Up until late last year, the rugby fraternity had been one of the best managed sports federation in Kenya in any of the country's sporting disciplines. It had ( and continues) attracting major corporate sponsorship and has slowly edged to the upper echelons of sporting excellence thanks in large to the role the Kenya 7s team has played in increasing our visibility both local and international.
But with such exposure comes the very REAL possibility of attracting charlatans and hawks busy to reap where they didn't sow. It is also characteristic of one of Kenya's tragedy both in public and private business where those in charge are busy thinking of what is there to take out instead of being part of revenue and income generation.
When the new office at Kenya Rugby Union came into place, many were happy to see some smooth transition between former office bearers and current holders, another rare feat in Kenya's sporting bodies. But some were not entirely impressed and those in the rugby circles claim that seeing a former official from the 'mtaa clubs' ( apparently rugby clubs also have their own classification thanks to inheriting our former colonial masters social structures) taking over top office was not amusing. Again it was felt that rugby had 'crossed over' to those without the rich and deserved heritage of the game in Kenya. On that one, the jury's still out there...
But over time, heads started rolling along with the usual semantics played to the media about making the game more professional as well as appealing to the lesser known parts of the country. There was also the quick change made to the Kenyan rugby calendar which still didn't raise much noise. Among the events affected was its premiere event the Safari 7s.
Then came the clincher when the KRU officials and organisers decided to shift the Safari 7s from its traditional home at the RFUEA Grounds along Ngong Road to the Nyayo National Stadium. This caused all sorts of noises from rugby purists and more discomfort to the organisers. But the beauty of having corporate backing is the financial and logistical muscle they can muster. And the event passed on without incidence and those in attendance loved the showpiece.
But the worms had to crawl out of the woodwork once it became apparent that there were some deals made under the table and the revenues coming from the Safari 7s seriously dented even after a reported improved attendance of about 19,000 fans for the 3-day extravaganza. The dailies were all too happy to splash these headlines as seen here.
Last weekend though brought more dissent from the clubs ( among them Kenya Harlequins,Homeboyz, Impala RFC, KCB RFC, Nondiescripts RUFC and Nakuru RFC) which opposed the expanded Kenya Cup which was to start last weekend and which now seems to be in limbo after these clubs formed what they call the 'Rugby Enterprise Limited'. Our informal discussions with rugby insiders inform us the expanded Kenya Cup would mean more fixtures for all the clubs especially to the Western region in Nyanza and Kakamega. Not that they wouldn't do it but most clubs have not had much financial streams and sponsorship as much as the national side (both 7s and 15s) and it would put much strain to their meagre resources.
It is also seen by most as a some sort of impunity by top officials when clubs which had been relegated are suddenly back in the top fold, negating the role of the Kenya Cup knock-out fixtures and diminishing Eric Shirley's significance.
One of the quickest things that Kenya Rugby Union would have to do soonest is to 'gorge out the rot from the wound before it makes their limb weak'. By this we say call that Extra-ordinary General Meeting that has been pending and let clubs and officials alike iron out those issues before they become any worse. Not that it's going to be the easiest thing to do, but once such mechanisms are in place they help avoid major schisms in the overall running of the Union.
Secondly, its is time that the Kenya Rugby Union started working and appearing to be a unit with the top officials having regular briefs say every 2 weeks to let the public and discerning rugby fan of the game's going-ons. Bad PR is not good for any organisation worth its salt and the bad press the Union can be undone by such briefings. It is also sad that there seems to be leakage of information both true and false which makes it hard to know what works and what doesn't.
Third, it would be fair to appease clubs and seek to understand their challenges and not necessary bull-dozing rulings or proposals to expand any of the tournaments or leagues. The very existence of the game is because of the league structures in place and once these break down, the rest is just a shell which amounts to nothing. Work to see the feeder programmes for the clubs are in place and the lower teams learn from more established sides.
Fourth, if the Kenya Rugby Union officials were uncomfortable with those running the day-to-day happenings at the Union's office, they would have vetted them and those not found able asked to transition slowly to those newly appointed. The minute you start 'wrecking' every known structure and establishing your own set, it shows hostility and even those not in the wrong will start viewing you with suspicion. The office's staff are quickly deteriorating into some disillusioned personnel and that's not the best way to start your 2011-12 year.
With the 7s team about to start the IRB 7s 2011-12 circuit, there was the expected changes made both to the technical and actual team. It is tough to set a team and it is even tougher to hold one which needs to meet the expectations of its citizenry and the continent. The team has a tough call seeking to restore its place as one of the best sides not in the traditional top 4 of the IRB teams. Mind you the happenings at the office and the bad Press will most definitely affect their morale and game going forward.
And finally to the sporting fraternity in Kenya, do we always have to shoot ourselves in the foot when we have good thing going? And also when are we ever going to see corrupt and inept sports officials charged and hauled to courts and made to pay for their misgivings? Maybe when we see a few necks hung we shall be more careful with the way we run sport...