Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sports Law Pioneer @SnoLegal talks to SportsKenya

Sometime last year, we at SportsKenya were part of a team that engaged in a campaign to get one of the pioneering ladies in Sports Law in Kenya for her studies in Spain. The campaign adopted both online and offline strategies which ran in tandem.
Sarah Ochwada @SnoLegal - Strike a Pose
We have the 
priviledge of bringing you Sarah Ochwada - also known as SnoLegal ( on Twitter @SnoLegal). She also does this blog here. We caught up with her on her exploits in Spain and this is what she had to say;

Q1) Hola SnoLegal! For the sake of our readers, kindly remind us what course you are doing, the institution and duration. 

Hola! I am studying International Sports Law at ISDE which is the acronym for... Wait for it... Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia...that's Spanish by the way. Although my course is entirely in English. I am learning Spanish, though...but I digress...I shall be having theory lessons until June and then have my internship in Switzerland from July to December. It is a 1-year intensive course.

Q2) From your interaction thus far with sports experts from the rest of the world, what would you say their take is of the Kenyan & African sports scene at large?

Wow! What a question!  Some foreigners actually know a whole lot about African sports, and I'm not just talking about my lecturers but my classmates as well. For instance one of the Spanish guys in my class, Luis ( hello there if you're reading this) was talking to me about East African runners and he named them, knew the statistics from Kenya an Ethiopia dating back years! 
Another one of my classmates from Australia, Tiran (Oy mate!) knew about the Tikolo brothers from the Kenyan cricket team and just some crazy statistics about Kenyan cricketers... I mean it's really impressive how much people outside Africa know about sports in Africa and the athletes.
I also recall having a conversation with one of my lecturers about Kenyan rugby and another about the transfer of Kenyan players to European leagues... I guess there is a lot of interest in sports on our continent because of the talent on the continent which is exposed to the world stage through international competitions. And I think this interest will persist in years to come.

Q3)What is your take on Sports Management in Kenya and the need for Sports Laws?

In the last year or so that I spent in Kenya before coming to Madrid there was a positive change in terms of sports people and federations. Other stakeholders are also making an effort to improve their sports and consequently livelihoods of those involved. 
Management I think is the largest area that needs to be considered since you not only manage events but teams and individuals within the sports realm. And there are so many aspects to management too; finances, public relations, you name it.
What is lacking is tailor-made management for each discipline, each athlete, each federation. A blanket system may not work particularly for Kenya because of the numerous and varying needs of the.different players involved.Understanding each unique set of needs independently will be of great importance. 
As far as Sports Law is concerned, the need is even greater. General practitioners of law may not fully comprehend or appreciate the different facets of sports - from governance to contracts and any problem that may arise from there. 
We are moving into a time where talent pays, and sport is no longer a hobby but a livelihood. And with all livelihoods those in the sports fraternity require experts who will understand deeply their issues and offer sound advice & guidance to avoid disputes or mitigate harm down the line.

Q4 a) With the new Sports Bill in place, there are quite a number of legal hurdles that sports associations and bodies have to go through. Which 3 stick out for you?

Minor correction... Sports Act, not Bill. Once a Bill is passed by parliament it becomes an Act. (SK:..oops our bad, Ms learned friend...)

  • Registration of Sports entities with the Sports Registrar. There surely will be a lot of confusion and misinformation when it comes to this point... Wait and see. But in a nutshell, all sports entities registered under the Societies Act will have to transition and be registered under the office of the Sports Registrar. (SK:...Note that football clubs crying foul about being targeted? )
  • Disputes regarding registration and non registration. These will probably be the first few cases to be dealt with by the new Sports Tribunal. But I bet even the understanding of how to bring matters to this tribunal will be a major issue, not just for federations and sports persons but for their legal representatives too.
  • The Sports Fund... How will it be run? How will federations receive money from this fund? This will be cause for some contention I believe.
But that being said, I look forward to the debates that will rise from these issues because they will help our sports mature. Bring it on!

Q4 b) Which 3 legal issues do you feel have been left out of the Sports Bill?

Oh my gosh! Now that I have had the opportunity to learn about things... One thing which struck me is, so these federations will be registered afresh, does that mean that they remain as societies or will we have to give them some sort of new name to distinguish them from other legal entities.
The other legal issues I have pondered about, I would rather not reveal at this moment because it is better to see how things unfold and whether we can find creative legal solutions for them as time goes by... But trust me, there is so much we can do. Baby steps for now.
Snolegal at EPL club West Ham's Bolery Ground - Upton Park London - image courtesy of SnoLegal

Q5) What has been your biggest eye-opener since you started the sports law course?

That you can practice Sports Law in any corner of the world but your practice may influence other lawyers in a completely different part of the planet. For example, I have a blog devoted to Sports &Entertainment issues in Kenya. I wrote articles based on what I thought would help Kenyans in these fields improve themselves. Lo and behold, I started getting emails and messages from Sports Lawyers and professors as far as UK, Argentina, Spain, Italy, Greece inquiring about a topic I had written or including some of my articles in their research. I guess I never thought that what I.was doing for my countrymen would have a great impact on other nations. That's totally awesome and incredibly humbling!

Q6) What is your favourite sport and why?

Right now it's Archery. I started as a means of giving myself a hobby that I can take well into my old age. I have come to find it very relaxing. And who knows, maybe in 10 years I can represent Kenya as an Olympic archer! (SK:...make that 2 to 6 years at most, #just saying...)

Q7) After you're done with the course, what next?

I come back home and continue with my practice, but of course there are certain specific targets that I hope to meet maybe in the first 3 years;

  1. Transitioning our national sports federations, such as trying to get their constitutions up to date and in line with the Sports Act, Kenyan constitution and their (respective) International Federations;
  2. (Host) at least 2 free workshops a year on sports law basics and management beginning with national sports federations administrators and then moving on to athletes;
  3. Getting either the LSK (Law Society of Kenya) to have Sports Law as part of the continuous education for Advocates, or at least incorporate some aspects of Sports law into the already existing ones;
  4. Teach. Initially I never wanted to do this but I have received offers from 2 universities in Nairobi to create a curriculum to teach undergraduates Sports Law as an elective module; and
  5. Continue with Sports law commentaries, TV, Radio and Newspaper. I did a little of this before I left but it will be great to pick it up again.
Muchas gracias and all the best in your studies, estudiante graduado de la hembra :-) :-) :-) 

Monday, 26 May 2014

World Relays gives Kenyan Athletes 'Golden Shine'

This past weekend marked the inaugural World Relays under the auspices of IAAF hosted in the Caribbean island of Bahamas ( the natives called Bahamians, more like Bohemian Rhapsody...I digress).
World Relays Bahamas 2014 - image courtesy of
The 2-day event had some really good action for any sports and athletics enthusiasts. Stealing some of the attention for the more popular football (soccer in other quarters), was a huge gamble but for those few moments the Championships produced some sparkle. The c'ships had 10 events billed as the Golden Baton which included the more common and widely accepted

  • 4 x 100m ( both men and women)
  • 4 x 400m 
But also other races including;
  • 4 x 200m  or 2 lap event
  • 4 x 800m or 8-lap event
  • 4 x 1500m or 15-lap event.
As expected some athletics powerhouses such as the US and Jamaica sent strong teams especially in the short(er) sprints. Kenya too sent very strong teams in what were expected to be its specialties in the middle races. After what might have been a fiasco in national team selection, the team redeemed itself winning 3 out of its targeted 4 Gold medals and each of those in World Record times. There was also special mention of the 4 x 400m Kenyan men's team which featured in the Final B ending up in the tail end of the proceedings. 
A few lessons too could be taken by the Kenyans from these Games;

a) Preparations - The national selection method employed by Athletics Kenya was not the most scientific and suited for this purpose. This led to an almost disjointed effort in preparing the team for the c'ships. In future, it would not hurt to make proper preparations for national selection and onward camp for participants.

b) Tactics- while we may not have been with the coaches and managers, some of the tactics employed  cost the team valuable points and wins. For example, the 4 x 800m women's race decision to run a fairly inexperienced Busienei in the first leg saw Kenya lose her position to lead and ultimately play catch up to the US team. 

c) More Country representation - being the inaugural c'ships not every country was able to send representatives and some sent some more junior and inexperienced runners. Beijing in 2015, you can be sure it will not be a walk-over even for Kenya even in the middle races that we seem to have such a stronghold. Ethiopia, Algeria, Morocco and even Uganda will want to prove a point or two. We saw what is happening in the marathons and 10K races in other championships. And it is not just the Africans breathing down the necks of Kenyans, Russia, Romania and other European countries always fancy challenging Kenyan athletes.
Kenya's 4 x 1500m Women's team - image courtesy of

d) Track and Field Clubs - while Kenya has traditionally had no problem in producing talent especially for the middle and long distances, our performances in the shorter races of 400m, 200m and 100m have been dismal. Save for the occasional suprise in the 400m, the others don't seem to feature in our calendar. 
One way of encouraging this is forming running/sprint clubs that can be situated in 2-3 cities in the country. Rigorous training and exposure will see us in good stead. Investing in the necessary infrastructure such as tartan running tracks, gyms, sports scientists and nutritionists is integral too. The US has Santa Monica Track Club(which produced among others sprint legend Carl Lewis), Jamaica has the MVP Track and Field Club
(with women sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser in its stable). Why can't Kenya invest in one too?

e) Reward System - though this has been ongoing with the gold medal winners in major games such as Olympics and Commonwealth getting national honours, more can be done to earn our athletes their worth. The mileage enjoyed by their participation and winning is more than the fancy budgets and trips that tourism officials seek to justify for their activities. There has been talk of an Athletics Hall of Fame by Athletics Kenya but this ought to be a public-private partnership by all parties concerned.

For now let's enjoy the shine of winning 3 Gold medals and records to boot. In 2015, I don't see why Kenya should not bag 4 Gold medals and Bronze or two in the shorter races. Optimistic perhaps? 

Quick recap:
Kenya won Gold in the 4 x 800m (men), 4 x 1500m (men and women) and Silver in 4 x 800m (women).

In Related News:
When Safaricom Limited announced that it had secured the naming rights of Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi,  its current CEO Bob Collymore intimated that one of the areas of focus would be investing in the shorter races. This was echoing earlier sentiments made in 2012 when he was awarding the Olympic heroes. True to their word, the company sponsored the National Relay series which almost ended in confusion after Athletics Kenya couldn't agree on a proper formula for the competition. In future, national associations should have proper blueprints for events such as this. Having secured funding and sponsorship such as Safaricom's makes it easier to consult experts and host more successful events. 
For future Relay events, Athletics Kenya can do better by letting the respective branches come up with teams which can then compete at the series of trials in Nairobi and any other city deemed suitable. This will not only attract new talent but also expose potential athletes to specialisations beyond the individual races they usually do.
As for Safaricom Limited, your investment may start bearing fruit sooner than expected...

Friday, 23 May 2014

NBA - Can Hasheem Thabeet please stand up?

Yes, some of you might wonder why we're picking on a non-Kenyan to profile on our blog, well he's the first East African ever to play in the most prestigious basketball league in the world - the NBA! Thabeet also happens to be among the few Africans ever to play in the NBA Playoffs ( others being Hakeem 'The Dream' Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, D.J Mbenga in that list). We hope he inspires the next generation of basketballers from Africa more so East Africa which has seen little action in the US-base league.
H. Thabeet waits for ball - image courtesy of

Thabeet's team Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) led by current MVP Kevin Durant are currently in the Western Conference Finals playing last year's Conference winners San Antonio Spurs (SAS). As of doing this blog-post, OKC was trailing SAS  0-2 games in a best-of-7 series. They also lost fellow African Congolese-born Serge Ibaka to injury going into the Finals.

NOTE: Serge Ibaka did somehow make a recovery on his injury and made it back to the team, inspiring them to a win over San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 on Sunday.

Is this time for Thabeet to step up his game?

Having been part of the bench for OKC, he can become a contributor to the franchise surviving and even challenging for the NBA Playoffs Finals. But playing against veterans such as Tim Duncan in the paint and his supporting cast of Parker, Ginobili amond others won't be an easy ride. He can use his height to his advantage and also get the team to play the ball off their main player Kevin Durant (who needs to step up and show why he's the league's MVP...).
His regular season stats don't look too favourable with 23 Games played, average of 1.2 points per game and 1.7 rebounds per game ( from What is worrying though for Thabeet is his manager's lack of faith in him especially in transition and protecting the rim. He might need to reinvent himself in the few minutes he might get playing as the Thunder look to surge back into the series.

Till then, twa kutakia kila la heri, ndugu!

In Related News:
2-time NBA Playoffs winner Hakeem Olajuwon was recently named an NBA Goodwill Ambassador for Africa. His achievements and accomplishments will come in handy as the NBA tries to reach to a wider African audience, both for its broadcasts and talent search. Dreams do come true indeed...

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Are Community Clubs in Kenya basket cases?

Once again the arguments about football clubs in Kenya in particular the community clubs v/s 'corporate-sponsored' clubs are back again (see earlier post here). It's a bit of concern now especially with the taxman breathing down the neck of all and sundry. It is quite tragic that most of the community clubs enjoy a huge fan-base ( but have not been able to monetise and marshal these numbers to reflect well commercially..)

While some officials of the clubs read mischief and malice, in the end what the taxman wants, s/he gets! It is also very clear that most of the club officials have not put in place proper mechanisms for running a club.
Issues like;

  • annual financial statements;
  • player contracts and players' welfare; 
  • commercial and business plans ( add the marketing bit in there);
  • communication and PR strategy 

among other important documents. They should not also blame other sources for their ineptitude and incompetency.

While the KPL has been making slow progress on some fronts, it is of fundamental importance that clubs set these issues right to avoid what we're seeing currently.
It is also important that the KPL officials avoid being held at ransom by club officials who stifle developments such as has been the banned-but-soon-lifted proclamations regarding hooliganism.
Some have blamed the security personnel for not getting it right, but we already have over-stretched these people with current security scares in the country.
Clubs must revamp their mode of operations from societies ( as one official was quoted saying in the Press) to proper commercial and business outfits.

Sports is not charity anymore and KPL ought to spell this out for participating clubs. A benchmark of financial resources should be in place for at least 1 year. This will show that the club is capable of paying its players, management and other technical staff, merchandise and training facilities among others. Penalties should be in place for those who fail to meet the thresh-hold.

Early this season, KPL decided to do an audit of football venues across the country. It is also prudent for them to do the same for financial records of the clubs.Related to this, there is an interesting report done by AfriCog detailing football mismanagement in Kenya. Check the link here.

Back to the community clubs, various countries have tried these models of operation and succeeded so it is not excuse enough for the poor management practices currently witnessed. Clubs such as Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa), Atletico Bilbao , Barcelona (both from Spain), Boca Juniors (Argentina) as well as Borussia Dortmund to name a few.  A few quick tips;

  1. Establish a limited company before selling shares - this can be either to the general public or restricted to a certain number ( say 1 share worth KSh.50,000 etc);
  2. Get a wealthy benefactor and get him/her to manage the club as one of his entities - this is yet to catch on in Kenya but is prominent in Europe moreso England. Any Katumbis, Khozas or Abramovichs in Kenya?
  3. Secure major sponsorship deals with leading companies - this is a tricky one since most companies have what they call a need for ROI thus cannot justify putting money where they might not get value for it;
  4. Secure a large fan-base ( preferably regional or national) and this will be lucrative to both individual or corporate investors ( tragedy is if they are an unruly and emotional lot, they often end up being a curse instead) and finally
  5. Perform, perform and perform! Without good results, any club is as good as dead.
In researching for this piece, some interesting links came up such as this one on the top clubs in Africa as done by CAF in December 2012. It's interesting to note that even though the Democratic Republic of Congo has a troubled economy, their football clubs have performed well in the continent. Here's a snippet of the rankings- number in brackets represents FIFA Club World rankings;
1. (67) Al-Ahly - Egypt  - estimated revenue of $36.09 million (in 2008)
2. (146) Esperance Sportive - $5.71 million 
3. (147) Zamalek - Egypt - $26.8 million
4. (176) Tout Puissant Mazembe aka TP Mazembe - DRC - $15 ( in 2013)
5. (190) Asante Kotoko - Ghana 

Kenya's Clubs;
45. Gor Mahia (Pos.604)
79. AFC Leopards (Pos.893)
88. Tusker FC (Pos.954)

Additional info on the post can be found from the following links;
Top 5 African millionaire football club owners
For TP Mazembe...the future looks bright
Worlds Top 5 Fan-owned Soccer teams
CAF Club & World Rankings - 2012
Richest Football Clubs in Africa by Revenues - 2008

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

2014 thus far, Kenya's Sports dwindling influence?

This year started with a lot of optimism given that the then newly elected Government had come with a basket full of promises...pardon my pessismist self who takes politicos and sports officials with a pinch of salt.
Well they had even the Sports Bill which was finally passed last year to provide grounds for new dawn in Kenyan sports. But alas!
Starting with the people's game of football, Kenyan clubs were bundled out of the pre-qualifying stages of continental club championships. That it was Kenya'biggest clubs reduced to cheer leaders tells a lot of what needs to be done to the same. This showed the need to streamline club activity in Kenya.
Onto to athletics, even though Kenyan athletes made a good showing at the continental championships in Kampala, our rivals in Ethiopia and other East African countries are no longer shoo-ins to be taken for granted. An interesting observation too must be made on our long distance runners especially marathon. While Kenyan has a wealth of talent, their margin of success is restricted to 2-3 wins before fading off. Look at Ethiopia, the same athletes who ran the 5K & 10K have now switched to the half and full's only a matter of time...
Volleyball, and our Kenyan ladies have always been continental queens....? Well not anymore! Losing the North Africans, our sisters were given a reality check on what other countries have been doing and are capable of doing. There has also been such a disconnect between continental and world championships. Kenya has performed dismally in the latter and Kenya Volleyball Federation doesn't have clue of what to do.
Cricket, oh the Englishman's game! Well Kenya has sunk so low, that we couldn't qualify for the Twenty 20 tournament played by both Test and non-Test nations.  What is more worrying is that our neighbours Uganda and Rwanda are developing better teams and it's only a matter of time before we are dethroned.
As for rugby,  it's a mixed bag with the 7s team tempering our expectations while the 15s side  made small but significant strides in South Africa as we wait for the Worl Cup qualifiers later thus year.
Boxing too is reporting a  bit of life after being knocked out for several years off the national sports agenda.

  • What has been symptomatic across the board is lethargic sports officials.  We have been there before on the need to elect pragmatic officials.  It's an ideal situation but tenable for some if not majority of the sports bodies. 
  • Laxity from the Government.  While some sports associations behave like untouchables, they're more that the Secretary of Sports and Culture can do than the mere pronouncements.  For starters, invoking the Sports Bill and its statutes is one way. 
  • Accountability - audits on the sports bodie should be regular and recommendations acted upon. This should be from both Government and sponsoring companies.  When players go on national duty and come back without having been paid their allowances is an abomination in this time and age. 
  • International best practices - when our sports people participate in international events, what do they learn? Or are they busy visitng other less important business as opposed to taking notes on their call of duty? 
There's still the second half of the year to look forward to and hope that there are better and sterling performances.  The list below shows some of the sporting events to look out for; 
  • Commonwealth Games
  • IRB Rugby series 2014/15 
  • IAAF Grand Prix meets 
  • World Cup qualifiers (rugby)
  • Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers

Kenya 7s - Time for Reflection

The final leg of the 2013/14 IRB Rugby 7s series came to an end this last weekend in England. Kenya having qualified once again after finishing among the top 5 last season was expected to continue with the same pace.
However changes in management after the 'lack of agreement' with former 7s coach Mike Friday meant the top brass at KRU sought solace elsewhere. Rumours had circulated that the honchos were after South Africa's Paul Treu and true to word he did sign dotted line. He also came with a couple of demands of inclusion of hand-picked personnel from his native country, which sponsors and officials alike obliged to.
Due to delays in finalising this agreement, the team started the series dismally and team selection also left a lot to be desired. This would hurt the team in the later stages too. Here are some other sticking points;

  1. Change of pace - The Kenyan team has been known to be a pacy team, taking advantage of the wings to run their plays. Change of tactics saw them adopt a slower game which took time to adopt.
  2. Conditioning - Mike Friday and his assistant though spending less time with the team than envisioned in the 2012/13 season had developed a serious conditioning regime. This saw them add mass and pace to their game. 
  3.  Rookies vs Experience - after making the gamble with new members of the team, Paul Treu had to go back to the more experienced hands. It took time for him to find the right mix of players and combinations.
  4. Pre-season games -while KRU has been trying to get better exposure for the team, a lot more needs to be done for pre-season preparations. Safari 7s is not enough to use for testing the players. A minimum of 3 such tournaments can be explored. Luckily this year is a Commonwealth Games year thus this will suffice for now.
  5. Competitive forces - while a few seasons ago, certain countries were more of pushovers, the level of competition has risen even for non-traditional rugby nations such as USA, Canada and even the Asian reps. Such oversights cost the team valuable points mid-season.
  6. Relegation - this form of dropping poor performers and gifting good ones has worked well to level the playing field. It is going to be interesting 2-3 seasons on when great rugby nations find themselves sharing spoils with more recent additions. 
  7. Investment - while KRU has tried leveraging this sport to potential sponsors, more needs to be done to secure constant churn of players. From the current Chair's own words his objective is to ensure the players are professionals 'eating, sleeping and playing rugby'. A more competitive national 7s circuit in the coming years will see the team enjoy constant new talent. It must also work to invest in local coaching expertise to reduce over-reliance on foreign technical hands. The locals will have much less demands and hopefully play for the flag more than anything else.

Till the Commonwealth Games in September 2014, let's give them a hearty welcome for a brave performance in the last 2 legs hoping they take from there come the 2014/15 series!