The Political Economy of Ugandan Football

The Political Economy of Ugandan Football

With Arinaitwe Rugyendo

Academicians define ‘Political Economy’ as a branch of social science that studies the relationships between individuals, society, markets and the state, using a diverse set of tools and methods drawn largely from economics, political science, and sociology.

They further contend that ‘Political Economy’ can be understood as the study of how a country—the public’s household—is managed or governed, taking into account both political and economic factors.

How does this relate to sport, and, more especially football?

Wyn Grant, Professor of Politics, University of Warwick, who writes a Political Economy blog, has observed in his piece, ‘Is there a political economy of football?,’ that football often likes to see itself as a world apart from society and politics, but it is susceptible to political economy analysis.

He observes that in football there is so much interaction between technology, market structure and regulation. That football is no longer resistant to technology such as floodlights, DVD technology, satellite broadcasting, goal line technology, blockbuster movies etc, is a fact.

President Museveni meeting some of the officials from the Egyptian Sports giant Company Wadi Degla at his country home Rwakitura Kiruhura District
President Museveni meeting some of the officials from the Egyptian Sports giant Company Wadi Degla at his country home Rwakitura Kiruhura District


More factually visible is the live sport as good seller for subscriptions, advertising, betting companies and player pricing.

Prof. Grant observes: “Clubs like Manchester United, acquired by the Glazers through a leveraged buy-out, sell their merchandise across the globe.   They have sponsorship contracts tailored to each national market – including a paint sponsor, for example, from Japan. Foreign investment in the game has grown.    Most football clubs run at a loss and the only way you can make money is through capital appreciation.”

All this means money and politics. And I had not realized this was possible in Uganda until I got elected chairman of the FUFA Super League, a company managing the top-flight 16 football clubs in Uganda, nine months ago.

This is when I noticed that there was a brand named the Uganda Premier League, similar to the popular English Premier League, in Uganda, which had immense economic potential.

With a three year title sponsorship of nearly Shs. 5 billion, the league is not only renamed ‘Azam Uganda Premier League,’ it has brought in foreign exchange and shook the political leadership taking sport as a serious venture for not only political mobilization, but as a tool for activating citizen engagement.  What would happen if the number of sponsors increased to ten? You would have an economy rivaling Keith Muhakanizi’s 2016/17 budget!

Consequently, I was not surprised when two weeks ago, the Minister for Education and Sports, Hon Janet Museveni, did what many Ugandans thought would never emerge from the President Yoweri Museveni’s government- unveiling a plan to build sports complex around the country.

Hon. Museveni unveiled a group of Egyptian investors from the $400m rich Wadi Degla Company, which owns a string of sports complexes in Egypt especially mini Olympic villages in the whole of Egypt including one big one at Six October. They also own a premier league football club called Wadidegla, which is the third on the table of the Egyptian Tier, A league table.

I think they also own another club in Belgium, the Arsenal Football Academy in Egypt, four mini Olympic villages in Kenya including one almost finished at Runda.

Hon Janet Museveni said the nation was absolutely going to do everything possible to allow this investment to take off. I cannot shout more about the importance infrastructure in improving our sports performance locally and internationally- not forgetting the economic benefits that come with fully-fledged stadia.  This is what we need to take off.

Cranes AFCON Dream

The Uganda Cranes take on Comoros, tomorrow at Namboole stadium. Against all odds, our boys have done their best to take us this far. Looking at the state of football in this country, you have to give it to them. Our job will be to turn up in huge numbers and play the 12th position.

Could this be our dream come true? Shall we qualify and end the 38-year Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) spell? #OctopusRugyendo on Twitter believes we have a 2-1 chance to qualify.

Till next week

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