25 April 2014

UGANDA : FUBA League Set for Chaotic Start

The wait is over for the start of the 2014 top-flight basketball league. But, ahead of tonight's kick-off between UCU Canons and defending champions City Oilers, a sponsorship mix-up will deprive fans of viewing the games at the Lugogo arena as well as live broadcasts on NBS TV, writes Felix Eupal.
Recently, MTN Uganda refurbished and rebranded the Lugogo arena to look all yellow from corner to corner. Lugogo is the home of basketball and the arena looks better now but the move has also come at a cost.
The Observer has learnt that the telecommunication giant has a ten-year branding contract, which still has six years left before it runs out. Interestingly, the Fuba League is sponsored by the rival Airtel Uganda, which ended MTN's stranglehold on the sport last year.
As things stand, local basketball body Fuba finds itself in a tight situation because MTN holds the branding contract of the arena while Airtel holds the game's rights. This catch-22 situation means Fuba can only hold games at Lugogo if Airtel is not going to brand them but that seems unlikely given the huge amounts Airtel sinks in the sport.
As a result, the games have been shifted to YMCA court in Wandegeya, which pales by a mile in comparison to Lugogo. It hasn't helped matters that NBS TV remains uncertain of their live broadcast sponsorship of big games because YMCA open-air lighting does not meet the required standards.
Other would-be sponsors are also said to be holding back because until the arena branding issue is resolved. National Council of Sports [NCS] is watching the controversy as a bystander.
Jasper Aligawesa, the NCS general secretary, said: "Fuba has the full support of NCS."
Yet, NCS is making it harder for Fuba to use the venue compared to other sports. For instance, while disciplines like volleyball continue to use the venue for Shs 200,000 per day, basketaball was last year charged Shs 500,000 per day. That fee has been upped to Shs 800,000 this year.
The Observer understands that talks are going on to try and find a solution but it remains to be seen whether common sense will prevail.

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