Friday, 31 May 2013

Can this be the year of Rebirth of Kenya's Basketball?

Many a times a sport in this country undergoes serious degeneration and gets swallowed in the mediocrity of the administration of our general affairs as a State. It is true we can continue moaning about this and sing to the birds till heaven come but nothing changes.
Pres Obam hoops -

It is with this in mind that some of the administrators in the game of Basketball have decided to change the perception of the game and give it a slow but gradual 'rise from the ashes'. This process started sometime last year when the Kenya Basketball Federation experimented with the Friday Basketball games which became a favourite for those fans who were looking for alternatives in sports entertainment.

Though the Friday games eventually started attracting less crowds ( the idea was being disputed between the federation and a local entertainment company the latter which wanted to own the rights and larger parts of the revenue and not entirely for the interests of the game), this idea can be explored if fine-tuned and well-thought out.

Coming into the 2013 season, the Federation has been in talks and arrangements in place to screen live games from one or two venues as may be decided by the pay TV channels. This is one big shot in the arm that would go a long way in changing the way the viewed in the country. TV does wonders to a sport which is able to organise and attract favourable crowds and audience both 'online and offline'. It would also attract some form of revenues in advertising and promotions which the Federation can use to rebrand and gave the game a new face.

Talking of online, there is also a new magazine developed by basketball enthusiasts who also felt it is about time to talk about the game in its entirety, challenges and all. Titled "Inside B'Ball" it seeks to reach a growing number of sports fans who consumer their dose of sports online. It will also give the game of basketball a wider reach that it has been yearning for. It also good for the Federation to work closely with such entrepreneurs who will offer commercial assistance on ways to generate ideas and revenues for the game.

It's now for Kenya Basketball Federation to start engaging corporate firms and the Government where necessary to ensure that they get better infrastructure across the country - venues, training areas and exhibition areas. This can start with a refurbishment of the Nyayo Gymnasium - the place is need of a serious paint job, better lighting, sound systems and a scoreboard. The court and its surroundings also need a touch and markings to ensure it fits to world standards. It was embarrassing in 2010 when the venue hosted the Street Basketball exhibition games and there was a leak on the roofs.

The only venue which fits the bill is Kasarani multi-purpose gymnasium which is slightly away from town and might not be able to attract crowds as yet due to its proximity and accessibility. Other venues such as the Makande gymnasium in Mombasa would need expansion and better markings to ensure better experience for players and fans alike. Kisumu and Nakuru and any other major towns should look to developing indoor venues for such sports and this will offer alternative forms of entertainment and engagement with the youth.

College Basketball in Kenya -
Another mention should be the Zuku sponsorship of the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL). Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, this league was very competitive and saw 2-3 teams from qualify for the national Premier League. This should be followed through by Kenya Basketball Federation to see that they separate college and university teams from the semi-professional and corporate-sponsored teams. This way it will be easier to have a purely professional league and one that has learning institutions. The two would serve a complimentary role with one being a feeder to the other. We have seen that work successfully in more developed leagues such as the NBA and the NCCA College Basketball  in the United States.

Finally, NBA is making in-roads into Africa and it's about time that Kenya got a player or two representing a team from this famed league. There is a liasion office in South Africa closely watching what activities Kenyan basketball is undertaking. There are also the equally well-developed European Leagues in countries like Spain, Greece to name but a few which can come and recruit our talent and offer exposure to our players to the international game.

Can this be the rebirth that Kenyan Basketball has been yearning for?

Friday, 24 May 2013

Sports Secretary Dr. Hassan A. Wario - An Oath for Kenyan Sports

Daktari you must be now have learnt how to manoeuvre traffic in and around the KenCom house which houses your Ministry carved back into the Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs. We also remember your own words about the capacities of Culture and Arts being your forte but Sports not such a knowledgeable affair to you ( the 'corrupt' and those for the status quo must have smiled and winked at each other...).

First order of the day is to read and re-read the new Sports Act which was passed (thanks in part to your predecessor) earlier this year. Carry copies in you car,since now you're chauffeured into office, get it on your i-Pad or whatever gadget tickles your fancy. Get the technocrats in your Ministry to break down those technical terms and on a regular basis, consult widely with sports stakeholders not just officials in their respective sports organisations. This will serve you in good stead in the coming 4-5 years depending on when the mandate of this government ends.

Secondly, do ensure that as the Act prescribes ALL sports bodies - federations, associations or unions - carry the intended elections. We have a couple which have already been in abidance with that rule ( though majority were merely rubber-stamping the status quo). Keep these bodies in check by requiring regular reports and budgets review and where applicable ensure those not towing or keeping with the mandate of their bodies, chase them and sacrifice on the high altar of the rule of law. There needs to be a few heads rolling every now and're a well-travelled man and you know what they do in China if you're declared corrupt in People's Republic.

Third, in your works in Culture and national museums, you must have learnt a thing or two about archiving and record keeping. Do dig those archives for reports from the 1987 All-Africa Games and subsequent All Africa Games, 1990s World Cross Country championships, Olympic Games reports from 1956-1972 &1984-2012 among others. Those will make you have a clear view of what happened to Kenyan sport and why we have either lost or gained in some sports disciplines.

Fourth, read sports policy documents from sporting countries like Australia, Brazil, China, USofA and even our colonial masters the UK. These countries have enshrined sports as mainstream activities and their governments 'have put their money where their mouths are'. The world over, unless the Government actively engages its populace in sport and make deliberate efforts to do so, Kenya shall suffer from the lethargy it has continued to suffer from in the last 20 years or so. Chairman Mao Tse Tung declared table tennis a national sport and you can see today what that sport has done for the country and its satellite states.

Fifth, you must also revisit the Jubilee manifesto to guide you on your appointing authority mandate & previous Government policies e.g. the reward system and recognition as national heroes.A major point is the investment in infrastructure in sports in at least 5 counties and building stadia and sports academies. It's a  shame that the country has not undertaken any major sports infrastructure development for most sports disciplines. It is sad that open spaces have either become grabbers' paradise or grazing fields for urban animal keepers or just suffering from neglect. A quick audit of all these facilities in the country will show those that can be secured by the state and those that the country governments can start working immediately. Together with the Local Government Ministry do ensure that urban planners factor open playing spaces and no not just the usual golfing fields but football, running tracks and other such facilities.

Sixth, there are some associations with some semblance of order, consult with those and ensure they have direct access to your office. They will need your office's guidance and support to secure regional and international competitions and the State should never again have to suffer the reputation that we did in 1996 of bidding for a continental competition only for the country to back out in the last minute ( Africa Cup of Nations, which was eventually hosted and won by South Africa).

Dr. Hassan A. Wario Image courtesy of
Seventh, curriculum in schools and higher institutions of learning should start emphasising on sports and the business around it. As we write this, only 2 universities in Kenya are offering course in sports management and physical activities. Even with such a rich heritage of sports achievers and sports leaders, surely we can start working on relevant curriculum for those willing to engage in sport not just on the field and pitch but also in the boardrooms and offices. We can have collaborations and short term course from reputable institutions such University of Michigan, Ohio State University, University of East London, Cardiff University to name just a few.

These 7 points we have sought to talk about will be more than enough for your 5-year term and achieving 7--80% of these will be major boon for Kenyan sport on the global scene. You undertook that oath, we keep the faith!

Kindly consider opening Twitter accounts for your Ministry and one of own. Kenyans on Twitter famously known as #KOT who have a thing for sport will engage with you but be ready for baptism by fire...

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Ingwe TV - Smart move or ill-advised?

There has been all the hullabaloo about the AFC Leopards-Ingwe TV deal with Zuku and the concerned club's status with KPL's sponsored by SuperSport. While the easier path is for KPL/SuperSport to feel infringed by the deal, it's in the club's interest to look for alternative sources of revenue and by extension engagement channels. The TV channel which is supposed to screen 36 episodes of half-hour each covering past games, interviews, team news and historical journals. If anything, it has been SuperSport and KPL's personnel sleeping on the job for lack of initiative to engage local clubs on setting up their own TV channels.
Ingwe TV logo - courtesy of

Across the world, major football clubs have their own channels which serve to endear themselves to their fans and provide an added platform for not just engaging with them but also for sponsors, advertisers and related parties to reach the audience.

The main bone of contention is that AFC Leopards playing in the SuperSport-sponsored KPL ( now Tusker Premier League) which sees it enjoy live coverage of their matches and also featured in the weekly football magazine Simba Soccer programme among others. Now if you look at it carefully, this is the same sort of engagement with other clubs in the KPL only that AFC Leopards ( and maybe 3-5 other clubs) would have a rich heritage as that of Leopards affectionately known as Ingwe by its fans.
And though AFC Leopards had earlier tried such a deal with Smart TV before it went under, it is a veritable decision which is bound to cause other clubs to start looking for such alternatives.
If you look at the revenue sources for football clubs in the country, the main ones come from corporate sponsors who still haven't put enough monies to cater for huge expenses incurred by the clubs in its wages, training and youth facilities. The monies from SuperSport are also not enough with the booty shared according to how well the club does on the standings at the end of the season. Ticket sales on match-days are so haphazard and given the apathy that fans are bound to build following recent spates of fan trouble and violence, it is not yet a reliable source.

This leaves clubs such as AFC Leopards with deals such as Ingwe TV. The challenge now will be on its management and club aficionados to come up with regular and relevant content both from current and past games. If they have rich archives of past glory days ( maybe they can have a chat with KBC management...) and also dig through past dailies and other publications, they would be able to create such content. Engaging past players and current ones too would see it provide a source of livelihood and work for these players.

In Zuku , they would be able to leverage not just on the TV channel but also on the Internet and online platforms which would be quite engaging as we see a major shift of users to online and mobile usage across the country and African region as well. It would also help Zuku attract additional customers to its triple play solutions and hence create a win-win situation for both parties.

As we write this KPL has threatened AFC Leopards with suspension unless it cancels the deal but Richard Bell the Wananchi Group CEO ( which is the mother company for Zuku) has said they'll stay put since they didn't infringe on any rights. Hoping sanity prevails between all parties and though commercial interests maybe the main drivers, one without the other will see a loss not just to the club, TV companies but also to the fan who is the ultimate target in the whole of this equation.