NAIROBI, March 17- Having turned to ordinary courts to rubber stamp their position as bonafide managers of football in the country, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) is at crossroads.
This comes after a High Court in Nairobi handed its rival, Kenyan Premier League (KPL), a crushing victory on Monday by lifting an injunction to their competition.
Civil judge Lady Justice Roselyn Aburili ruled there were no sufficient grounds to stop KPL from running their Premier League that was declared invalid by the federation that kicked off its own 18-team FKF Premier League last month as the sanctioned top flight competition in the country.
For three weeks, 14 clubs that constituted Kenya’s top tier club competition last season could not kick a ball after FKF obtained an injunction against KPL on Feb. 20 that was properly served on the league management body three days later.
Following the verdict, FKF released a three-paragraph statement later Monday that lacked customary force and authority announcing they were weighing options about their next move.
“Arising from the Ruling, the Federation is satisfied that the case is still on course and the substance thereon was not dismissed by the Court,” said the national governing body. “We can confirm that our lawyers are studying the Ruling with a view to preparing grounds for the next course of action.”
KPL were quick to announce a resumption of their suspended programme starting Thursday to make up for lost time.
“KPL can now continue. The injunction had affected the clubs, the players and indeed the football industry. We appreciate the support we have received from all our friends and the media. Top flight football can now continue,” said the league organising body CEO Jack Oguda.
Monday’s ruling was the third major setback for FKF in their civil suit against the league organisers that now finds itself scrambling to gain a foothold in the ongoing power play over control of the lucrative top flight, the only arm of Kenyan football that has grown over the past decade with title and broadcast sponsors in place.
Exactly a week earlier, Lady Justice Aburili allowed two former FKF officials, Vice-president Sammy Shollei and Nairobi Delegate, Dan Shikanda, who were suspended from football activity for going to court, enjoined in the suit as interested parties.
This allowed them a route back to the game as they sought answers to why they were kicked out for the same action the governing body had taken in turning to corridors of justice to settle a dispute.
Last Friday, the same judge set free seven top KPL officials who had been sued for contempt of court for organising matches on the weekend of Feb. 21 and 22, ruling the federation did not serve them the High Court order granted by another Judge, Mbogholi Msanga on Feb. 20 in good time to stop the competition.
In her verdict, Lady Justice Aburili faulted the federation’s plea for singling out the seven, namely; KPL CEO, Oguda alongside club chairmen, Ambrose Rachier (Gor Mahia), Allan Kasavuli (AFC Leopards), Elly Kalekwa (Sofapaka), Colonel J Mwinyikai (Ulinzi Stars), Bob Munro (Mathare United) and Joe Musyoki (Tusker FC).
After Monday’s outcome, FKF was left clutching at their civil case against KPL where the judge ruled they were free to continue as long as they do not use the federation’s name as an institution to enter litigation since Kenya’s laws bar registered societies into entering such suits.
Lady Justice Aburili, however, granted the federation right of appeal.
-Loss Of Legitimacy-
The case and by large the football standoff that sparked off last November when FKF announced the expansion of the top flight to 18 teams against KPL’s stand of a 16-side competition has dominated local mainstream and social media.
Majority of public opinion has swung against the federation and its president, Sam Nyamweya, who holds instruments of power without financial clout and goodwill to exercise it.
This is despite a well organised propaganda campaign funded and fuelled by the federation in sections of print and electronic media that has consistently churned out falsehoods, including allegations of falsified letters sent by world governing body FIFA supporting their stand.
FIFA headquarters in Zurich has maintained they should look for an amicable solution to the crisis with KPL, a call supported by Lady Justice Aburuli who gave both parties the freedom to reach an out of court settlement.
Nevertheless, previous face to face talks to unlock the impasse have collapsed in acrimony, notably in mid February when the country’s Cabinet Secretary for Sport, Hassan Wario, and a fortnight ago, Lady Justice Aburili gave them 48 hours to defuse the crisis to no avail.
– Fifa Action-
With the dispute going to ordinary courts, government weighing in albeit subtlety and the existence of two parallel leagues all flying against FIFA statutes. Kenya’s crisis has persisted with almost passive intervention from the usually forceful world governing body.
“Throughout the past weeks, FIFA has sent letters to both the FKF and KPL in order to remind them of the relevant rules and provisions included in the FIFA statutes and offer the necessary support to solve the ongoing issue. We are currently monitoring the matter and can’t make further comments for the time being,” a FIFA spokesperson quoted by Insideworldfootball said on March 7.
In late December, FIFA sent three representatives led by former head of German Bundesliga chief, Robert Niemann, Development Officer in charge of East and South Africa, Ashford Mamelodi, and James Johnson flew in to mediate talks, but FKF trashed their recommendations once they backed the 16-team format, saying they had “overstepped their mandate.”
With the civil case, FKF may re-group and opt to pursue their suit, which is likely to take months or years to reach a resolution. Direct FIFA intervention is perhaps the only route to enforce a rapid end to the stalemate with two parallel topflight competitions.