The 2018/2019 Uganda Premier League season was a great success in lots of aspects, most especially in the diversification of the game to different parts of the country since more clubs were allowed to host their games upcountry.
This helped the likes of Onduparaka, Mbarara City and Tooro United to pull fresh crowds into the game hence attracting thousands of fans to watch the Uganda premier league.
Spreading the game to the different regions is a priority of the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA), and having league actions reach the crowds in the north, west, and eastern regions was a great plus for football in general.
However, this has not been the case for the ongoing 2019/2020 season. Most of the region teams have been forced to switched their home grounds to the central region due to failure to comply with the FUFA Club Licensing Committee regulations.
For a stadium to be passed fit to host a league game, there are set minimum standards by the licensing committee and the league broadcasters.
Some of the demands included an all green playing surface, a perimeter fence to provide a certain degree of security to the players, coaches, match officials and media.
A well-constructed dressing room for the home, away teams and the referees fully furnished with sanitation facilities and well-demarcated entry and exit points.
The FUFA Licensing Committee denied many clubs licenses to host their games at their upcountry home grounds as many failed to meet all or some of these set standards.
One would ask oneself how a playable surface in 2018/2019 would become unplayable in 2019/2020. Does it mean FUFA scouts responsible for that role don’t do their job?
The licensing committee chairman Rogers Byamukama while appearing on Star FM’s sports show on Tuesday said that the clubs donot do much regards maintaining the stadium facilities after acquiring the licenses.
“Some clubs do the needful to get the license that allows them to host their games at home, once that is done, “They don’t go ahead and maintain what they have,” Byamukama said.
“Instead they just ignore and look on, when we come back to inspect, we realize that they have actually not made progress but instead made declines.” He added.
Byamukama’s argument holds content, but one wonders how much monitoring of the stadium facilities is undertaken during the course of the season to ensure that the quality of the facilities is maintained, and to ensure continued development of the facilities in place.
The challenge is, most of the clubs don’t own facilities, therefore, they have little authority on them. The clubs are only able to use them on match days.
Furthermore, with four months of zero league football, the rightful owners find other ways of generating income out of them, lending them out to music concerts and worship confrences which affects especially the playing surfaces.
Case in point is Kakyeka stadium which is used as a grazing ground and also hosts music concerts rendering the playing surface poor. Fixtures at Namboole have often been postponed because the stadium was rented out.
How can this problem be eliminated
To curb this problem, clubs like Mbarara City need to protect the state of the playing surface by having tenancy agreements with stadium owners to keep them in shape for their primary purpose, football.
“The advice we can give clubs is getting a lease from these stadium owners which give them enough authority on the stadium.”
“Meaning whoever wants to use the stadium have to talk to the clubs first and the club can dictate on who to hire out the stadium to and how to use it,” Rogers added.
FUFA also needs to be more lenient to a given extent by giving a helping hand to these clubs through sending scouts during the season so that clubs can keep their facilities in shape.
To be honest, at the end of the day, football stakeholders need more fans in the stadiums, so if a club, especially upcountry clubs are forced to host their games away from home you have denied them a sense of belonging.