NAIROBI, Kenya, October 3, 2019 – SportPesa says its sponsorship of English Premier League side, Everton FC, is intact despite exiting the Kenyan market, its biggest market of the six that the firm had.
The firm is now left with The United Kingdom, Italy, South Africa, Tanzania and the Isle of Man, which is a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland.
SportPesa says its 80 full-time staff at the Liver Building in Liverpool, UK, are job-secure, allaying fears that the employees could be laid off after the outfit’s 400 Kenyan workers were sacked due to lack of money to pay them.
SportPesa has been at loggerheads with the Kenyan Government over claims that it dodged paying its taxes to the tune of KSh14.9 billion. After several high-profile meetings with the taxman and the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLCB), SportPesa announced on September 3 that it was on its way back to business.
“There has been notable progress in these sessions, and we are pleased that Kenya Revenue Authority have now cleared us to have our license renewed. SportPesa is confident that these processes will be completed soon, allowing the company to resume full operations,” said SportPesa in a press statement released on September 3.
“… we will be communicating soon on when we will be commencing operations,” added the betting company.
On September 28, however, the company reneged on its quest to resume operations in Kenya, citing a “commercially unviable” business environment arising from the introduction of the 20 per cent withholding tax on all winnings.
Despite the hurdles the firm says it is facing in Kenya, the company remains “business as usual” for the organisation’s UK headquarters.
A spokesperson for SportPesa told Liverpool Echo: “SportPesa’s decision to close our Kenyan operations comes as a result of a government-led agenda in Kenya that has made the betting sector commercially unviable in the country.
“We regret that government’s action against the sector as a whole may lead to a large decline in Kenyan tax revenue and will halt all investment in sports in Kenya.
“SportPesa’s global operations, sponsorship and partnership programmes, including in the UK, are not impacted by our decision to exit the Kenyan market. It therefore remains business as usual for SportPesa in Liverpool.
“We remain a committed sponsor of Everton Football Club and a proud partner to the club’s charity, Everton in the Community,” said the betting firm’s rep, who wasn’t identified by the Echo.
In May 2017, Everton FC announced that it had entered into a five-year partnership with SportPesa, which made it the most lucrative in the club’s 140-year history.
Everton Chief Executive Officer Robert Elstone said at the time: “We’re pleased to have secured the biggest commercial partnership deal in the Club’s history with an ambitious and growing, global company.”
Though Everton FC did not reveal the value of the deal, reports suggest that SportPesa parted with Ksh1.3 billion a year for the shirt sponsorship agreement with the EPL side.
Since the company’s inception in 2014, SportPesa experienced dramatic growth as they quickly established themselves as a significant investor and operator in the online gaming industry, only to be slowed down in July 2019, when their operating license was not renewed by the Kenyan Government over claims of tax evasion.
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