Though coming in late, we preview what our take on this budding rugby tournament that has slowly come of age. There was plenty to bite on over the 3 days that the sporting extravaganza was held at the RFUEA Grounds on Ngong Road. Allow us to fill you in;
a) Growth :- Starting from the 1990s, the event has seen its growth to become a major mark on the sporting calendar of the Kenyan scene. That the grounds could command numbers in excess of 10,000 for the last 2 days, is no mean feat. There are also the different invitations extended to the secondary and lower levels which is encouraging as these aspire to be the Injeras and Ademas of this world.
On stunted growth, it is fair to say that the competition has yet to attract competitive sides such as New Zealands All Blacks, Samoans or even the Springboks of South Africa on a regular basis. This is an area that the Kenya Rugby Union needs to work on to make it possible to competitively bid for a place in the IRB circuit series in case they extend the current 8 to a potential 10 or more tournaments - of course if they need more exposure for the game by 2016.
b) Infrastructure - the grounds were resplendent with lots of corporate colours from this or that company. This is a big boon and an even interesting prospect is the fact that there are some energy and resource saving solutions that are being explored by the corporate firms which see it not just as an investment but a way to utilise innovation - a case in point Lister Petter.
There is also the added value that new sponsors have brought on board investing in fan stands and other necessary structures to ensure the teams have a peaceful game on the pitch. Companies in Kenya must learn that sports MUST be part of their investment plans and NOT some CRS- corporate social responsibility programme - loathe that term !
The one worry though is that of the grounds were intended to host a bigger and more competitive, investing in bigger sitting space, better parking grounds, floodlights in case of playing on the early evening or night and such features. The security though improved can be better, as we saw on the last day when a streaker ran the full length of the pitch half-naked.
c) Media liaison and centre - It's been awhile to see such well co-ordinated communication for the media and the centre for reporting and interview booths. Though the usual case of some prima donnas ( thanks to working for certain media organisations, some individuals definitely think they are bigger than life - the basics is to get the unattending fan to catch up on the game and get the job done - period. All else is just secondary....) who almost gave a bad name to the place, with the demands for this or that favour. There was also the case of constant reprieves from organisers for over-zealous cameramen - our own included. The idea of a ring around the main pitch separating the crowd from the media people is not a bad idea.
Relating to live coverage and social media, there were constant updates from the SuperSport team as well as our own K24 which broadcast the game live. This is a plus for the game for future screening and if we do bid for the IRB circuit. W e had the social media buzzing with updates from both Twitter accounts, Facebook updates and uploads as well as the blogging world ( including yours truly...)
d) Invitational teams - while we cheer our boys for winning the game, in retrospect we should be rooting for the developmental side or team B to have achieved better. If our national team is to have a feeder programme, the second-string team needs to be up to the standards. Its not a lost cause for the team ( Shujaa as it were) due to the fact that the team had not even trained together comprehensively for them to play in this tournament. As earlier said, we also need to get more competitive sides from the IRB circuit to come play before our fans - that way we get better value the money, both for the corporate firms and enthusiasm to continue coming for more.
e) Entertainment - while we enjoyed the lady dancers and acrobats on the pitch, could we have a wider variety - maybe some comedians like we had some time back with the Redykulass guys? Still on the same, while it may cost a little more, we could love to see some international act like we did sometime in 1997-8 with former Fugee Lauryn Hill making her presence felt on this East African city.
Overall it was a well-run tournament and big kudos for the team for giving us a vantage point to absorb the happenings. Good tidings for next year's and future Safari Sevens.