Kenya halts rival leagues after rebuke by FIFA

September 23, 2006

NAIROBI, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Kenya's government halted the country's two rival soccer leagues on Saturday after being ordered by FIFA to sort out chaos in the sport.

'We order a stop to the two parallel leagues,' Joshua Okuthe, head of the Kenya National Sports Council, told reporters.

'Running rival leagues is not only counter-productive but an embarrassment to the government and the people of Kenya.'

Kenya's top football clubs have split into two factions with nine of them taking part in a league started last week by the Kenya Premier League (KPL) Limited and 11 remaining with the premier league sanctioned by the country's football federation (KFF), which had been due to start on Saturday.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has given Kenya until Oct. 18 to sort out the mess or face unspecified sanctions.

In a strongly-worded letter on Thursday, Blatter ordered the KFF to explain in writing steps it had taken to implement 28 points agreed upon in January, which included setting up an independent company to run the league.

FIFA recognises KPL Limited, which was mandated to run the Premier League in the January agreement at a meeting in Cairo between FIFA, the KFF and the African soccer confederation.

However, Okuthe said: 'We recognise KFF PL Limited as legally mandated to run the Premier League on behalf of the federation and not KPL.'

He said no matches would take place until officials from the two leagues had met to decide which teams would play in the KFF PL League.

Last October, Kenya was threatened with suspension from all soccer activity at FIFA's annual congress in Marrakesh because of government interference in running the sport.