the Minister of the Attorney General who has powers to take the decision he makes. It is a no brainer what the answer by the Attorney General will be. If the Minister takes decision because he hails from Western Kenya, oh well, so does the Attorney General anyway and that cannot be the reason for him to take a decision and leave out the dispute in (Posta) Rangers.

In any event, this is a Minister who should by now have released the report on the state of the stadia in Kenya where fans died at the Leopards and Gor Mahia stampede in October 2010 including a known Leopards fan. Nothing has been heard about the measures for the stadia improvement ahead of the opening rounds of the League this weekend when it is common knowledge that the recess has been on for almost two whole months and could have been used to improve the stadia.

The Minister for Sports has appointed persons to join the Board (it is not clear whether it is the Executive Committee or the Electoral Board). The persons appointed are Dan Shikanda, Charles Bukeko, Lydia Obwaka, Fredrick Nasiche and Benard Wamalwa. They join Gordon Oluoch, Richard Ekhalie, Joram Ondere, Jack Nelson Wamboka and Henry Shisemi.

The Board has been tasked with arranging elections within sixty days. The Board shall use the Members Register as closed at 10th February 2011.


The reaction of the group that came in under the Fourth Option is awaited. The dispute may be averted if the Officials under the Fourth Option obey the Minister's directive. However, if they choose not to, then a showdown looms.  The other way it can be averted is if it is shown that the Registrar was the one that proposed this action. If not,  and litigation happy members go to court, the loser in the end is Leopards as it may affect the performance of the team and if any violence is reported due to skirmishes between 'officials' especially during match days, the Kenya Premier League which runs the League may take some action. 

It will be interesting to see who shall be attending meetings of KPL if a dispute ensues. Similarly, if someone wishes to take action against the Club, as some former players are planning to do in respect of their unpaid salaries and wages, it will be interesting to see whom they take action against.

Whilst Leopards continues its journeys to grope in the dark and perpetually fight over the positions, the bottom line has been that there is a clear lacking of constitutionalism by the four arms of the team; the members, the officials, the players and the sponsors. 

Members of the club should remain tolerant to each other and even those who hold views that may appear divergent to others should be listened to. Some of the controversial views have been the calls by some mebers that politicians should keep away from the club as they will not ofer solutions to the problems the club is experiencing. In fact, some fans openly celebrated when the Hon. Bonny Khalwale who had canvassed for a joint Ochiel and Kituyi ticket at the aborted elections, recently lost his parliamentary seat. Of course, this does not translate to a solution for Leopards and therefore celebrating his setback is merely part of the infantile reactions you would expect from fans who think that sweeping our problems under the carpet will resolve problems that bedevil the club. In fact, it has taken another politician, the Minister to offer the fifth solution and if there was consistency, then his intervention would probably not elicit congratulatory messages. In any event, the issue of saying politicians should stay away fro Leopards has no bearing. Silvio Berlusconi  of Italy is the Prime Minister no less and still heads AC Milan, which has had a fair share of successes and whose home strip we have imitated as our away strip.

The other controversial view has been the seemingly tribal angle that has been put forth that one of the aspirants, Alex ole Magelo, had no roots in Western Kenya and thus shouldnt hold the top position in Leopards. It is much like a non-Catalan holding the Presidency at Barcelona. Again, whilst Ingwe Fan disagrees with this view that a non-Westerner shouldnt hold the Chair's position, Ingwe Fan also appreciates where fans who hold such views are coming from. It is unfortunate that when Africans talk about identity, it immediately translates to 'tribe' but we all look forward to the day a Madrista is elected President of Barcelona or a Catalan elected President of Real Madrid. To dismiss such views as nonsensical is being too prudish.

Let us look for solutions that last; solutions that improve our team; solutions that make sense not just for today but set the precedence for tomorrow. Let us respect our constitution and finally let us remember the three words: STRUCTURES, STRUCTURES, STRUCTURES! At the end of the day, this club is OURS FOREVER whether you support Alex Ole Magelo or whether you support Winstone Kitui or whether you support Julius Ochiel. 

After all, even the person on the street has an opinion about what our solutions are!

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