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SportPesa may backpedal on sponsorship boycott to help crippled KPL

SportpesaAFTER pulling its sponsorship of Kenyan Premier League clubs earlier in the year over a dispute on government taxes, SportPesa could be reconsidering its stance.

The prominent bookmaker cut up deals with the KPL and other local clubs in January after the Kenyan government raised its gambling tax from 7.5 per cent to 35 per cent.

Now there are indicators that SportPesa may backpedal and reconsider its stance with sports funding in the country.

SportPesa is Kenya’s leading sports betting operator, and the decision to cut funding had crippling effects on sports operations across the country. Many KPL clubs became ill-equipped to pay staff and player salaries and, just last month, 18 club captains told the KPL they would begin to boycott league matches unless the clubs found alternative sponsors.

It’s being widely reported that SportPesa may begin to sponsor KPL teams Gor Mahia FC and AFC Leopards among other KPL clubs again. The only drawback is that SportPesa could be reducing its sponsorship deal from the established Sh93 million to Sh80 million ($792,000) per season.

SportPesa made its stance clear after decision earlier in the year — getting out of sponsorship was in the public interest. The sports betting operator said revoking its sponsorship deals was not intended to force the government into rescinding its tax policy, but to protect betting customers from paying more as a result of the tax hike. The gambling operator said it did what it did to avoid passing the costs of the tax to customers.

Recently, the Kenyan Revenue Agency (KRA) honored SportPesa with the country’s highest award for its contribution to sports development and economic growth at the local level. SportPesa has also won KRA’s Medium Tax Payers award for the third year in a row.

SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri said his company will continue to seek avenues of dialoge with the government in an attempt to reach a ‘fair’ tax policy for everyone concerned in Kenya.