Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Sam Mwai's Legacy

One of Kenya's most consistent and visible sports management practitioners had his term expire. He who managed to bring the shine back to two of the country's biggest and most noticeable stadia. One of his last briefs was the negotiation of the naming rights of the Nyayo National Stadium into the Coca-Cola Stadium.
When he was appointed back in 2003, I thought this was another of the snobbish uptight guys fit for a fairway types. He managed to sit in well with most of the staff and slowly built a legacy which I hope the successor doesn't trample all over it.

Actual image of Kasarani Stadium at night- photo courtesy of SSMB

Well as they say, one journey comes to an end another starts...I'm sure this is not the last we have heard of Sam. The upcoming golf clubs and some really impressive one at the Coast may think of hiring his services-where he started.
Better still he may serve as a consultant for the Sports Stadia Management Board which still needs a hand in quickly revamping a couple of other stadia countrywide as we hope to reap some stay from visiting teams for the World Cup.
He truly deserves a place in our sports annals for bringing the glory (and the crowds-sic !) back to our stadia.
SSMB- kazi kwenu...you have your cloth clearly cut !

Friday, 17 April 2009

Golf : Kenya Open:- Truly Social ?

This time of the year Kenya (tagline-Kenya's Social event) entertains the PGA European Tour golfers as well as seasoned and budding golf players for the Kenya Open Golf tournament. This year sponsored by the Tusker brand of East Africa Breweries.
Kenya's premier social event....? Hmmmm....
Well, from the restricted entry into the club ( yes, you have to be a member...unless the club manager gives authority for the 'public' to be let in; to the rules like putting off your phone at the clubhouse; and even silence when the players are about to putt.
I'm one rare breed in a golf course and the only time I visited one was by default- chasing a goat (for Christmas) which had escaped our grips and made way to the nearest golf course. Guess the poor thing had sensed the last days of its life and decided to make a dash for it...
My friends tell me the members are usually a pretentious lot, holding their noses up and often catching up on the latest gossip in the corporate world on the 'greens'. They usually escape the 'fires of hell'-in the office to breath and catch one for the next day hoping whatever issues were there will be resolved before the end of the day.
What puzzles me especially in Kenya is the effort clubs go to trying to maintain the grounds. If the same effort was made by our politicians- who incidentally have numerous members in the 'gentleman's game', the harsh environmental concerns we are having would be in the past...but that's just a thought.
How come we have never managed to get a single player into the PGA proper even after playing this game -a vestige of our colonial masters?
But unlike me, if you can make way to the Muthaiga Golf Club and watch the 'green carpets' and take solace for awhile in these tough economic times !
Be careful what you pick !

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Kenya's in Beach Volleyball

For those who love the Sun and sand of the Kenyan coast, well ask no more you can enjoy this weekend at Mombasa these sights and get a feel of one of the most exciting games in the world of sports-beach volleyball.
Sponsored by a Kenyan mobile company and co-sponsored by another fledging media and entertainment company, the tournament will pit some of Kenya's seasoned players trying to dig out of the sand pits and spiking high balls as they try to get the better of their opponents.
This sport would make more sense to me since the country has enough reservoir of talent in volleyball circles and it is a better indulgence better than the drugs and other distractions among the youth of the Coastal region of the country.
It is also a crowd puller with interesting sights and sounds and which entertainment company wouldn't kill to want to be associated with such a sport. Front-runners in this game include Brazil which has dominated the game and the US of A which picks up on any sport and takes it to the next level, thanks to corporate support and open-minded sports business administrators.
Give it a thought Kenya Volleyball Federation ....

Kenyans on Ice ? Cool Running...

Philip Boit skis on snow at the Winter Games

It's interesting when the country's almost drying up its rivers and water sources someone thinks we can hack some ice on this side of the world,a few miles south of the Sahara...and a diminishing snow-cap on Mt.Kenya -a world's only snow-capped Mount on the Equator !
Since the launch of the first ice-rink in Kenya and Eastern Africa in 2005, many a sports enthusiasts (read ice-sports) have thought that this presents a good opportunity for Kenya to take its sports beyond the traditional outdoor events which its immensely endowed.
No argument there yet !
Early this year, some kids from private learning institutions guided by their tutors thought they can participate in the ice-skating events hosted in the Scandinavian countries...commendable idea but almost sentence to failure and possible ridicule.
I was quickly reminded of one Philip Boit-the first black African Winter Olympian to compete in the Winter Olympics Games cross-country event in Nagano-Japan . Having defied the odds of training on rough rugged hills of the Rift Valley province in Kenya and the usual stereotypes of running on the same hills, he attracted much attention from the awkward look he potrayed...all in the spirit of the games.
In March this year, he announced that he would be participating in the Winter Games to be held in Vancouver-Canada in 2010. He has participated in 4 previous Games with little or no support and as such feels he will retire next year due to lack of support and sponsorship. Commitment not in doubt by any chance !
There's word that we are now looking towards initiating the ice-stock or curling in the country...:-)..:-). tsk !
But if we are to make any serious progress on ice sports, we need to seriously engage countries that have these conditions and also invest quite some substantial amounts in the discipline. For fear of writing off such stunts, I will watch with interest what comes of this but your guess maybe as good as mine...

BackStory on CNN-Sports Coverage

Logo used with acknowledgement CNN.com

Thanks to some of my insomniac habits and also obsession with sports, the other day after watching one of the most dramatic games of the UEFA Champions League, I managed to catch the CNN's BackStory.
OK for the uninitiated, BackStory goes for story behind the story-the drama and hassles going into delivering news and shows it also delves into how correspondents deal with these challenges and human emotions they confront. Most of the stories usually go beyond the usual politics and gloom currently experienced across the world.
My scoop though was on how the CNN WorldSport guys get their stories and deliver them. As one Terry Baddoo said ,'its more than just lifting their legs and enjoying their favourite teams play or games'. From the slotting of the stories to the editing, filling in the relevant parts as well as committing viewers to the last item, the editors have quite task, which they navigate almost seamlessly.
You find a guy on like 3-5 phones at a time as he tries to keep tabs with the field correspondents from across the world; tv clips which at times have to be delayed or shown as images to avoid infringing on tv rights; updates from ongoing events and the occasional weird sport and Play of the Day- these guys make sports coverage an art.
In addition to this, the studio anchor ensures he or she has the necessary witty remarks which serve as a good break from the 'serious news' which CNN is known for.
My favourite is usually Mark McKay as well as the host of the BackStory- Michael Holmes -though he's not a sports anchor.
If you stay up till some of those ungodly hours, you can catch it around midnight(+3 GMT-East African Time) at this part of the world.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Sports and Media : Can we take the cue ?

In February this year, the English Premier League executives signed a record TV rights deal while the rest of the sporting world was looking into ways of cutting down their expenses.
I must confess besides the usual serving which keeps me like the rest of the football fans glued to the TV, these guys are miles ahead of most sports marketing executives.
Back in the 80s, the then new Commissioner David Stern had quite a job to convince the TV channels to run the basketball games which by then were tottering down into the abyss badly in need of a clean image and an appeal to audiences in the US. An arduous task which he handled well and we started noticing the NBA Play-offs match-ups pitting legendaries such as LA Lakers vs Boston Celtics. Who can forget what has now become one of the most watched event across the world,the NBA All-Star Weekend?
The same can be said of FIFA and IOC executives who saw the potential in this and quickly followed the cue. Since the late 1990s we have seen exponential growth in sports broadcasting, with some slots for main sponsorship partner easily running into over US $100 million.
Africa has also developed a lucrative broadcast powerhouse in the name of MultiChoice/ Supersport which has revolutionised sports coverage in the continent. They recently won exclusive rights for the World Cup 2010 as they enjoy the goodwill of having it at their background. They enjoyed a bit of a scare when GTV launched 2 years ago but we all know what happen to the blitz they had...
Back in Kenya, I wonder what is ailing us with broadcast houses still touching sports with a long stick. Most usually cover one event and leave off once the Games are done. Others still try to capitalise on the hype around an event e.g. the recent World Cup qualifier against Tunisia.
A replica of what might be the first station dedicated exclusively to sport is the Radio Jambo currently run by (Radio Africa Broadcasting- they who run Kiss 100 FM and Classic 105.2 FM). Too bad most of their information dwells on European Leagues where they can get info from the Net, rather than making more relevance by building capacities locally and regionally.
If we are to become a serious contender for sporting events in Africa, media is one area we cannot afford to ignore. One or two media-houses may come up with something for that reason. We can learn a lot from MultiChoice's SuperSport and with their recent entry into the market,it's as good a time as any !

Inspired by Sportbusiness.com

Monday, 6 April 2009


Kenya makes it to the Adelaide Sevens Final and we're all anxious and grabbing seats hoping to upset the form books and lift the first IRB Circuit round trophy. Same goes for the corporate firms which have for so long watched and waited for an opportune time to start blowing their horns the way the support this and that sport.
Others still will claim to have seen the potential that sport has and that is why they are throwing in some money for the cause. The worst culprits will be those claiming that it is in their Corporate Social Responsibility (.... more like Can't Socialism Relax ?)
Kenyan companies have for a long time made super profits which they have committed to their mother companies ( talking of the British and French companies which have been milking us dry). They turn a cold shoulder to sports and when they do commit they often throw crumbs which only serve to remunerate boards which have their stooges there and thus becomes a vicious cycle.
Sports in Kenya has more than enough potential to grow to some phenomenal heights and this can be seen with the Rugby Sevens. Virgin Airlines saw this potential and one Richard Branson did not need nudging twice to be convinced this was a growth sport.
Well the economic woes may have troubled air travel & all but whenever Kenya plays and we see Virgin all over the team's jerseys doesn't it make you wonder where Kenyan companies were ( or better still are!)
With the Junior World Rugby Trophy coming to Kenya in a few days time ( starts on 21st of April), lets see your usual johnny-come-latelys make their appearance on the sponsorship board.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Safari Rally : Low Key Start

Logo courtesy of Motorsport Kenya.

For an event which attracted thousands of fans, the sport is slowly drifting into international rallying obscurity. The event was flagged off and the rest of the city was almost unmoved.
What's even worse the cars will cover only about 700 kms ( approx 437 miles) and mainly feature runs in 'people's farms as a local driver put it in the Press today.The rally had also almost sunk due to the low interest by sponsors though the buzz came on thanks to KCB who are the title sponsors. The weather has also played its worst and a dusty rally with patches of rains dotting parts of the route.
The magic of the Safari Rally just seems gone. Even some of us were not so impressed by the spectator stage which has been a highlight for the last 4 years. Organisers had better come up with a better thing ( like 2 cars racing on the track) to make it more exciting.
They can also add a skills section just to showcase what some of the drivers can do (I remember Richard Burns doing some spins on the Argentine finishing ramp and it was worth watching)...
We also need to fully provide for the rally and let by-gones be by-gones, WRC has forgotten about us and the faster we forget them the better. We might as well have a section for our crazy matatu drivers and weekend speed-racing wannabes from well-to-do neighbourhoods. That makes more sense to us !

Volleyball: Gloves come off

After playing their qualifying matches and moving to the quarters, Kenyan teams , Kenya Prisons and Kenya Pipeline have been disqualified from the tournament-African Womens Club Championships.
For what has been a low key event and an even worse PR job from the organisers, this will effectively mean no Kenyan team plays for the remainder of the tournament. The disqualification came after other teams from Tunisia and Cameroon raised concerns that the 2 teams had fielded players who had played in foreign leagues in the last 6 months thus forfeiting their positions in the current clubs.
Now for the lure of Arab oil monies, the teams have been banned for 2 years and the players for one year...heavy penalties if you ask me...almost like death knells for them.
Kenya Volleyball Federation(KVF) can't escape the blame since they ought to have alerted the teams of dangers of fielding these players some of who are not even at their best. They ought to have saved the country the embarrassment of having both teams banned and in effect no representation to the country. It tells you why they never secured enough sponsors or are endeared to local firms.
Barbs and more barbs on you KVF !!!

Basketball: Kenyan lady makes a big impact in the US

Josephine catches a rebound in a game between Union University & Lambuth University in the NAIA tournament.
Photo courtesy of Union University

The Kenyan basketball scene has been rather nondescript at a time when other sporting disciplines have been excelling at different levels. Thus it was refreshing to read that a Kenyan lady is about to make a break into women's basketball most lucrative league WNBA.
While local media reports have stated that the lady has been drafted to the Indiana ladies team , fondly known as Indiana Fever, I'll not confirm that to you yet. But what I can confirm is that the lady playing in her 6th year, at the National Association of Inter-collegiate Athletics (NAIA) Basketball, has made a big impact , winning her 2nd consecutive Player of the Year award.
This is no mean achievement, given basketball not just in Kenya but most parts of Africa is still at times formative stages. In fact, there are less than 10 players from African basketball leagues and even worse is that there are very few who can make a transition without playing college games first in US- perhaps a skewed position of the game in Africa. Can NBA and WNBA or even FIBA try address such?
Back to our local hero, I do hope she's drafted to the competitive WNBA league from her Union University team which she's currently playing as centre. It bodes well for the local teams and talent which has been fairing better than their male counterparts internationally.
Please KBF use this goodwill to grow the game locally, what more do you need to wake up? For more info check here.