Changing the game: The dynamics of the commercialisation of football in Eastern Africa (August 2020 – October 2021), funded by the FIFA Research Scholarship and led by Jorg Wiegratz.
Changing the Game: Football operates as a global business. The commercialisation of elite level professional football affects all levels of the game – from ownership, sponsorship, ticket sales to TV licensing. The commercialisation of football is not limited to the most powerful and competitive leagues in Western Europe but affects de-facto all regions of the world, including Africa. The commercialisation at the professional level across the whole of Africa is having a significant impact on the continent’s domestic competitions. In business terms (TV revenues, ticket sales, advertisement, club budget, players’ salaries, etc.), Africa as a region is to-date peripheral in global football. Meanwhile, local leagues struggle to compete with European leagues for the domestic football fans’ attention. It has been suggested that the development of football in Africa necessitates the creation of the type of professional and commercial culture which surrounds western European football. There are a number of examples now where there has been an attempt to create this type of culture; various leagues and clubs from East Africa exemplify this growing phenomenon. This project thus proposes a comparative study of the ongoing and intensifying dynamics of commercialisation of football in East Africa. The aim is to empirically investigate and map the major drivers, characteristics and repercussions of the commercialisation in two countries: Kenya and Uganda. The overall question is: what changes are triggered by the commercialisation of local football? We will investigate different clubs and commercial developments in the countries’ capitals – Nairobi and Kampala. These case studies will allow us to explore the dynamics of introducing cutting-edge commercial models in sports leagues on a continent that has had – compared to other regions – relatively low levels of commercialisation until recently. This will enable a better understanding of commercialisation-in-practice – and respective similarities and differences across the two sites – in a key football region in the Global South. The methodology will be a combination of structured interviews with local/locally present foreign actors and participant observation.