The proposed FUFA competitions reforms are currently the talk of the football circles and that does not look like endings soon.
The reforms were announced at the start of April 2020, following a meeting by the FUFA Executive Committee.
As expected, different individuals and stakeholders interpret the reforms in different ways.
The one reform which has caused the most debate is the proposal to reduce the number of Uganda Premier League teams from 16 to 12.
It is a proposal that FUFA claims will help develope more competition with in the top flight and ensure that march to professionalism continues.
However, several football stakeholders in the country think otherwise and are of the view that the UPL should remain a 16-team entity or better still, accomodate more teams.
FUFA President Moses Magogo has come out to shed more light on the reforms, hoping to enable the public understand them better.
This was through an interview on FUFA TV, held this past Friday.
FUFA TV: FUFA has come up with proposals for reforms in the various Competitions but this has caused discontent among the football fraternity. Do you have an idea to this uproar from the public?
FUFA President: First and foremost, Glory to the Almighty Allah for keeping us alive especially during these challenging times and my brief message is that; let’s hang in there by following the guidelines given by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.
Every time when you need to succeed, you definitely need to change, unless you are satisfied with the state in which you are.
Albert Einstein once said that ‘Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity’.
We expected the discontent. Every time we introduce changes in FUFA, we have always experienced this and there are a number of reasons.
Humanity is resistant to change and everybody would want to remain in the state of comfort. Secondly, it’s also trendy these days to resist authority but what makes leadership count is being able to convince and navigate such waters for as long as what you are looking at is good and as FUFA, we have demonstrated that on many occasions.
We are in a generation where people don’t want to read and research but rather listen. So in the process people don’t analyse things scientifically. At FUFA, we analyse, tabulate, look at statistics and data in a more critical manner. There are also populists and politicians who just oppose anything from FUFA. As an Institution, we can’t just say what people want to hear. We have a mandate to manage the game and therefore must say and do what leads us to our objectives and those of our members.
And finally, just like medicine, whereas the World is looking for medicine to the COVID-19, they would have it even today, but the challenge is always on the side effects. So for every good thing, there is always going to be side effects but you must as well look at the positive effects.
FUFA TV: There is a lot of uproar about reducing the Uganda Premier League from 16 to 12 teams? Why are they complaining?
FUFA President: FUFA is a private organisation that is owned by 34 members. 16 of the 34 members are Uganda Premier League clubs as of today.
As FUFA, we have a vision of becoming the number one footballing nation in Africa on and off the field. For us to get there, we undertook a mission which is to develop, promote and protect the game for all.
For the positive administrative and sporting results Ugandan football has experienced under my administration, it is because FUFA has been implementing reforms in eight (8) key focus areas thus;
2. Football Development
3. Infrastructure, Facilities and Equipment
4. National and Representative teams
6. Marketing and Communications
7. Finance and Administration
Football touches people through Competitions and that’s why the Competitions reforms have largely been discussed in the public more than the other areas and we expected it. This is a great debate going on.
FUFA TV: An ordinary fan would think that they have got every right at every stage to come up with ideas. When do they come in and why didn’t you consult clubs?
FUFA President: Like I said earlier, FUFA is owned by 34 members with 88 delegates who meet in the General Assembly and elect the FUFA Executive Committee headed by the President. The Executive runs the game on behalf of the Members.
So when we set our Vision and Mission, we asked the FUFA Secretariat to come up with proposals in all the 8 key focus areas to achieve our target. The Secretariat comes up with proposals, get discussed on during various Standing committee meetings before they are presented to the Executive.
FUFA is what it is today because there are so many changes that have been undertaken, coming from the secretariat. The Executive approves the proposals while the Secretariat implements.
So even this time, the FUFA Competitions Department has been undertaking club licensing, compiling statistics and doing analysis. They came to the Executive and presented their proposal that can fit FUFA’s Vision and asked for permission to engage stakeholders and the public.
The FUFA Executive gave a go-ahead to consult with the stakeholders.
So if any person comes out to say, why didn’t you consult clubs? There must be a document that should be presented to them (stakeholders) for discussion. The FUFA Secretariat has generated a very good paper for consultation and discussion. When all this is done, they will bring a final position to the Executive to debate and pass what is within our powers.
FUFA TV: Why undertake reforms now. Which are these reforms?
FUFA President: Our objective is reforming competitions. We want to categorise football in three types that are distinct yet complement each other. The first is youth football. The way football is approached at this level, its tactics and the strategy are totally different from the second type which is amateur football. The third type is professional football which is about money.
FUFA TV: FUFA Reforms for Youth Football
FUFA President: We want to give access to the young people wherever they are to play football and whatever interventions we are putting in these reforms are giving an opportunity to the young people. They may all not end up as professional footballers but they can be fans, coaches and Managing Directors of Companies that will give sponsorship to football in future.
The proposal is to change is to change the FUFA Juniors League (FJL) which has been very successful considering the number and quality of players that have come through this project. We would wish to decentralise the FJL which has been played by 16 Youth Teams of the Uganda Premier League clubs having 400 players but we want every FUFA Regional Football Association (FRA) to have at least 12 clubs in the FJL. This equates to 96 FJL clubs and 2,400 players across the country as opposed to the current 400 young players in the FJL.
It is proposed not to be mandatory for the 12 Uganda Premier League clubs to have these Youth teams. It will be optional but we would encourage those clubs with the capacity to have them. However, it is going to be mandatory for the FUFA Big League Clubs because our objective is to run the Big League at the current state of the Premier League (Professional Leagues).
The FUFA Executive has passed the regulations for Academies. We are going to register, license and classify all football academies in the country into four categories. When these categories are done, we will publish. We are going to demand that these academies follow the FUFA Player development curriculum.
They will register all the players to be put in the national database to solve things like age cheating. Most importantly, we want to do a financial compensation for the academies managing players between 12-18 years when these players eventually turn professional both here and outside.
FUFA TV: FUFA reforms on Amateur Football
FUFA President: Here, we simply want to involve the masses and make sure football is played in every corner of the country. Uganda has 134 political districts and therefore, we must have 134 District Football Associations. We will organise football at all levels to make sure that any good talent in any village in Uganda is given an opportunity.
FUFA TV: FUFA reforms on Professional Football
FUFA President: This is where we need to explain ourselves more. What FUFA is looking at is to create a category called professional football and regulate it in accordance with stringent Club Licensing regulations demanding for high standards in areas of infrastructure, fiance, governance, sport and administration.
The proposal is to have license 28 clubs as professional clubs where 12 professional clubs will play in the Uganda Premier League and 16 professional clubs will feature in the FUFA Big League.
Some clubs will need 4- 5 years to prepare themselves but instead of closing out those clubs through Club Licensing, we are saying prepare yourself and play at the level you can and if that is the FUFA Big League so be it. The number 12 has been scientifically arrived at using the statistics collected over three (3) years of Club Licensing.
After say a period of 5 years, FUFA will re-evaluate and if we are good enough, we may go back to the 16 but we shall have created a benchmark of what a professional football club looks like.
For us to be able to move to the next level, definitely it’s going to shake up a few things, some people are going to lose advantages, positions of authority but we want an exclusive class of 28 clubs with coaches, administrators, referees and players that all professional.
FUFA TV: Isn’t reducing the teams to 12 going to reduce the number of players featuring in the Uganda Premier League?
FUFA President: That is not true. The suggestion is two leagues- Uganda Premier League and the Reserve league.
Each of the 12 UPL club will have 35 playing staff, featuring in both leagues.
Because there are players that are always on the fringes, some are returning from injuries and the young ones who command a slot in the first team, they will be able to continue playing football in this case.
So 35 players from 12 teams gives you a total of 420 players, which is more than the 336 players with 16 clubs in the Uganda Premier League currently. FUFA is looking at the 820 players from the UPL and FBL.
FUFA TV: The reforms are now well understood but there is fear this will only play advantage to the teams in Kampala and Buganda regions.
FUFA President: That’s another form of misinformation being traded by football politicians. For us as FUFA, we use statistics, we look at records, we don’t speculate. For example, we have done analysis for the past three seasons of the Uganda Premier League.
In 2017/18 season, there were only 4 upcountry clubs as this how they finished the season. Onduparaka FC (4th ), Kirinya Jinja SS (now Busoga United (5th ), BUL FC (6th) while Mbarara City FC (11th).
They all finished above the 12 club mark that we are talking about. The clubs that finished below the 12 club mark included Express FC, UPDF FC, Proline FC and Masavu FC all from the central region.
In the 2018/19 season, there were six up country clubs in the UPL as this is how they ranked at the end of this season.
Mbarara City (5th), Onduparaka FC (6th), BUL FC (7th) and Busoga United FC (9th).
The other two upcountry clubs that finished outside the top 12 are Nyamityobora FC and Paidha Black Angels FC.
Look at this season, with five games to go this is how the table stands. Busoga United FC is 4th, BUL FC is 6th, Mbarara City FC is 7th, and Onduparaka FC (8th) way above the 12-club -mark.
The teams in the bottom right now are Police FC, Maroons FC, Proline FC and Tooro United FC which sometimes plays games in Kampala and others in Fort Portal.
The statistics indicate that the 12 clubs that have finished below position 12 in the last 3 seasons, 9 are from Central (Kampala and Buganda) while only three are from upcountry. We know what happened to Nyamityobora FC and Paidha Black Angels FC. They had wrangles about administration and ownership. Same thing is happening with Tooro United FC. So qualification and playing in the league has nothing to do with the geographical location.
Actually, the upcountry clubs are disadvantaged with the 16 team league because Onduparaka FC travels 15 times away in a season, same as Mbarara City FC. BUL FC and Busoga United travel 14 times yet teams in Central (Kampala and Buganda) travel 5 times away to distant areas. To those who understand football; travels have financial and technical disadvantage to teams.
FUFA TV: The big talk is that FUFA has abandoned the Jinja Declaration. What is the Jinja Declaration and is it still operational?
FUFA President: Jinja Declaration was FUFA’s initiative. The FUFA Executive under the leadership of Dr. Lawrence Mulindwa as the President wrote to FIFA and asked them to come here because clubs were not understanding club licensing and professionalisation. It is like a communique after a workshop or convention but what is most important is that whatever you get from it, you come and put it in your statutes and rules.
As far as we are concerned, the Jinja Declaration was a 2010-2014 strategy. Therefore, it expired six years ago. How football was being looked at 10 year ago isn’t the same right now.
However, there are a number of areas that we agreed upon and FUFA has fulfilled almost all of them. I have seen most commentators faulting FUFA for some of the things that the clubs should have done. I think this is unfair. As FUFA, we have pushed, we have done the club licensing, the Clubs pro-agenda and we have really communicated. Some clubs have tried to do something and you can see the results but some have not done anything.
The second thing in the Jinja Declaration was reduction of clubs. That is one thing we have not completed because it said let’s reduce teams from 18-14 and that was ten years ago. Actually reducing the number of teams is what we are trying to do now in order to improve the quality.
The third thing is about statutes. We have worked on our statutes and those of the clubs. Things like finances, facilities, club offices, players, youth, marketing, communication and medical are what we have been looking at and you can look at this document and see.
We think the Jinja Declaration did its part and we are here partly because of some of the things listed therein. We can engage another gear to go forward.
FUFA TV: With reforms waiting for decisions, are there examples you can share with football fraternity where such reforms have happened and have gone on to be successful?
FUFA President: Most of the leagues across the World have actually come to their numbers by reduction. Some will say they have 18 or 20 but look at their previous numbers. I have heard so many people saying that there are a number of parameters to determine the number of clubs. It is good to tell people these parameters.
Different countries have different approaches, parameters and challenges. Right now in Uganda, we have totally different parameters and we can determine our way forward depending on what we want to do.
We have given many examples in Europe alone where club football is at its highest. We have 29 of the 54 countries where their leagues have 12 clubs and below. And don’t say they are weak leagues because out of the 29 counties, nine are in the top 30 -leagues including Ukraine which is ranked 8th in the world.
People have brought the issue of population. This is for amateur football yet professionalism is about ability to buy and spend. It is not about numbers.
There are very many countries that are populous and people aren’t able to buy. So definitely when somebody is conducting business in such a country they must be specific.
In Ukraine, football is the number one sport, they have a population bigger than Uganda, it has succeeded as a league and people are saying we shouldn’t copy Europe, we should instead model our own and that is our position as FUFA.
It’s not new in Uganda. We have had a 12 team league before. What we want is to create a professional industry and better brands with great value. A league is not a brand but just a composite of club brands.
If our clubs are not proper brands, there is no way the league is going to improve and there is no way we are going to get big sponsorships. So we want to make the clubs better brands by improving a lot on club licensing but we are also considering sustainability and posterity.
We would like to see clubs sustaining themselves beyond the current leadership and live for many years to come.
FUFA TV: How come the innovations made by FUFA are usually received with resistance, including those that have really been successful?
FUFA President: It is the same question I would pose to you as well, because as FUFA, we have been successful. I will go on record again that we are the most successful football administration in the history of Uganda. We are supported by statistics and results. We have come out with many innovations because we don’t fear change and it is out of these innovations that we have been able to obtain results.
There are so many notions we have changed. We brought the FUFA Big League and everybody was in doubt.
Today, everyone is proud of it. When we said we are taking the Uganda Cranes to the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019 as a project, today qualification is a habit and nobody is looking at how we have been able to achieve it.
We talked about Women Football when we withdrew the teams from International football and everybody thought it was suicide.
Today, everybody is talking about how good the project it is. Look at youth football, today everybody is talking about the FUFA Juniors League, the U-17 National team and the quality of the players who are coming through. These are well thought ideas.
When we brought the FUFA Drum, there were doubts but look at the numbers that are turning up. When we said that football can be managed by football money, people thought you needed to be rich to be here where I’m seated. People still think that you need a rich man to run a club.
Now those are some of the things we want to extend. It is from that experience; we are not guessing. We are trained, we are experts and we have been here before. All these changes we are managing, we could have achieved them without coming to debate for instance, we could have just conducted the Club Licensing regulations and when clubs fail, they are left out but we decided that we want this debate with the public. We want to sensitise the public such that they come along with us.
We have been a successful Federation. We have undertaken so many successful projects and this is going to be successful as well because we allow debate,. The proposal in the format it is right now, it may be lacking but can be improved by consultations and sober debates. We think that there are other people with other views that will make it better and applicable.
FUFA TV: Some players have come out to express their opinions about the proposed reforms but the National team coach, Johnathan McKinstry and FUFA have advised them not to do so. Why?
FUFA President: I have seen some people going to the usual tactic of trying to involve the Uganda Cranes players seeking their opinion. Their job is to play for the national team. People who are trying to use them are importing politics by using the players against the Federation, the same tactic that the negative forces use. Anybody who is doing it is not for the reforms but basically politicians.
We have talked to the players. I listened to the interview by the captain and it was a clear opinion not based on the information which is even in the proposal and somebody instead comes and puts up a headline ‘Onyango alumbye FUFA’.
We have a relationship with the players. We have a forum where we discuss with the players and people trying to get into that line will not get any success because we know how to manage our affairs.
If you are looking for players, why don’t you ask those in the Uganda Premier League who are not paid whether this proposal will be good or not. The local based players are the ones who are affected directly. We shall talk to them through our consultations.
FUFA TV: The proposals if effected will directly affect the players featuring in the domestic league. How will they benefit from this?
FUFA President: We have a challenge that many players leave the Ugandan league, go as professionals, we take them to the Uganda Cranes, go and beat the biggest countries on the African continent. They turn professional but come back immediately. What does that tell you?
Have we prepared them well at club level for them to be able to sustain themselves as professionals? Have we given them competition week in week out that is demanded at the professional level?
So let’s give the reforms a chance, debate, discuss and bring out ideas that are going to shape the proposals for the development of football.
FUFA TV: Finally, talking about consultations, are all the stakeholders going to be engaged?
FUFA President: First and foremost, when the process to receive ideas is completed, consultations will begin with the StarTimes Uganda Premier League and the StarTimes FUFA Big League clubs, sponsors- both individual club sponsors and the League sponsors. We will also consult the coaches and players through their representatives/captains who are playing in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League and the StarTimes FUFA Big League.
We will also consult the International and National referees who are part of these leagues. The Member Associations for the Youth, Coaches, Players and referees will also be consulted.
The media through USPA or any other organisation of the media such that we get their opinions, the National Council of Sports- our regulatory body and the fans through known fans club associations.
We will also want to consult with anybody who is interested through our email (email@example.com)
We believe when these consultations are all done, they will form the current raw proposal that eventually will be brought to the Executive Committee of FUFA. We will debate it, pass what is within our mandate but it is also our responsibility to propose to the General Assembly of FUFA what they should discuss. The final decisions reached at will be the ones that the Secretariat will execute.
So there is no rush, there is no reason to support your point by abusing people. If you have a strong reason, you can debate it with humility. Like I said, there will be opportunities where we are going to engage in terms of debate and discussions in a proper forum.
FUFA TV: Do we need to make changes in the way the domestic competitions are run and organized?
FUFA President: We have the experience and expertise of managing change because we have managed largely change at FUFA to get the results we are attaining. So it is also possible that we are going to manage this change because we know how to manage change like I said, we know how to manage the negative forces and we know how to manage mind-sets for us to be able to deliver the results and objectives of change.