NAIROBI, October 5 – Kenya Rugby Union boss, Richard Omwela says action will be taken on any Board director found guilty of sabotaging ticket sales for the 20th Safari Sevens that recorded its lowest ever turnout over the weekend.
It is claimed a director telephoned distributing outlets to stop ticket sales with Omwela validating them by saying investigations are underway to identify the culprit.
Should it be proved, it will be the latest embarrassing incident among the feuding board members, with last year’s invitational sevens showpiece marred by claims of corruption in service provision pinned on top Union officials.
“We got a call from one of our selling outlets that one of our directors has been calling Nairobi Sport House and telling them not to continue selling tickets. I think its sabotage.
“I don’t have facts yet but I have asked Nairobi Sports House to give us the number of the director who called. We can get Safaricom to reveal the person and if we know who it is, we will not condone him. It’s regrettable that it happened,” Omwela lamented.
KRU had targeted over 40,000 rugby enthusiasts to turn up at the 60,000 capacity Safaricom Stadium but less than 2000 turned up.
Things got worse on the last day with the numbers dropping by almost half but Omwela was quick to defend himself noting lack of a title sponsor was the main reason for the low turnout in the traditional crowd puller.
“We were unable to lay out a big programme that could pull crowds because we were working on a tight budget. It was not much hyped as it’s supposed to be since the cost of advertising didn’t come cheap.
“We need a title sponsor. Safaricom should commit fully so that we begin to plan for next year’s event early but we appreciate they came through because if they didn’t we could have cancelled the tournament because hosting it needs over Sh50m,” the chairman expressed.
Local rugby enthusiasts are against the event being hosted at the country’s largest sporting cathedral after it was switched from its traditional RFUEA Grounds to accommodate more supporters in an expansion plan that is yet to take off from the ground.
Omwela declared the event that got World Rugby certification this year will not return to the small Ngong Road venue since facilities of an event of its stature are not present.
“We want to look at the options available, we look at the comfort zone, recreational levels and facilities so I think we must think away from RFUEA because of factors that makes it possible for a tournament of this magnitude.
“Kasarani has changing rooms that can accommodate all teams and we don’t have that facility at RFUEA. So I don’t think we will go back in the state in which it is,” Omwela added.
Tournament director, Godwin Karuga urged KRU to allow counties to bid to host the event in future.
“We cannot be happy with the turn out and yes communication was late. It’s hard to fill the stadium but if we can have the same number we had in 2014 where we had 47,000, it will be a success.
“We only had 22 days to organise the event and that’s why the turnout was low. The key thing is early planning,” Karuga, a former referee and director stated.
The tournament suffered a major blow in April when Safaricom withdrew their title sponsorship after some of the directors were accused of embezzlement of funds during the 2014 edition.