Origin of the Uganda Super League (USL)
Ever since football was introduced in Uganda there has been a national league which has been molded to suit the times.
Today we have the Uganda Super League as the national league that is meant to usher Uganda into a new football era.
The Uganda Super League (USL) Football, as the elite national league, is the backbone of football in Uganda.
In the 1970s, Ugandan football reached its peak with a vibrant national league, which enabled the Uganda Cranes to play in several Africa Nations Cup tournaments. This translated into an appearance in the 1978 Africa Nations Cup finals, only losing 2-0 to hosts Ghana.
Sadly, that stuck in the memory of Ugandan football as it’s the last time the national team featured in any major competition.
Winning 11 Confederation of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) titles has not offered any healing. Even qualification for the lower tier Africa Nations Championship is only a morning pain killer.
Nonetheless, in the good times, football was able to attract the biggest corporate companies and wealthy individuals that aided its development at the grassroots.
Through the 80s and a good part of the 90s, competition between Express, Kampala City Council (KCC) and Sports Club Villa lit up the league and fans came in hoards.
This should have precipitated into development but instead the fruits were violence and match-fixing. Like you would expect, Express and Villa, arguably the most supported clubs locally, were the biggest culprits.
In 2003, football hit its lowest ebb as Villa put 22 past defunct Akol FC when the league title went down to goal difference with Express.
Thereafter, there was a complete media shutdown in all matters pertaining to local football and fans never returned to stadia.
Creation of new body
Empty stadia, unpaid salaries to players, inadequate referees and dwindling coaching standards became the story of Uganda football and someone had to take responsibility.
In fact, many fans shunned the local league and took refugee in the English Premier League.
In January 2010, clubs from the Uganda Super League and members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of FUFA assembled at Jinja Nile Resort under Fifa’s Win in Africa for Africa project.
During the week-long meeting, the amateur status of league was recognised as the biggest weakness and the progress to professionalise it was undertaken with a road map targeting 2014 to heal most of the ills of clubs.
A five man ad-hoc committee was named to fast track this evolution, direct, monitor and implementation in order to realize the paper fondly known as the Jinja Declaration.
Julius Kavuma Kabenge, Issa Magoola, Moses Magogo, Richard Omongole and Jimmy Seggawa Ebil were elected as members of the Jinja Declaration Committee (JDC).
Their primary task was to ensure that all Super League Clubs are registered as Public Limited Companies (PLC), obtain physical addresses and tie their players to professional contracts.
Uganda Super League Limited
Uganda Super League (USL) Limited was born as the legal body that binds the clubs and runs the local league with total independence from Fufa that had been implicated in some of the wrongs of football.
Compliant clubs, namely Express SC, Villa SC, Proline Fc, Bunnamwaya SC, Kampala City Council FC and Boroboro Fc took the lead and incorporated USL as a company limited by shares under the Companies Act of Uganda with special rights reserved for FUFA.
The USLL is fully owned and managed by the sixteen Super League clubs and affiliates to FUFA, which does not directly involve itself in the day operations of the League. USL Ltd was born as the legal body that binds the clubs and runs the local league with total commercial independence.
Fred Elijah Muwema, Mujib Kasule, Kabenge, Dr. Bakka Musujja and Thaddeus Kitandwe were appointed as pioneer directors to run the affairs of USL until a substantive Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is chosen.
A radical restructuring is needed if Ugandan clubs and the game in general are to develop and flourish.
The Founder Members Agreement was signed in July, 2010, establishing the basic principles for the setting up of the Uganda Super League.
The League has commercial independence from FUFA, leaving it free to organise its own broadcast and sponsorship agreements and defining commercial products with the aim of generating revenue exclusively for clubs.
Clubs had to meet their part of the agreement as each is required to pay Shs1m before being allowed to compete but this money is refundable upon relegation.
In addition, every club must register 25 players for the season, 15 of whom most be contracted as professionals.
Gigantic tasks are set by the Jinja Declaration to enable clubs benefit and achieve the professional league by 2014. The Journey of 1 000 miles has started by the USLL taking the first steps, we all have to fasten our belts, and someone has to take responsibility.