The Ethiopian Premier League has been around for over 70 years, and, since it was founded, the number of clubs under it has grown. But with the incredible growth and influence of the Western football leagues, Ethiopian football players have been demanding higher salaries, some reaching a whopping 165,000 Br a month, way above the national per capita income of the country. This, in turn, has jeopardised the existence of the very clubs these players belong to, writes SOLOMON YIMER, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
Asfaw Nigatu was waving the blue and white flag of Weldia Kenema, as he made his way to Addis Abeba Stadium to watch his favourite football club play with Meqelle Kenema. Although he does not have a regular source of income, he has travelled all the way from his hometown of Weldia to catch the game.
“This is not my first time; I rarely miss the chance to support my favourite team,” he says.
But he finds the currently inflating salaries of soccer players worrying, especially since football clubs such as Weldia are not that financially well-off. Nor is the sport growing at a level that can justify this inflation.
“We, the fans, have to help the clubs by other means aside from just buying tickets,” he adds.
This is the view of many soccer fans of the 74-year-old Ethiopian Premiere League. Clubs are running into financial ruin. This financial situation cannot be sustained unless some change is brought to the fore by the management of the clubs, a fan who did not want to be named told Fortune.
One of the highest paid players is Fitsum Gebremariam, who has been playing for Weldia for the past six months. Although he stopped playing for the team a couple of weeks ago, he has been earning a gross monthly salary of 168,000 Br. He declined, however, to comment on the issue, stating that he was under contract.
But Weldia is not the only one that is paying its players well-over the national per capita income, which stands at under 900 dollars. Fasil Kenema’s Dawit Estifanos earns 200,000 Br a month, while Adama Kenema pays Jecko Peaze Peryze 165,000 Br. Moreover, at least three players at Dire Diwa Kenemaearn over 150,000 Br.
Although some of the 16 clubs that participate in the League such as the Ethiopian Electric and Mekelakiya get government support, the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF), which is the regulator, does not have the mandate to set salary caps.
Read more at: Addis Fortune