Football: What FUFA and UPL have to learn from the Bundesliga’s return

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Germany Bundesliga returned to action behind closed doors after a period of more than 66 days out of action due to the coronavirus pandemic. This was announced shortly after German Chancellor Angela Dorothea Merkel and her government moved to relax the lockdown measures which included a green light to the Bundesliga and its second division League to return to action.

Precautionary measures were put in place as football in Germany returned to action as announced by the DFB and Bundesliga starting on the 16th of May, which was a successful move. The Bundesliga became the first of the top 5 European leagues to return to action since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.

As plans to have all other football leagues return to action remain under discussion, the Bundesliga in its existence has shown a mark of how organized and prepared the German FA and Bundesliga were in ensuring the league restarted. They acted fast enough to have the impact of the crisis reduced by guaranteeing games returned.

While we still debate the decision to have the StarTimes UPL restart, apply the competition rule that would see Vipers claim the 4th title or even cancel, are there any lessons the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) and the Uganda Premier League should pick from the Bundesliga, just in case the lockdown measures are relaxed by Museveni and his government, and football is given greenlight?

Here are some of the lessons the FUFA and UPL need to pick from the Bundesliga’s successful return if the season if football is to be played amidst the prevailing conditions.

The DFB and Bundesliga take football seriously and Germany knows it.

Matters of football in Germany are matters of the constitution and it is the reason why the Bundesliga was amongst the most pressing concerns for Germany’s economy. In Germany, the prime stakeholders – The DFB and the DFL have marketed football to a level that its existence favors the government’s existence at almost a level beyond discussion.

In Uganda, football, in particular, is amongst the few industries that attract the biggest numbers of youths and all other fractions of the population as participants either directly or indirectly.

Today, numbers mean a lot, especially when discussing an activity’s impact on society, revenue to the gov’t and political influence. In Uganda, Football has been used as a tool for political campaigns and rallies, employment, and health and wellness of those involved. However, the industry is ‘still referred to as a leisure and recreation industry that comes after others.

If the FUFA and UPL fronted football and the league enough we wouldn’t be having such statements regarding sports in general. The FA should have started a campaign to change the narrative.
It looks like Sport with all its advantages and references in terms of international representation has accepted to have such a description.

Therefore, the FUFA and UPL realize the need to change the narrative, football will continue fighting for the Shs. 10bn budget, while other sectors that may not be as impactful continue having bigger consideration.

When will the Sports act be amended? Football through FUFA, well known as the highest earner from the National Budget should have spearheaded the campaign to have the act amended.

The fastest eats the Big narrative

When football was brought to a halt in Germany, the Bundesliga did not take long to come up with propositions that would have the games restarted. Theses propositions were just measures that would see the league and its activities practiced in a safe environment.

Measures like no tackling during training sessions, social distancing, and no celebrations during matches are some of the easy measures to come up with. But how to practice them and the way they are being enforced was a matter that needed enough time before implementation.

As a matter of fact, the Bundesliga’s return had been planned the moment football was sent into limbo across Europe and their success was largely dependent on the plans that were laid before the German itself would start planning for how to come out of the situation.

Have the FUFA and UPL started planning for the return of the league, or should we wait for the government to discuss for ‘football what football needs to do’? The FUFA and UPL need to plan for the return of the game regardless of when the lockdown measures shall be relaxed. But, until now the FUFA is yet to come up with a plan for any of its leagues including the StarTimes UPL.

If Media and other activities like Automotive repairs (Garages), Supermarkets, Furniture shops, and other related activities could debate for a position during the lockdown, has football tried anything? Like having conditioned training sessions? The best you will get from the relevant authorities is the fear to debate the President’s directive. Not to defy but debate. You can all imagine.

Cohesion and communication between the FA and Clubs

The success of the Bundesliga’s return was so much dependent on the cohesion and constant communication between the Clubs and the DFL.
If the StarTimes UPL is to return successfully, the FUFA and the Clubs will need to constantly share information and agree about a few things which would help the two parties just to be on the same page on how to deal with the situation, and what needs to be done.

By now, we would expect the FA and UPL to be sharing ideas and planning on how to safely restart the league. But, nothing is happening in the same direction.

Financial support or financial independence?

Is it the need for financial support or debate for financial independence? What matters the most? While we do not know the future of the current season, the UPL and its Clubs are only focusing on soliciting for financial support from the Federation, with more than Shs. 128M is needed per month for the next three.

How about soliciting and debating for the league and its return? The StarTimes UPL remains the biggest cash cow for the various stakeholders. It is the league that brings in money through sponsorships, gate collections, and other associated sources.

Now, if the league does not return within the next three months, it might become hard for money to come in under the agreeable terms. The Sponsors of the league, StarTimes will not release money for the last quarter if games are not played. Sponsors such as MTN, Betway, Britam among others, who have not been so much affected by the crisis may not have means of pushing in money with no activities to their respective Clubs and so will be the case for other associated businesses of the season.

What if the situation persists? Can FUFA sustain the financial pressure of all the 16 Clubs? What’s should we be asking for? Measures to have football return, or have financial support from the Federation?

The Bundesliga’s return was not built around pressure to have clubs assisted in running their obligations, but rather directed towards having their cash cow back. Isn’t it high time the UPL and FUFA agreed on what to prioritize?

Much as we remain unsure of when the league gets to restart, it is not too late for the Federation to start finding a way football can return to Uganda and the StarTimes Uganda Premier League in particular. The Bundesliga’s deliberate plan provides the actual sense of direction that can be taken.

Edwin Waiswa

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1 Comment

  1. This has summarized the issue for us! “The best you will get from the relevant authorities is the fear to debate the President’s directive. Not to defy but debate. You can all imagine.”

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