Monday, 3 June 2013

Kenya Rugby Ruckus ala Philip Jalang'o-style

"This man, Jalang'o, this man!" were some of the words that inspired this blog-post. This was in a conversation with some of the less knowledgeable rugby fans who I regularly meet on the beat and wanted to offer some of the points to clear the air on which have not been addressed since this commotion blew out in May 2013.
Philip Jalang'o - courtesy of

First things the post goes up, Philip Jalang'o stands suspended from his position as a Director at KRU. However he has gone to court to contest this suspension and is seeking to be reinstated stating that his suspension is null and void.

Now back to the rant. For those who don't know much about he was once the Chairman of Kenya Harlequins club - one of the top rugby clubs in the country - where though the team performed relatively well in its outings, was losing out in other club management issues. This includes the transfer of ownership of the club-house bar which had been granted to Shareware and also leaving the club's book in the red with heavy debts. His fellow club officials promptly found him not good enough for the top office and opted not to re-elect him at Quins.

Luckily for him, he managed to wiggle his way into the national board at KRU and has been quite abrasive and at times rash in his decisions. And though the Union has other officials who ought to speak out on the game's developments at a national and international level, Jalang'o has been quite visible eclipsed only by the Chairman one Mwangi Muthee.

Last year after the end of the 7s circuit, he quickly sacked then coach Mitch Ocholla who had only done a year into his coaching contract. It's true the performance of the team had deteriorated and there was not much to write about. However the working conditions had not been as favourable as the coach would have wanted, but that's not for us here to rant about.

Mike Friday who was then relatively unknown by many a Kenyan rugby enthusiast but who had made his name as former England player and England Rugby Union 7s head coach; was announced as the new coach for the Kenyan team. This decision apparently was almost single-handedly decided upon by Philip Jalang'o. Within the same breadth came the sweetener to the deal which was that the shirt sponsorship deal with Gilbert's would be dropped and English sports apparel makers, Samurai Sports would be the new shirt providers. No clear details were given on how this sourced, whether there was a tendering process and quotations made available. It is also said that Jalang'o had business interest with the local operations of Samurai Sports who made the deal possible.

As if to exonerate his recruitment, Kenya started well in the new season of the International Rugby Board 7s series and amassing points to stay lodge in the top 6 going into the break at the first half of the 2012-13 season. However the team was struck with the blow of playing without its mercurial winger, Collins Injera for the crucial ties in the second-half of the season. Injera had been dropped on the charge 'of indiscipline and failing to play for his club, Mwamba RFC'. Though the Board at KRU ended up backing this decision up, word has it, Jalang'o had engineered this move.

Kenya 7s players in Samurai Sports attire
The big one came when early last month Philip Jalang'o sent a release to the Press indicating the firing of Mike Friday a day after the Kenyan team had finished fifth overall in the IRB 7s series amassing 99 points, 1 short of its target for the season. This led to a quick rebuttal by Chair, Mwangi Muthee who indicated that Mike Friday was still in charge and would have his performance reviewed on return to Nairobi with the team. This instead led to his 'firing' by the KRU Board.It is said, personal differences between the two ( Friday and Jalang'o) led to this acrimonious falling out.

With the next major tournament in the Kenyan rugby calendar being the Bamburi Rugby Super Series (BRSS), Jalang'o was still out to prove who's the man running the show. This year's BRSS featured franchises which had new (and rather awkward Swahili names like Nyumbu, Papa ), killing a 10-year heritage of the previous names such as Buffaloes, Cheetahs, Rhinos and Sharks. The selection was also skewed with top clubs making one of the franchises. Nyumbu, a Kenyan franchise made up players from Quins, Nondies and Impala was expected to be the clear favourite and was enjoying the same form going into the semi-finals. However with the ties scheduled for Kampala, Uganda, Jalang'o is reported to have met some of the players and asked them to boycott playing the game. This led to a weakened side showing up at Kyadondo ( pronounced Chadondo) and losing to the Ugandan team, Ruwenzori.

This was along the lines of misinforming participating franchises that the 'BRSS semi-finals were the preserve of pool winners' yet the contract clearly spelt out that 'one semi would be held in Kampala in the event of a Ugandan team reaching the semis with the other being held in Nairobi'.

He has also been rumoured to have interfered with the selection of the national 15-a-side team which is due in South Africa later this month. Add the fact that Kenya Airways will be the shirt sponsors (for a song) instead of negotiating an extension of the deal from the Kenya 7s deal.

Now these are but a few of the allegations that directly relate to his mandate as a rugby club and national official. Other claims include 'greasing the pens' of scribes to get favourable coverage for the game and also to 'kill' any negative stories that might relate to him or decisions made. It is a foregone conclusion that the election and subsequent re-election of Chairman Mwangi Muthee is not something that some like him have ever been inclined to and have sought to make him look indecisive and incompetent as often as possible.

With the current Board looking to exercise it's objectives and with the game still looking as lucrative as sporting events could attract, it will remain to be seen if the elements such as Philip Jalang'o who's motives are not always in the interest of the game, can be banished to sports management Siberia. It would also be imperative for KRU to repair this PR damage and get back into the good books of the sports fans. Sponsors and media companies who are your bread and butter are watching keenly. The fans too are concerned and this will start showing, if these issues aren't resolved soonest.

As for Philip Jalang'o and his ilk, I shall be waiting for the Court to throw out your case and save the game the disrepute that you have brought to rugby. Save yourself the lawyer costs and give way for more competent personnel to run the game. Rugby has been a gentleman's game and for heaven's sake can we keep it as such!

 Disclaimer: This is a guest post from an aggrieved rugby-fan who needed to vent his disapproval of the ongoing sideshows between Kenya Rugby Union and one Philip Jalang'o - suspended Director, National Squads & Elite Performance Committee. Lack of honest coverage and besmirching of Kenya's rugby game led to its genesis. We at SportsKenya believe it is the right of everyone to air their views and tell their side of the story. We also offer those mentioned a chance to either comment or send us their own views at For the good of Sports!