16 vs 18 teams impasse: Mwendwa, Munro in joint FKF, KPL committee

Football Kenya Federation and the Kenyan Premier League Limited have nominated their members of the Joint Executive Committee(JEC) that is due to meet on Friday to thrash out a way forward on whether the top flight will be expanded from 16 to 18 teams this season.

During the reading of the public ruling in a case brought by the latter against the federation that is pressing for an increase of the teams to 18, the Sports Dispute Tribunal (SDT) directed the feuding parties to return with a decision from the JEC before close of business on Monday.

President Nick Mwendwa, Vice-president Doris Petra and Executive Committee Member Chris Amimo are the proposed representatives of FKF.

The league management company has appointed immediate chairman James Musyoki (Tusker FC), his predecessor, Ambrose Rachier (Gor Mahia) and one of the founders; Bob Munro (Mathare United).

FKF Chief Executive Officer, Robert Muthomi will be the JEC Secretary with the meeting set for Friday in Kasarani.

The previous JEC meeting in late November failed to resolve the dispute that has been simmering since 2014 when former FKF President, Sam Nyamweya, pressed for the increase of the top flight teams.

In March 2014, Nyamweya sought and was granted a court injunction that halted the KPL for a fortnight as a mediation team from continental governing body CAF led by Ashford Mamelodi and Leondegar Tenga flew in for talks that also roped in the Government.

Nyamweya and KPL were to later sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) dated September 24, 2015 that recognised FKF’s overall mandate to run football and the right of the league management body to be in charge of the top division.

During the Tuesday SDT ruling, both sides claiming ‘victory’ with KPL’s prayer to stop FKF from discussing the expansion of the league dismissed as a permanent injunction granted against the federation from interfering with the management of the league in the duration of the MoU.

On the eve of the ruling, FKF president Nick Mwendwa attempted to play a hand in the long-running tussle when he announced the relegation of Muhoroni Youth FC, Thika United FC and Sofapaka FC from the KPL for failing to meet the threshold of the CAF licensing requirements.

He further declared National Super League sides Nzoia United, Kariobangi Sharks, Zoo Kericho and Nakumatt FC had been promoted to what was now a 15-team KPL.

Curiously, only three of the 15 teams in his KPL had acquired full licenses namely; Tusker FC, Ulinzi Stars FC and Bandari FC with the rest allowed operating on provisional certification until June.

In slamming the move as a political manoeuvre to gain a hand over KPL in the raging 16 versus 18 debate, Muhoroni chairman Moses Adagala claimed the deadline for clubs to comply with the CAF requirements- save for those taking part in this year’s continental competition- was October.

Tusker and Ulinzi will represent Kenya at the CAF Champions League and second-tier Confederation cups.

Mwendwa is under pressure to deliver the pre-election pledge he made to expand the top flight to 18 but like his predecessor Nyamweya, he is finding the whole issue a hard nut to crack.

Upon the conclusion of the 2014 season, Nyamweya initially promoted four teams to the KPL namely; Shabana FC, Posta Rangers, Nakumatt FC and Kakamega Homeboyz but the league management body refused to budge.

He then announced ten others would play in the top flight and renamed the competition FKF-Premier League that was eventually billed as the second-tier after the CAF intervention.

While expanding the league is an eventuality going by the SDT ruling and the wishes of world governing body that wrote to FKF in November detailing their support of the federation’s stance, it remains to be seen how much longer the status quo will remain.