NAIROBI, Kenya, April 2 – Popular crowd pullers, Prinsloo, Kabeberi, Dala, Driftwood and Christies 7s face an uncertain future following the withdrawal of sponsorship bombshell by integrated communications giant, Safaricom on Thursday.
Hosting clubs of the National Sevens Circuit, Nakuru RFC (Prinsloo), Mwamba (Kabeberi), Kisumu (Dala), Mombasa (Driftwood) and Kenya Harlequins (Christie) are most affected as biggest beneficiaries of the deal sealed by former Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) chairman Mwangi Muthee in 2010.
The five clubs were incorporated in the deal in 2013 when KRU renewed its partnership with the sponsor injecting Sh50.5m (USD 545,356.38) in last year’s series.
Club chairmen, who spoke to Capital Sport immediately news filtered through the firm had terminated the deal expressed disappointment with some blaming the Union for the downfall.
Nakuru’s Simpson Osiemo lamented they have been crippled financially since they will have to find other avenues to run this year’s Prinsloo 7s; famously known as ‘Nax Vegas’ that attracts a huge number of rugby enthusiasts countrywide.
“It’s a dark day for Kenya rugby; the Board is not taking us in the right direction because when it reaches a point where blue chip companies like Safaricom tell you they don’t have faith in you, it’s very worrying.
“We gained a lot from the partnership as clubs. Apart from getting the annual Sh1.5m (USD 16,216.22) for organising the event, Safaricom have lots of experience in event management hence making our work easier,” Osiemo told.
“We don’t know how other sponsors will react and this takes us back to the root course of the problem which is bad leadership and as it stands; players and clubs will suffer.
“We have had our issues but not reaching at a point where sponsors are running away. We need to put our heads together and find out where the rain started beating us,” the Wanyore boss added.
– Kick-off on-
Mike Lucas of Kenya Harlequins insists the local series will kick-off with or without a sponsor as he plans to meet other club chairmen to chart the way forward.
“I blame past chairman, Mwangi Muthee for allowing corruption among his Board members. Its sad clubs are suffering because of the Union’s bad reputation.
“We will find our way even if it means operating on shoestring budgets to ensure the 51st Christie 7s takes place. I believe with Richard Omwela coming back to the Union, he will restore sanity because we had stooped too low,” Lucas alleged.
Mwamba chairman, Alvas Onguru said, “Kabeberi 7s is one of our revenue collection streams and from the past two seasons it’s helped us pay our bills but we are now going to suffer because of some of directors in the Board.”
Safaricom withdrawal follows uncertainty surrounding the 15s premier franchise tournament; Rugby Super Series after sponsor Bamburi Cement threatened to terminate the partnership under similar embezzlement of funds at last year’s tournament allegations that saw the integrated communication firm pull the plug on sevens.
It means after conclusion of Enterprise Cup this month, there will be no domestic rugby 15s action until November when 2015/16 Kenya Cup season gets underway.
The National Sevens Circuit is a series of seven-a-side competitions that take place in various towns and cities in the major rugby playing parts of the country after the end of the regular 15-a-side season.