The situation in Uganda football took a new yesterday twist when the minister of Education Madam Jessica Alupo issued a directive to FUFA (FSL) and USLL (USL) to sort their differences to ensure Uganda has one football league by the start of next year. Under the Ministers orders the two warring factions must agree to merge the two leagues or kill one league in the next two weeks. Whereas this sounds like good news, a barking order from a military lady in charge, it’s unlikely to yield any results.
This is why:
1. I don’t think the two warring parties, FUFA and USL which are both run by strong willed characters will agree to yield for the other as Alupo wishes them to.
2. Both USL and FSL claim that they are legitimate and the rightful parties to run the league in the country. But the fact that is undisputed is that only one party (FUFA) has the mandate from FIFA and CAF, CECAFA and the government of Uganda to run football in Uganda as of today. The other party USL has declared that they aren’t affiliated to FUFA, FIFA, CAF or CECAFA. They are therefore not affiliated to any known footballing bodies in world football.
3. USL has one strong backing; they have a contract with Supersport the TV broadcaster from South Africa and Uganda Breweries (UBL) who have put billions of shillings into the league.
4. Therefore one league the FSL (FUFA Super League) has the legitimacy, while the USL (Uganda Super League) has the money.
5. Thus; whereas USL has the money they need legitimacy to sustain the money flow. And FSL, whereas legitimate, needs money to pay the clubs, players and develop the game.
6. Whereas clubs playing under FSL can represent Uganda on the continent and beyond, clubs in USL can only play for the money from supersport and UBL, nothing else. Therefore the task before minister Alupo was how to bring together these two warring parties who both claim to be right and who are; in my view, needed in Uganda football because whereas football needs the legitimacy of FIFA and other bodies, it also needs money from sponsors. But instead of sitting these two factions together and forcing an agreement, Alupo chose to issue directives.
What will she do if the two parties fail to agree and after December 31 Uganda still has two leagues (one official the other rich) running? Uganda isn’t a military dictatorship and Alupo will most likely not deploy soldiers. But she can issue an executive order and ban either FUFA or USL. Let us assume Alupo issues a directive against FUFA.
The rules of the game are known to all. Government interference leads to an immediate FIFA ban from all footballing matters. A FIFA ban would end our challenge in the World Cup and all other FIFA sanctioned competitions. It would bring football back to the grave. Let me add here that should FIFA ban Uganda, the ban wouldn’t affect USL because by their own declaration they aren’t affiliated to FIFA or CAF or even FUFA so their league would most probably go on despite the FIFA ban but in reality Uganda wouldn’t be having a football league because FIFA or CAF don’t recognize USL.
But there is another angle here. Alupo might choose to issue an order against USL! USL is a company and like any other company, a government minister can close it down. If this happens, Uganda wouldn’t get banned by FIFA because FIFA only recognizes FUFA and FSL. So, should Alupo go against USL, the FSL would go on although without the sponsorship money from suportsport who currently have a contract with USL. But if this happens, Supersport would walk away unless FSL convinces them to join them mid season. So this is it Alupo cannot ban FUFA without the consequence of a FIFA ban, but she can ban USL and the only consequence would be a lawsuit against the government.
What will most likely happen:
FUFA are currently the only recognized body with a FIFA mandate to run football activities in Uganda. All threats of court cases challenging FUFA’s legitimacy haven’t materialized. But FUFA despite having the law on its side cannot stop USL from organizing football competitions of its own and signing contracts with the likes of Supersport and UBL.
I believe Alupo will be well advised that banning FUFA will lead to a FIFA ban and the death of football in Uganda and this isn’t what the football clubs or supporters in Uganda want. If she bans FUFA, it would leave USL standing but its league isn’t recognized by any footballing body and I doubt this would satisfy supersport and UBL who would still walk away because no one wants to broadcast an unofficial league. That leaves Alupo with the option of forcing Muwema and Mulindwa to merge their leagues or to ban USL. Banning USL would have legal consequences and would end the contract it has with Supersport and UBL but football in Uganda would go on and the clubs although poor, would stay in business.
USL in its current state is unsustainable. The sponsor cannot stick around telecasting a league that has no affiliation with any footballing body. FSL has legitimacy and the law on its side but badly needs money. The most practical solutions in my view would be for USL to sell its contract with Supersport to FSL or for FUFA to kill their league and re contract USL to run the league. I don’t think the latter will happen.
Follow the author Patrick Mugumya on Twitter @mugumya