Last Tuesday was a good morning for Express FC as they announced a Sh400m per year partnership deal with Betway. It wasn’t a ‘red wave’ washing away all the brand innocuity that a certain communication chief alluded to three years ago, but it might be the beginning of one. Neither by the way was it an immediate return to the glory days of the 90’s, but it was a strong statement of intent.
This column has in the past severally pointed out that their rich heritage makes Express FC an obvious choice for companies waiting to mine its base for mutual benefit of club and sponsor.
It therefore doesn’t surprise me that Betway followed in the footsteps of Equity Bank, Uganda Breweries Limited and Buganda Land Board to become the fourth partnership in as many months. What surprises me is why a club that is evidently a promoter’s dream, would remain financially and administratively unstable, as it lurched from one crisis to another for.
In searching for answers a nice place to start would be to look inward at the intrinsic challenges like gross indiscipline. In truth a rich history but one also stained with hooliganism, narrow cronyism and fiscal indiscipline was never going to suffice as a standalone savior.
The club needed to be de-risked and made palatable for strategic partners. That is what needed to change first.
And going by the events at Africana last Tuesday, these are matters chairman Kiroywa Kiwanuka and his leadership team appreciate. In his speech he noted: “When my Executive took over barely three months ago, one of my first concerns was discipline in all its facets.
Discipline of the football team, the technical team, the management team, the fiscal type and the fans”. That there is the rallying call around which the club can assemble and soldier on.
Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect this new wave to in one swoop sweep away all the challenges. As a matter of fact, some of the threats will lie outside the club’s direct mandate. And as if to demonstrate this, last Wednesday an extremely dubious refereeing ‘error’ cost Express FC 2 points versus champions Vipers SC. Such is the nature of the beast. The battles will be varied and lengthy.
So, this is just a start and Express must look forward and face a crucial test, of making the current momentum translate not into unrealistic expectations but into mundane measurables like improved player welfare, fan discipline, underage development or corporate accountability – those simple things that have dogged the club for decades and almost relegated it at the end of last season.
But as beginnings go, there is a lot to hope for. Whether the new impetus at Express will be derailed by the odious politics prevalent in our football is still a haunting question. But on Tuesday, an answer began to emerge: A bright future can be forged out of the current circumstances. And, here is to looking forward to that.