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Paul Put’s future uncertain as SportPesa’s withdrawal looms

Harambee Stars coach Paul Put is among several stakeholders likely to be affected by SportPesa’s imminent withdrawal of its sponsorship to sports entities in the country.

Nairobi News understands the giant gaming firm has now settled on pulling out of all sponsorship arrangements after failing to block the implementation of increased taxation on gaming.

SportPesa had earlier threatened to withdraw their sponsorship should the new tax laws on gaming be upheld. That now seems to be the inevitable route that SportPesa will take after the High Court dismissed its appeal on Thursday.

“The multiplicity of actions on the same matter between the same parties even where there exists a right to bring the action is regarded as an abuse,” said High Court Judge John Mativo in his ruling.

Justice Mativo also explained that Pevans East Africa Limited, which owns SportPesa, and Bradley/Pambazuka National Lottery, who are challenging the said law, had failed to disclose to the court that there was a pending case on the same issue.

SportPesa’s annual sponsorship of Kenyan clubs, federations and national teams is valued at Sh1 billion. The company had already sent a notice to withdrawal in June last year.

SPORTPESA’S BENEFICIARIES

“This is a very big blow… Kenyan football will lose close to Sh500 million. This affects all our departments… Harambee Stars, the Kenyan Premier League, AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia, Paul Put,” Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa said.

FKF receive some Sh75 million from SportPesa each year, proceeds that go into the salaries of Put, technical director Anders Spiers, among other expenses.

Put, who is barely two months into his new job, led the national team to victory at the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup early this month in his first major assignment.

Top clubs Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards and second tier side Nakuru All Stars are all bankrolled by SportPesa. Other beneficiaries of SportPesa include the National Boxing League and the Kenya Rugby Union.

“Our operations cannot continue for the next two months in the event SportPesa pull out. I do not even think we can feature in the continental assignments,” Leopards chairman Dan Mule said.

In June this year, SportPesa chief executive Gerasim Nikolov hinted the firm’s intentions to close all its operations in Kenya and move to other jurisdictions should the tax laws remain in force.

The firm, according to Nikolov, was exploring the idea of shifting its base to Tanzania and the United Kingdom because “the company can no longer operate profitably under the current taxation regime.”