We recently got an opinion piece from John Kameta, the president of Boxing Association of Kenya. Quite an interesting take, this is.
He remarks that the future of Kenyan boxing looks rather ominous if the government goes ahead with the proposal to create a kitty tol receive sponsorship money from betting companies on our behalf.
The proposal is a 50 per cent tax on gaming companies and this money is to go to the newly-created National Sports, Culture and Arts Fund whose intention is to develop the sports and arts industry, a noble idea.
As an industry player, any move is welcome, be it by the government or the private sector, that will have the effect of advancing the sport of boxing in the country. However, while the intention is good the execution is not.
For a long time, the falling standards of boxing in the country have been decried. This has been mainly the result of underfunding by the national government and municipalities over the decades.
Kenyans often reminisce for a return of the sport’s golden days between the 60s and the 80s, whose crescendo was the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea where Robert Wangila won a welterweight gold medal.
The late Wangila just like other boxers who represented Kenya in various competitions was the beneficiary of neighbourhood gyms which were well equipped and staffed with proper trainers.
These neighbourhood gyms also had the effect of keeping many youth out of trouble by channelling their energies into sport and away from other vices including crime while at the same time keeping them fit.
The state of the sport has been in dire straits and it wasn’t until recently that fortunes changed courtesy of sponsorship from gaming companies. Betting firms have come in to fill the role that the sports ministry and similar departments at the county level had left vacant.
Today, thousands of youth in proper kits are actively training at refurbished centres thanks to the sponsorship from betting firms. At a higher level more young Kenyans, both men and women, are becoming professional athletes and earning a reasonable income from the sport. Again, this has been made possible by sponsorship from gaming companies.
It is therefore a matter of concern for the future of boxing since the 50 per cent tax rate is a death sentence for their chief source of revenue.
This concern is shared with their peers in the football, rugby and racing fraternities.
There have been suggestions that sportsmen ought not to worry since the newly-created National Sports, Culture and Arts Fund will come in to develop the industry. Well, even Kenyans are apprehensive over such a proposal.
To begin, it is reasonable to question why the government are creating a kitty to fund these activities yet there is already in place an efficient partnership between sportsmen and sponsors.
Additionally, due to the newly-created fund being a public body it will be subject to convoluted processes that are associated with government-run programmes, subjecting members to unnecessary bureaucracy that could delay execution of calendar events.
Then there is concerned about the transparency of such a fund. Last year, a report on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games found wanton waste and outright incompetence that embarrassed our country. The report laid bare how government officials bungled up Kenya’s chances of better performance at the global sporting event.
So here’s a genuine question: is this the same ministry that is going to handle hundreds of millions that are disbursed in sponsorship each year?
The gaming companies have very high reporting and accountability standards and a breach of these rules immediately results in funds being stopped and disciplinary action been taken on errant officials.
This is why the Kenyan boxing fraternity is humbly asking Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich to consider the above views and amend the 50 per cent tax rate that will dent a killer blow to the boxing industry.