Rugby Rugby

Safaricom pulls the plug on Safari 7s


IRB Glasgow Sevens - Day OneNAIROBI, April 2- Integrated communications giant, Safaricom has severed its sponsorship deal with the flagship Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) Safari Sevens annual international invitational tournament as well as the domestic sevens series on Thursday.

In a letter signed by Safaricom Chief Executive, Richard Collymore, addressed to new KRU chairman, Richard Omwela, the company cites among lack of ‘accountability and transparency’ at the union for the decision.

“Over the years, we have closely monitored the events of the Union and heightened our growing concerns with the lack of transparency and accountability of certain members of the Board whose actions have brought the game to disrepute; a situation which jeopardises the Safaricom brand and which makes our continued sponsorship impossible.

“In view of this, we have made the decision to withdraw our sponsorship of the Safaricom Sevens edition,” part of the letter said.

The letter dated April 1, in a cruel twist of fate, serves a 30-day notice of termination for their partnership that started in 2010 and was embroiled in controversy at last year’s edition when some directors at the Union were accused of embezzling funds and awarding supply contracts to their cronies.

“During this 30 day period, the Union and Clubs should cease any new use of Safaricom’s intellectual property and return or dispose of all existing promotional material containing Safaricom’s trademarks.

“Safaricom shall similarly cease using the Union and Club’s intellectual properties and return or dispose of all promotional material containing such trademarks as may be advised by the union,” Collymore’s letter added.

Also affected are domestic series rounds of Driftwood 7s (Mombasa), Dala 7s (Kisumu), Christie 7s (Nairobi/Harlequins), Kabeberi 7s (Nairobi/Mwamba) and Prinsloo 7s (Nakuru) that had evolved to be crowd pullers over the last two seasons.

– Huge blow-

Speaking to Capital Sport, KRU boss Omwela who returned to the chair during the March 17 Annual General Meeting and subsequent elections admitted the development was a ‘big blow’ to the tournament and rugby in general.

“I have not seen the letter but I’m informed it has been sent. We are in talks with other potential sponsors to come on board since we were aware they had threatened to pull out.

“Safaricom wanted us to change some of our sitting Board members who were involved in last year’s claims but we can’t since they were duly elected and their terms end next year. It is not the end of the world, Safari 7s will continue,” the respected lawyer added.

The withdrawal of the deal means the event is set to be moved from Safaricom Stadium at Kasarani to either Nyayo Stadium of the Rugby Football Union of East Africa Grounds, its first venue along Nairobi’s Ngong Road.

Safaricom and KRU first entered into agreement to sponsor Safari 7s in 2010 before it was renewed and expanded to include the Safaricom Sevens Series in 2013.

In mid-February, the writing was on the wall when Collymore threatened to pull the plug on federations who do not account their money, citing rugby, football and athletics as the sports earmarked for the purge.

However, Athletics Kenya (AK) managed to close ranks with the company and saw renew of the Safaricom Athletics Series sponsorship on Thursday as rugby lost out.