Zoo Football Club has reported Football Kenya Federation (FKF) to the Competition Authority of Kenya following a move by the federation to expel it from the Premier League for failing to endorse the media and commercial rights deal between it and Startimes Media (Kenya) Limited.

In a complaint letter seen by Sportsplug, Zoo through its lawyers has accused FKF of breaching the prohibitions in the competition act in relation to the media rights and commercial agreement (FKF x Startimes) and the FKF Rights (Media and Commercial) Regulations of 2018.

Communication Authority of Kenya Logo//Courtesy

Zoo in their letter claims that FKF breached the competition act by:

  • Engaging in a restrictive trade practice together with its members and StarTimes with the aim of preventing, distorting and lessening competition in relation to the broadcast, media and commercial rights of football competitions in Kenya contrary to section 21 of the act.
  • Engaging in a restrictive trade practice as a trade association by excluding it (ZOO FC) from football activities which is unjustifiable by the unreasonable application of the FKF Regulations and coercive recommendation by FKF to its members on who to contract broadcast, media and commercial rights of football competitions in Kenya with, contrary to section 22 of the Act.
  • Abuse of dominant position by FKF by concluding an exclusive long term broadcast media and commercial rights agreement with Startimes without competitive tendering and coercing its members to endorse such an agreement and making such endorsement a condition precedent to participating in any competition organized by FKF contrary to section 23 and 24 of the act.
  • Unwarranted concentration of Economic power by FKF in relation to the broadcast, media and commercial rights of football competitions in Kenya by passing the regulations and concluding the agreement contrary to section 50 of the act.

Zoo has disputed claims by FKF that it exclusively owns the media, commercial and broadcast rights in the FKF Premier League. According to the Kericho based side through its lawyers, it has in the past disputed and contested the ownership claims by FKF to protect its rights but the football governing body has not paid attention to any of their views and only wants things done their way.

Zoo has stated that it is highly aggrieved by the recent actions of FKF and StarTimes.

ZOO FC Players take a team photo during a past game//Photo by Goal

In their complaint letter to C.A.K, Zoo has stated that: “Sometime on 26th October 2018, FKF passed the regulations in which it purported to appropriate to itself to the exclusion of its members the sole intellectual property rights including copyright emanating from all football leagues and competitions in Kenya including the right sole and exclusive rights to negotiate contracts that it would deem to be binding on its members”.

“The said regulations also contained penalties and sanctions to any FKF member who did not adhere to its provisions including the suspension and expulsion of members from football activities and business”.

“In furtherance to these regulations, FKF concluded the agreement with StarTimes on 29th September 2020 which at clause 8.3.4 thereof required FKF to procure that ZOO signs a letter undertaking and endorsement of the agreement that if Zoo fails to execute such a letter then it shall be removed from the FKF Premier League”.

“Zoo Fc which participates in the top tier football competition in Kenya on sporting merit being the FKF Premier League was on 13th October required by FKF to endorse its acceptance of the agreement and declined to do so”.

FKF President Nick Mwendwa During a Past Press Briefing//Photo Courtesy

Zoo continues that its failure to endorse the agreement saw it get menacing threats from Football Kenya Federation.

“FKF in a series of letters starting on 24th November 2020 began making menacing threats to Zoo FC in a bid to coerce and compel it into endorsing the agreement”.

“ZOO FC resisted these menacing threats and FKF acted on them on 9th December 2020 by suspending and thereafter expelling them from all football activities and business”.

Zoo now wants the Competition Authority of Kenya to grant it interim relief against FKF, members of the FKF Premier League and Startimes.

The Reliefs

Zoo Kericho FC chairman Ken Ochieng//Photo Courtesy

The club wants an interim order prohibiting FKF from suspending or expelling it from the federation and the FKF Premier League on account of its failure to endorse the agreement.

It also wants an interim order against FKF and Startimes prohibiting it from broadcasting its matches.

The club has also made permanent relief request to C.AK and now wants an investigation under section 31 of the Competition Act against the FKF, FKF Premier League and Startimes regarding the FKF constitution, FKF regulations and Agreement violations of the act.

It also wants findings under section 34 of the act that the FKF constitution, regulations, agreement are in violations of the prohibitions in the act.

The club has asked for compensation and damages for harm inflicted upon it by FKF and Startimes.

It remains to be seen what will unfold following the latest move by Zoo. FKF has insisted that the expelled clubs (Zoo and Mathare United) will not be reinstated back to the League.

“It is a closed chapter for Mathare United and Zoo. We gave the two teams 48 hours to sign the deal and it elapsed last Friday with none of them endorsing the same, and the National Executive Committee (NEC) has passed to remove them from the league and that is final” said Mwendwa as quoted by Goal.

As the contractual wars continue, it is the players from the two expelled clubs that will suffer the most and despite a 14-day transfer window opened for them, it will be difficult for them to get teams especially in the topflight as most clubs were done and dusted with the issues of transfers.