What makes for a Winning Combination?

By Richard Wanjohi

France - World Cup 2018 Winners
France – World Cup 2018 Winners

Starter

End of July and two World Cups down, what a year this is turning out to be! Starting with the more recent one, New Zealand men’s and ladies team both took home the butter by winning their respective titles at the Rugby Sevens’ World Cup held in San Francisco’s Bay Area in US.

Analysts had pinned hopes on Fiji or South Africa bringing their circuit experience but that didn’t count for anything. Add Kenya’s showing at the tournament and yes, dismal at its best – seeing as the Shujaa finishing 16th of the 24 teams.

The other more famous tournament is FIFA’s World Cup, this year played in Russia which saw European teams continue their dominance with a 4th win on the trot over the South American and other fancied teams.

This is with the French national team affectionately known as Les Bleus knocking Croatia 4-2 in one of the more entertaining Finals in recent history. Scores of fans across the world have christened this a win for Africa or indeed immigration…that’s not for us to say.

In the same period of the month, I was privileged to attend the third Rugby Conference which brings together stakeholders (sic) in the game of rugby within the country held at the Strathmore University. The theme of the sitting was aptly named ‘The Challenge of Winning’ – as christened by the host sports body Kenya Rugby Union.

This conference came on the back of a successful season 2017-18 for the Union which saw Kenya finish in the top 8 of the rugby series, the Kenyan women’s team win the Rugby Africa tournament, the 15-a-side team inching closer to a World Cup place in 2019 – all well and done for a sports association.

These 3 events got me thinking of what makes a winning combination. Does it come from a strong team riding roughshod over its opponents? Does it come from the scientific approach that have seen technology and other aspects of sports science come into play? Is it sheer luck or hunches by the respective team managers and team leaders?

Let’s take a deep dive:

Talent vs Team

In the now famous 2018 World Cup Final, football purists got their minds warped as the favoured teams started falling out as early as the first round. The Finals had a premiere appearance by the Croatian team. The tournament only one game which went goalless, missing out on the goals scored thanks to the exhausting extra-time games in the knock-out phases.

Many pundits attributed the fall of Argentina, Germany and even African teams on the lack of integration of the wealth of talent into the team structure. To paraphrase renowned management consultant Sunny Bindra in his weekly column, “…to win in football ( or any collective, team-based endeavor), four ingredients are necessary: first, a great ethos and shared sense of purpose; second, a ‘groove’ – a familiar and competent system of play (no matter what it is); third, some outstanding talent in key places; and lastly, great leadership, on and off the playing arena” – article titled Another World Cup; a Familiar Four-factor Theory We Can Apply –  Sunday Nation, 22nd July 2018.

Does this sound like something our teams do often? Does it reflect even both at our team and individual sport (where the ‘larger’ team consists of the coach, physiologist, team manager et al)?

Pre-tournament favourites’ slowly become post-tournament laughing stock. Individuals’ talent becomes anathema as experienced teams fall on the way side.

Image courtesy of www.back-post.com
Image courtesy of www.back-post.com

Sports science and Core competencies

Still with the football World Cup, a case has been made as to why it may take African teams longer to ever play or even win the trophy. While we harp on the strength and stamina of many a footballer from Africa, beyond this is a mental and physiological game which is played both on and off the pitch.

In Kenyan rugby scene, we have heard beliefs and whispers of how the game cannot cross to ‘non-traditional players’ from communities without a certain DNA or body stature. It is not for us to determine that here. But if the game of rugby in Kenya is to have a brighter future and pool of talent, this cannot fly.

In today’s sporting world, while the natural talent and flair may count for much, sports science shows that investing in the right nutrition, right training regime, right core competencies and attitude – such investment can go a long way in nurturing and growing nascent talent.

Big Data and Sports

In 2014, when Germany won the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, data analysts and tech enthusiasts were harping on how the use of big data did help it secure the win. All fair and square. What happened in 2018, albeit with even more advancements and appreciated use of data?

Perhaps I should put a disclaimer here, I’m not in any way against the use of data but this cannot be done in a void and is one of the other components needed in a winning team. As part of a winning process, start the use of data to lay a foundation, build upon it and also track performances across all spheres of performance both on and off the pitch.

I’ll take us back to the Rugby Conference where one Paul Odera – head coach of the Under-20s rugby national team gave a thought-provoking presentation on ‘Towards the U-20 World (Championships) – Process then Individuals’. In one part of the presentation, he underscored the use of data to track junior rugby players from the hours of sleep they get, food and nutrition habits, training and conditioning regimes among others.

He indicated this helps his management team understand not just the physical preparedness of the player but also his/her mental and psychological state way before they touch the ball on the pitch. It is instructive that this happens from a very basic level to ensure the team members are able to develop this self-discipline early in their careers.

How many sports teams and individuals are willing to go minutiae for a winning formula?

Sheer hunch or sheer luck?

In the 2018 World Cup Final, a number of football pundits captured on TV went ham on the refereeing decisions made which led to the first and second goals for France. It may or may have contributed to changing the course of the game.

But I usually argue, the opposing team has at least 90 minutes to score any number of goals they may muster. Why do we look for excuses, reasons one or the other as to why teams lose games? What with the Video Assisted-Refereeing making its debut in a major tournament. This will indeed impact the game of football in a big way in the near future.

But then again, to what extent can we attribute the French win to a fortuitous header by a Croatian striker? An innocent spin of the hand by an experienced Croatian defender? We never know what luck the French may have on the day, but they sure did take full advantage of it.

As a sports association, FIFA and the host nation Russia have scored major points with a largely successful tournament. How does FIFA manage to hold us captive every four years? Scoring major sponsorship deals (or partnerships as it were) as well as secure top dollar with TV and media rights in the process.

Why can’t Football Kenya Federation learn a thing or two from the parent association? Having changed its structure and elected officials a few years ago, there is nothing much to write home about. We have had many start-stop attempts at qualifying for continental challenges at a national team level. The consolation is a win of the regional cup CECAFA. Other than that, Harambee Stars has no official sponsor – from shirt, apparel to major endorsements even when a number of players ply their trade in Europe.

Supposition

In Asia, major countries including China, India and China have made very deliberate efforts to invest in sports. From infrastructure to engaging major sports associations as well as youth programmes to grow different sports disciplines. This goes beyond their traditional sports such as sumo and cricket to mainstream ones in athletics, basketball and football.

We have seen how they have exerted their influence has been with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA.  In the just concluded World Cup, both Japan and South Korea challenged the top teams and while they may have lost by a goal or on a technicality, the future does look bright.

Major European football clubs have added Asia as a must-stop locale before the start of each season. Whether it is commercializing the various sports properties or bringing the individuals closer to their fans, this is bound to serve as an allure for local leagues and teams.

Add the media investment and audience reach – the Asian audiences have been growing in double digits in the last 5 years. Mix it up with the budding local league scenes and home-grown players and talent pools, it is bound to be a potent combination to a winning strategy.

World Cup 2018 – ‘Best Ever’?

Summary by Richard Wanjohi and SK’s armchair analysts.

Oh how time flies when you’re having fun…that’s the feeling with the last game of the 2018 World Cup. Croatia coming undone by their own little errors and hasty referee decisions, Le Bleus finding glory after 20 years to get their second star on their jerseys and for both Luka Modric and Kylian Mbappe to claim individual honours for sterling performances.

Kylian Mbappe - Image courtesy of Getty Images
Kylian Mbappe – Image courtesy of Getty Images

Pundits have claimed this to be the ‘best World Cup’ in recent history or was it?

 

 

First things first. It was a World Cup of a number of firsts including;

  1. Video Assisted Refereeing (VAR) – the second or third eye, depending on how you’d want to look at it, became a phenomenon for the first time on a global scale. With the teething problems expected, every player and manager started insisting on using this even when it did not warrant. What was interesting though is while there were a number of penalty-kicks given, the supposed culprits were mostly not punished or it went unnoticed. It is important to note the VAR was initiated to help make decisions on penalties, red cards or mistaken identity.

22 penalties were scored out of 29 awarded, the highest-ever scored in a World Cup. Did VAR affect this?

  1. 4th Substitute – this was the case for the games that spilled over to the extra-time period. This was brought about seeking to give teams the oomph and urge to win the game in extra time and where this did not happen, seek to replace one goalkeeper with a more experienced penalty-stopper.

Of 6 games that went into extra-time, only 1 was won within this period. The other 5 went into the dreaded penalty kicks. Maybe it’s time for a return to Golden Goal rule?

  1. First held in Eastern Europe (and 2 Continents) – thanks to the expansive land that is Russia. The tournament spread across the country that could easily call Europe and Asia its home. Does that qualify it as the first to be held on two different continents?
  2. Fair Play to decide qualification – for the uninitiated, FIFA introduced a Fair Play method which sees teams try not accumulate yellow and red cards which cost them in later stages. This was the case for Senegal which saw them miss qualification with Japan taking its place after they tied on points and goal difference.

Group Stages and Round of 16:

The tournament kicked off with the hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia as a team with a mission. Off the blocks with 5-0 win meant it would see a good number of goals. The hosts held good spirit to advance to the knock-out stages.

African teams would find it hard done not to have a qualifying team – albeit the Senegalese losing on a Fair Play technicality.  The favoured teams such as Nigeria and Egypt left it too late to make an impact in the tournament.

Asian teams also found the going tough with only Japan moving to the knock-out phases – and lose to semi-finalists and 3rd– placed Belgium.

Germany continued the ignominy of immediate previous winners being eliminated in the first round – following in the footsteps of France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014. Champions curse?

As it were Europe carried the day with 10/16 teams in the knock-out round of 16.  South America had 5 and Asia 1.

Then there were 8-4-2: Quarter-Finals, Semis and Finals

Europe once again carried the day with 6/8 team playing out in the quarter-finals. Some argued the weather being a factor, others blamed it on the exhausting European leagues. Whatever they chose, this was surely taking a Eurocentric twist.

Russia had continued with their fairy tale chase of honours which were halted by eventual finalists and 2nd –placed Croatia in a cracker of a match. Favoured teams in Brazil and Uruguay were hastily shown the door.

The semis looked in both games as final-before-finals as France battled fellow-French speaking Belgium and Croatia sought to ride the English 3-lions into the finals. Pundits and TV rights holders would have loved a French-English Final but the Croats had other ideas.

The Final was a first for Croatia while it was the third appearance for the French. The latter having won 1998 and lost in 2006 came with their tails wagging. Croatia on the other hand were novices in this space and it showed in conceding fouls which eventually cost them the game. Their comeback wings were clipped even before launching by FIFA Young Player of the Tournament – Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and an own goal by Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic who later scored Croatia’s second – earning the infamy of scoring on both ends of the goals in a Final.

Final Score: France 4 – Croatia 2.

France - World Cup 2018 Winners
France – World Cup 2018 Winners

Awards & Quick Numbers:

  • Luka Modric (Croatia) – Player of the Tournament (Golden Ball Award)
  • Kylian Mbappe (France) – Young Player of the Tournament
  • Harry Kane (England) – Highest Number of Goals Scored (Golden Boot) – 6 Goals
  • Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) – Most Saves 27 – Goalkeeper of the Tournament
  • Ivan Perisic (Croatia) – Most Distance Covered – 72 kms
  • Sergio Ramos (Spain) – Most Passes – 485
  • Neymar (Brazil) – Most Attempts – 27
  • 169:- Total number of Goals Scored; (including 12 own-goals the highest-ever);
  • 4:- Red Cards (one of the lowest in recent history)
  • $ 38 Million for the World Cup Winners – France; $ 28 Million for 2nd Place – Croatia and $24 mill for 3rd place
  • $791 Million – Total Prize Money paid out by FIFA in the 2018 World Cup

Our Top 5 Goals of the Tournament:

  1. Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal vs Iran)
  2. Denis Cheryshev ( Russia vs Croatia)
  3. Benjamin Pavard ( France vs Argentina)
  4. Philippe Coutinho ( Brazil vs Switzerland)
  5. Musa Idriss ( 1st goal – Nigeria vs Iceland)

Top 5 Brands:

FIFA - Brand Partners and Sponsors - Image courtesy of www.fifa.com
FIFA – Brand Partners and Sponsors – Image courtesy of www.fifa.com
  1. Nike – with at least 3 of the top 4 teams being in their stable, the biggest coup would appear to be Nigeria’s shirt design which sold out minutes after being officially released.
  2. Adidas – seems odd that the competing apparel brands should be in the top 5 but yes Adidas did have a few wins with the less sponsorship deals and Telcra ball design.
  3. Hisense – it may have come in for some poor showing in this part of the world, but it resonated well with its audiences on social media platforms and activations. Let’s see what numbers it makes in the next few years.
  4. Budweiser – being the only other drink sponsor of the World Cup, it had some work to do playing catch up with Coke. It did deliver some interesting campaigns and has been having positive conversations online.
  5. CocaCola – for a brand synonymous with the World Cup, they’ve not let their guard and slept on the job. They keep challenging other sponsoring brands on how best to leverage their sponsorship deals.

 

Notes:

Figures from www.fifa.com ; additional info from www.statistica.com and www.guardian.com and Twitter account @Sporf

World Cup 2018 – Ambush Marketing or Shrewd Placement?

The FIFA World Cup 2018 is coming to the tail end of this 4-year ritual. With the semis underway and the Final game coming on 15th July, this has been a World Cup of both pleasant and unpleasant surprises depending on which team or player you support. The same can be said of the marketing campaigns and brands associated with the prestigious event.

FIFA has an elaborate marketing division which over the years has sought to partner with major brands across the globe. This is to enable them reach the wider audiences as well as enrich existing ones. These partners also serve as sponsors of FIFA’s multiple events with the most prestigious being the World Cup. The multi-tier system has 3 layers – FIFA Partners, FIFA World Cup Sponsors and National Supporters. Among the Partners, the most recognisable is Coca-Cola who’ve managed to maintain a lead over all other partners with the Coca-Cola World Cup Trophy Tour. Adidas sportswear has also maintained a stronghold for on-the-pitch action being the Official Ball sponsors since 1970.

This year though some of the partners have had a mixed performance on their visibility and marketing communication. From our own analysis, the most visible to the least one comes as follows;

  1. Coca-Cola – with its various communications either targeting local/regional audiences and also for the global campaign. Having had a head start with the World Cup Trophy Tour, the brand has its strategy on-point and visible across all platforms – both online and offline. See it’s YouTube ad for Nigeria/West Africa here.
  2. adidas – being one of the other brand associated with the World Cup, the brand has both on-the-pitch advantage and off-the-pitch communication. Every tournament has a new ball designed for use for the tournament.
    adidas' Telstar 18 - Image courtesy of FIFA
    adidas’ Telstar 18 – Image courtesy of FIFA

    This year’s ball ‘Adidas Telstar 18‘ has a futuristic look and feel to enable viewers see the ball as they watched and also equipped with aerodynamics for playing pleasure. In some cases, it has a chip installed ‘to access content and information that is unique to that ball, personalized and localized, providing the consumer with interactivity‘. The digital campaign was equally impressive and incorporated not just footballing greats but other sporting heroes such as tennis champion Caroline Wozniacki; NBA star Damian Lillard; skateboarder Nora Vasconcellos as well as music producer extraordinaire Pharell Williams. Here’s a sneak peek.

  3.  Visa International – the brand had an interesting campaign for the pre-World Cup period where holders and users of Visa cards were eligible to win an all-expenses paid trip to Russia. However the marketing honchos went on a trajectory choosing Zlatan Ibrahimovich as the brand ambassador for this year’s campaign. While his country Sweden qualified for the event and even went as far as the quarters, it’s strange to choose a player who would not be present at the World Cup.  Others may point to the fact that bookings and payment at the event in Russia were made mainly using Visa, the campaigns gave a mixed bag of communication to its target audience. See the ad here – ‘Don’t Miss a Goal

In our local scene, Kenyan companies went creative with their campaigns most if not all looking to cash in on the World Cup communication. Here are some of the most interesting ones;

  1. Safaricom – with its mix of GIGA Football Pass and association with Kwese Sports and iflix, the telco got it spot-on with the campaign that almost makes it synonymous with the World Cup. This particular campaign has been consistent across all platforms – from online to offline, radio and TV ads. Good one!

    Kwese-iFlix streams - image courtesy of www.kwesesports.com
    Kwese-iFlix streams – image courtesy of www.kwesesports.com
  2. Uber – sprinkled around the city are strategically placed billboards prompting commuters the need to use the mobility app instead of driving their own vehicles. One interesting piece goes something like, ‘Make it Safely through the quarters, semis and final. Don’t drink and drive’. Simple, effective and concise.
  3. Sony – having been trumped by Chinese electronics maker Hisense for the 2018 World Cup, the Korean-based brand did its bit of seeking to attract consumers to purchase its brands. Armed with bold and elaborate images on their billboards as well as discounted offers, the brand still remains among top of mind TV brands for a big screen or any screen for that matter.

Critics may say that brands have taken advantage and ‘ambushed’ their target customers. Football brand critics may argue too that such major brands ought to pay up for the right to use some of the images or association with the World Cup – tough nut to crack. Whatever marketing communication and messaging that has been screened, broadcast or shared with audiences across the world, the World Cup has truly been memorable for us.

Elgon Cup: Kenya hopes to finish off Uganda

2018 is slowly becoming a semi-renaissance year for the rugby game in Kenya. This weekend the Kenya 15s team better known as the Simbas face off with their Ugandan counterparts for the famous Elgon Cup. The trophy aptly named after the mountain peak found on the border of the two nations – Kenya and Uganda has been a mainstay for the healthy rivalry between the neighbors.

Elgon Cup - Image courtesy of events254.com
Elgon Cup – Image courtesy of events254.com

Having skipped the 2017 one due to the Kenyan elections, both sides are preparing to have a go at each other.
It doesn’t get any better this time with the team coming good after recording victory in the first half of the two-game clash. Both teams have also called on some of their 7s players to provide some pace and experience to the 15-a-side team to gain whatever extra edge they can. These include former 7s players Felix Ayange and Biko Adema with the former being handed his first test cap. Uganda welcomes their talisman Philip Wokorach who plays in the shorter version of the game but proved to be as valuable in the 2016 Elgon Cup, first leg in Kampala’s Kyadondo Grounds.
Triumphs over Morocco and Zimbabwe also curries the flavor to the return leg in Nairobi. What’s more the game will be used as preparations for the Africa Gold Cup where second-tier teams including Namibia, Tunisia, Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Pride and bragging rights are of course at stake given the storied past of the two countries – from politicos like the Migingo Island controversy to concerns over which team’s closest to qualifying for the prestigious Rugby World Cup in 2019. Pay and management issues aside, let’s look forward to an entertaining game at the RFUEA Grounds on 7th July from 1500hours.
For those not able to make it, the game will be screened live on Kwese Sports TV – as well as it’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

World Cup 2018 – 1st Round – 5 of Our Best Moments

By Richard Wanjohi

29th June 2018 , two weeks and the World Cup’s biggest extravaganza takes it’s first break as it gets to the knock-out round. Funny how time flies fast when you’re having fun. It’s been a flurry of action, emotions, disappointment and triumph depending on where your interests lie.

As promised, we’ll look at the 5 best moments so far from the World Cup action in Russia thus far. Let’s get kickin’;

  1. Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland (Group H): Being only their second World Cup, Senegal came into this with a steely determination to prove they are no mere walkovers. In 2002, they started with the famous win over France.
    Senegal’s Aliou Cisse shows us why they are the Lions of Teranga

    In 2018, Poland was more fancied and at worst, the game was likely to be a draw. The Lions of Teranga had other ideas – even with the contentious second goal that the Polish team bitterly complained about.

  2. South Korea’s win 2-0 over Germany in Group F: South Korea qualified for the 2018 WC for the 9th consecutive time. They have been one of the hardest working teams with the players showing a rare work rate and runs all over the pitch. As Manuel Neuer of Germany who made the mistake of chasing a goal for Germany only to leave an empty net for Son Heung-Min. That the Koreans were already on their way out but still found the strength to score 2 goals in added/injury time speaks volumes. Germany continued ignominy of defending World Cup champions eliminated in the first round ( joining Spain from 2014, Italy in 2010 and France in 2002).
  3. Portugal and Spain’s 3-3 draw in Group B: Being among the first games of the championship, there was huge expectation of a tough game for both European foes. With the current European champions Portugal facing the immediate former European champs Spain, it was a goal fest and sight to see. Helped in part by goalkeeping errors and the work ethic of top strikers Diego Costa (Spain) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) it did live up to its billing. Spain had just sacked their immediate coach and Fernando Hierro took over a team even before kicking the ball – talk of baptism by fire.
    SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 15:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores a free-kick for his team's third goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
    SOCHI, RUSSIA – JUNE 15: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scores a free-kick for his team’s third goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

    On other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo has won scored many goals and won many trophies , is it his time to pick up the world’s most recognizable one?

  4. Iceland’s 1-1 draw with Argentina (Group D):

    The Nordic state of Iceland qualified for the 2018 World Cup as one of two first-timers for the edifice. Coming up against one of the most formidable teams, favourites and 2014 finalists, Argentina seemed like an overkill for the Icelanders. Argentina’s strike force is any coach’s envy but this did not overawe the smallest state participating. To hold them to a single goal helped keep the folklore of their journey into the championship. They have one of the best fan base and who doesn’t love the viking chant, too bad they left us at the Group stages…

  5. Russia’s 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in Group A: Hosting an event of such magnitude is no mean feat. Coming into the championship as dark, dark horses is also not easy – your own President doesn’t have much hope in your abilities and potent. Opening the games, two substitutes later and voila! Even the loudest of critiques swallow their words. Will they settle for 2nd as Sweden did in 1958 while hosting the event? In 1978 Argentina hosted and won the World Cup. In 1998 France hosted the championships and presto won it for the first time, twenty-years on, is this Russia’s time?

1st of July, the knock-out phase OR Round of 16 starts…may the best team(s) win!

 

TV Rights – Effects on Sports Broadcasting in Africa

By Richard Wanjohi

In a few weeks, the world will has come to a standstill as sport’s biggest extravaganza kicks off in Russia. An estimated 1.2 billion eyeballs will be glued to their screens for the month-long festival of the football game.

Be it at home, the local restaurant or pub, Fan Park or common area screen; a large majority of the audience will catch the matches on TV. While we appreciate the fast-changing media landscape across the world, TV still remains king in attracting and keeping audiences – more so in game of football. Sports events around the world ignite passions and emotions on fans religiously following them. This becomes even more dramatic for live events. In fact, majority of fans would prefer to catch their favorite game or actions live – this with the multi-levels of delivery and platforms – from online streaming to live reporting.

Image courtesy of EPL
Image courtesy of EPL

In our parts of the world, the realization of sports broadcast and the impact of TV rights is finally dawning on us. From the sports federations owning different properties and propping them for the various media partners to fans who love their action as and where they need it. With the increasingly affordable mobile devices and connectivity, the power of more than one screen has become a reality sooner rather than later in developing economies such as Africa’s. In this discourse though, I’ll seek to indulge you on some of the major milestones to look out for on TV rights in sports across the history of sport.

History of TV Screening in Sport

To help us understand TV rights, it would be important to understand what it means. TV rights include all copyright and related rights to televise a match or game. This is particularly to broadcasting organizations – media and TV organizations – which pay huge sums of money for the exclusive right to broadcast sports events live.

We’ve heard of one or the other local TV station calling itself the ‘official TV station for the World Cup’ or ‘official broadcast partner for the Olympics’. They usually do this after paying the rights to a third party which usually acquires these from the media partners of respective sports organizations. Historically, sports appeared on TV as early as the 1930s in Europe with a broadcast of the Olympics Games in Germany. Though limited to a small audience of viewers who owned the prized silver screen then, it formed the basis of one of the best commercial aspects to impact sport.

Images courtesy
Images courtesy

In the US, live screening of TV of college baseball in the same decade. Live sports at a nationwide – coast-to-coast level only came in 1951 with the show of an American Football college game. In this market these two sports disciplines would form a breeding ground for future developments in live sports and its interaction with TV and its varied audiences. The rest of the world and more so Africa would have to wait until the late 1960s and 70s for their first live sports action on TV. This was in the Olympics in 1964 at Tokyo as well as World Cup in England in 1966. Back then, much of TV viewing was handed to the national broadcasters as they would be the only ones with such infrastructure. This would continue up until the 1990s when TV rights would become fully commercialized.

Origins of TV Screening and Commercialization into TV rights

Commercialization of TV rights started in England’s football league when the then Football Association (FA) management unveiled a blueprint for the Future of Football. The document detailed among others to professionalize the soon-to-be Premier League. Broadcasts on satellite and cable TV would be what prompted fast-tracking of the formation of the League with the promise of a bounty of revenue for participating teams.

Though initially targeting football, sale of rights in England would then include cricket and rugby.

In US, the sale of TV rights had been pursued in the 1980s and 90s with major sports bodies in basketball, football and hockey looking to fully commercialize screening. This include major events such as NBA’s All Star Weekend and football’s Super Bowl – one of sports’ biggest event viewed at a single sitting.

Back to England, the best model of TV rights was introduced during the launch of Sky TV which happened in 1991 but had to wait until a year later. In 1992, Sky won a five-year deal to screen live Premier League games at $409.5 million beating BBC (which got the rights to screen highlights, packaged in the Match of the Day format). The third competitor for the TV rights bid, ITV lost out entirely. While ITV may have seemingly looked to have lost out on the local English scene, it did win the rights to UEFA Champions League in 1999.

The developments in England formed a basis for many other sports developments across the continent. It did help both participating clubs and associations to mine major revenues on the TV rights alone. From a fair amount of 10-15%, current estimates put the revenue from TV rights at between 30-40% for clubs across Europe and Americas.

It has been a bone of contention in more advanced sports properties such as US basketball scene where players have engaged in wages and salaries sit-outs due to their perceived exploitation by team owners. The latter have had to work out tough measures to ensure worthy TV earnings, which the former feel a entitled to being the main actors on the court.

Image courtesy of www.mailonline.com
EPL TV Rights for the Rest of the World – Image courtesy of www.mailonline.com

Major TV Rights Deals

What are some of the major sports TV rights deals of our day? We’ll review 3 of the biggest sports deals in the world including;

  1. National Football League (NFL) from the US – this deal is worth $39.6 billion having been signed for a 9-year period. Each year’s worth is $4.5 billion of payments for the four US networks who signed including CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN. Does this give credence to why Super Bowl is what it is? See more details here.
  2. National Basketball Association (NBA) – US – $24 billion deal signed by ESPN and TNT from 2016 – 2025. This is split at $2.6 billion from the two major US sports networks. See details.
  3. Premier League – UK – this is worth approx. $ 7 billion where two TV networks Sky and BT signed a 3-year from 2016 – 2019. This is at a $2.3 billion per years’ worth of monies. Perhaps this is the one that most sports fans from this part of the world can identify with. See more details here.

Other major deals include

  • Baseball’s $12.2 billion 9-year deal;
  • Football’s Italian league’s Serie A $ 3.4 billion 3-year deal; and
  • German’s league (Bundesliga) $ 5.5 billion 4-year deal.

World Cup TV Rights

Joining the bandwagon of the TV rights, the world’s biggest game started off by screening the games in 1954. In 1966 the World Cup games were broadcast for the first time to a world audience across all continents. This would continue until the late 1990s and early 2000s when media companies sought to compete for the rights to the 1-month extravaganza.

With the transition of broadcasting from terrestrial and satellite to digital signals, there was a change in consumption of media content even for live sports actions. The World Cup was no exception and the effect has been gradual. In 2018 and for us in Kenya, there will be 2 ways of catching your favorite team at the World Cup – the FTA (free-to-air channels) and pay TV. The FTAs will screen thirty-two (32) games out of the sixty-four (64) – which will all be shown on pay TV. This means your typical football fan may not be able to catch the action on the national broadcasts.

(list of FTA’s in Kenya)

Effects of TV Rights on Sport

The biggest impact of TV rights has been providing alternative revenue channels to both sports federations and clubs. This has been growing phenomenally over the period of twenty years making sports properties some of the most valuable across the world.

Another impact is advancement in the media space. Due to competition to have a unique offering to each of the audiences in the different platforms, this has been a boon in advancements and new technologies in sports coverage.

There is a mixed feeling as to the effects on audiences – where some may argue a wider reach of audiences on the different platforms, others may say a decline in viewers due to reduced terrestrial reach on traditional TV. The jury’s still out there on this.

To some extent, due to the high revenues realized from sale of TV rights, players are now able to command high wages and pay from their respective clubs. While it may border on the obscene to some, the potent of merging brands and media to sell these to audiences above, the pay is well worth it to the participants.

Overall TV rights have ensured that broadcasters and media companies have continually sought to grow their offering. With this it has meant developing partnerships and alliances to capture the best and valued sports properties.

Enjoy your favorite games in the upcoming World Cup from whichever channel it maybe. I’d hope TV rights and the whole space make more sense to you now!

Shirt Sponsorship – Kenya Shujaa 7s refuse to ‘Make It Kenya’

By Richard Wanjohi

The final leg of the 2017-18 World Rugby Sevens season in Paris was supposed to be the crowning moment for Kenya’s Sevens team – Shujaa. Kenya was in a tough group consisting of Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa. Starting off with New Zealand Shujaa lost before registering comprehensive wins against Fiji and Samoa, only to miss out on the Main Cup proper on account of points made (when the Fijians beat New Zealand).

Kenya 7s Team Shujaa at Paris 7s - Image courtesy of Andrew Sawatsky
Kenya 7s Team Shujaa at Paris 7s – Image courtesy of Andrew Sawatsky

For us watching the final leg though, something was amiss. Having gone almost the entire season without a shirt sponsor, we had gotten used to the miniscule logo of a local edible oils company at the back of the jerseys.
However just before the penultimate leg at Twickenham in England the team was able to secure the sponsorship – from Brand Kenya Board- with the boys donning the newly done shirts. Meant to have the ‘Make It Kenya’ moniker on the kit’s tops (around the chest), the lads decided to make good use of the medical tape usually provided for tying up the wrists and other injuries on their person.
Various media reports were peddled about non-payment of monies by Brand Kenya, or non-remittance of the same by Kenya Rugby Union to the players, others still on the release of fund to the team by GoK earlier last week. Depending on the sources the grapevine, the heart of the jerseys fiasco will unravel as the team arrives in the country and both Union and players give us their side of the story.
To get down to serious matters, sponsorship is defined as a ‘business relationship between a provider of funds, resources or services and an individual event or organization which offers in return some rights and association that may be used for commercial advantage’ according to one Steve Sleigh.
The World Rugby which manages and organises the World Sevens Series has strict and elaborate rules regarding kit sponsorship and how the shorts and tops ought to be emblazoned. See the details here.
In Kenya Rugby Union’s case, the shirt sponsorship by Brand Kenya Board is worth KES 20 million – with the deal meant to include use of the rugby sevens team players as global brand ambassadors for Brand Kenya for the next 8 months.
Seeing as the sponsorship came at the tail-end of the 2017-18 season, there were balances of monies and allowances owed to the players and team management including the training and conditioning managers.
Reliable sources inform us the team were to be paid the monies in four tranches of KES 4 million each. An additional amount of KES 2.5 million is to be paid directly to the players at KES 100,000 each. The balance of KES 1.5 million maybe taken as the Union’s management fee.
Here’s a sample of tweets titled #MaskingGate7s:

 

So what is the crux of the matter?
1. Given the history of non-payment of salaries and allowances, and also due to the end of the 2017-18 season, the players may have felt aggrieved for not receiving their dues in good time. What would stop the officials from withholding the same?
2. There is also the small matter of unpaid dues to the management and technical team officials. With a shoestring budget, where is the Kenya Rugby Union supposed to source for these monies?
3. Third, Brand Kenya Board as a government body is part of the bureaucracy that sees monies meant to be channeled for the good of the country – in this case sport, are either delayed or swindled by cunning bureaucrats’ within the system. It has happened before with contingents of teams representing Kenya on international assignments.
The important lesson here, is that the players are the ones most affected by the sponsorship (or lack thereof). They straddle and run themselves day in and day out. Putting up sterling performances against fully professional sides by the lads is no mean feat. It is the responsibility of both the Union and corporate sponsors to ensure such fiascos do not occur.
Though Brand Kenya and Union officials have assured the players of payment of the dues, this ought not to have happened in the first place. The damage caused to both delayed payments and concealed shirts by the players is not irreparable. Hard lessons learnt from all parties.
With the upcoming Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco- USA from the 21st of July, Kenya’s Shujaa team is among the nations expected to perform well and shock a few seasoned teams. This is not the time to create off-or-on-field distractions.

Here’s a link to the Kenya Rugby Union’s statement in light of the non-committal and upcoming national teams assignments. Here’s a sneak peek of the statement;

The Kenya Rugby Union wishes to clarify that it has only received Ksh 31m out of a budget of Ksh 124m that was presented to and accepted by the Ministry of Sport after our headline partner pulled out . Following a meeting with the Ministry of Sports on January 10, it presented a budget of Ksh 124m two days later. (January 12). A second meeting with the Ministry took place on January 15 before the K.R.U received a payment of Ksh 31m in early February. This amount has been used to support our national squads in various assignments and we thank the Government for this….

In the absence of Government support, K.R.U is considering pulling all its representative squads out of international assignments. In light of the fiasco in Paris this past weekend, the K.R.U will take action to make sure that this does not happen again.

World Cup 2018 – 5 of the Best! 5 Stadiums

By Richard Wanjohi

As promised, we at Sportskenya are excited about the World Cup 2018. We started our review of 5 of the Best! Today we look at ‘our’ 5 Best Stadiums hosting the extravaganza. We have based our review on the following;

  • Name and Design,
  • Capacity,
  • Sustainability and Accessibility, and finally
  • Wow-effect.

Take a look (in descending order starting with the 5th to the 1st)

Fisht Stadium - Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Fisht Stadium – Image courtesy of Wikipedia

5. Fisht Stadium – located in Sochi, near Georgia/Kazakh border – most southerly venue of the 2018 World Cup. It is close to the Black Sea and the word Fisht in the local language means ‘white head’ – served as the host stadium for 2014 Winter Olympics.
Unique sloping look designed to resemble snowy peaks with temporary seating at the North and South ends closing the open spaces which offer spectacular views of Polyana Mountains and the Black Sea.
Capacity: 47,459 fans
Sustainability: Previously hosted Winter Olympics and will be venue for
Matches to be hosted: 4 group matches; 2 knock-out games (1 Last 16 and 1 Quarter-final match

St.Petersburg Stadium - Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com
St.Petersburg Stadium – Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com
  1. St. Petersburg Stadium – located in St. Petersburg, on Neva River – most northerly venue of the extravaganza. Formerly known as Zenit Arena or Krestovsky Stadium, has the unique design of ‘The Spaceship’ by Japan’s Kisho Kurokawa ( who also designed Toyota Stadium in Japan). It’s equipped with a sliding pitch and retractable roof.

Capacity: 68,134

Sustainability: will play host to Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg and 4 matches of Euro 2020.

Matches: 4 group matches; 2 knock-out games ( 1 Last 16 and 1 Semi-Final).

Kazan Stadium - Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Kazan Stadium – Image courtesy of Wikipedia
  1. Kazan Stadium – located in Kazan – capital of Tartastan – confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers.

It’s got a similar look to the new Wembley and Emirates Stadiums in the UK. It has previously hosted the 2017 Confederations Cup, 2013 Summer Universiade and is home to Russian club Rubin Kazan. It also hosted the 2015 World Aquatics championships where the football pitch was replaced by 2 swimming pools.

Capacity: 44,779

Sustainability: Being one of the most versatile and multi-sport venues in Russia, it also hosts a local top tier side in football.

Matches: 4 group matches; 2 knock-out games (1 last 16 and 1 Semi-final).

Spartak Stadium - Image courtesy of RT.com

  1. Spartak Stadium – located in Moscow. Previously known as Otkritie Arena, it plays host to one of Russia’s biggest clubs, Spartak Moscow. It has a fancy exterior design which features hundreds of connected diamonds which will be changed to reflect the colours of the playing nations.

Capacity: 43,298 fans

Sustainability: It’s played host to top tier club Spartak Moscow and continues to be among the

Matches: 4 group matches and 1 knock-out game.

Luzhniki Stadium- Image courtesy of RT.com
Luzhniki Stadium- Image courtesy of RT.com
  1. Luzhniki Stadium – also located in Moscow, it is Russia’s crown jewel among its stadiums. It is the most storied one given the number of events it has hosted including; 2017 Confederations Cup, 1980 Summer Olympic Games, UEFA League matches and 1999 Final to name but a few.

Capacity: 61,009 fans

Sustainability: Though the athlete’s tartan track has been removed for the exclusive use of football matches, it remains one of the most ubiquitous venues.

Matches: 4 group matches, 1 last 16, 1 semi-final and the Final.

Here’s a graphic representation of all 8 stadiums below;

russia-2018-map-football-stadium-landmark-infographic-soccer-icon-set-arena-strategy-world-cup-vector-illustration-MB8K1B

 

World Cup 2018 – 5 of the Best ! 5 African Teams

World Cup 2018 Review by Richard Wanjohi 
Just days to the World Cup, we at SportsKenya look at 5 of the best! The first of the posts starts with a look at 5 of Africa’s representatives at the 2018 edition. Enjoy!

FIFA World Cup 2018 Logo (courtesy of FIFA.com)
FIFA World Cup 2018 Logo (courtesy of FIFA.com)

5 African Country Teams

  1. Egypt
    (FIFA ranking 46th worldwide, 5th in Africa)
    The Pharaohs; first African country to play in the FIFA World Cup back in 1934 (coincidentally also it’s best-placed). Playing in its 3rd outing, it has one of the strongest African teams on paper. It has won most of the Africa Cup of Nations making it a formidable opponent. It carries one of Europe’s lethal strikers in the just-concluded season who broke both club and Premier League scoring records.

X-Factor: Mohammed Salah has been a fresh breath of air, helping his club team to the finals of the UEFA Champions League. Though recovering from a shoulder injury sustained a few days ago, any coach would be foolish not to include his in their roster.

Mohamed Salah - Image courtesy of arabnews.com
Mohamed Salah – Image courtesy of arabnews.com

The Egyptian’s other well-tested players include Arsenal’s Mohammed El Neny; Al Ahly’s Ahmed Fathy; West Bromwich Albion’s Ahmed Hegazi, Aston Villa’s Ahmed El Mohamady with goalkeeper Essam El Hadary expected to become the oldest player to play at the World Cup if he does get selected to start in June 2018.

Team Manager/Coach: In Hector Cuper, they have an unrelenting coach who’s been with the team since 2015 and saw them reach the Africa Cup of Nations Final in 2017 losing to Cameroon. Egypt’s main undoing will be a lack of international exposure for some of its players. The religious rites of the Ramadhan may also come into play.

Group A includes hosts Russia, Uruguay and fellow Arab state Saudi Arabia.

Our Prediction: Advance to 2nd Round and possibly the Quarter-Finals.
Kit: Red Shirts, White Shorts and Black Socks OR White/Grey Shirts and Black Shorts
Official Kit Sponsor: Adidas

2. Nigeria
(FIFA Ranking – 47th world; 6th in Africa)
Fondly known as Super Eagles – note the word Super, showing the cockiness of the West African brothers. This will be their 6th outing having represented Africa in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 and now in 2018. Physically they have one of the strongest teams given, but as we’d know, the World Cup is not about the strongest team on the day.
Only Cameroon has qualified for more World Cups from the continent.

It has been a formidable team in each of the World Cups with the 1994 and 1998 more memorable as in each of the two they qualified to the 2nd round.

The squad has a good mix of experienced players including captain John Obi Mikel who plies his trade in China’s Tianjin Teda, Victor Moses – Chelsea; Alex Iwobi – Arsenal; Kelechi Iheneacho – Leicester City and Elderson Echiejile – Cercle Brugge from Belgium.

X-Factor: John Obi Mikel – on a good day he can initiate attacks and play well with the frontline of Victor Moses, Iheneacho and Iwobi to finish off the game.

John Obi Mikel - Image courtesy of Jollof Sports
John Obi Mikel – Image courtesy of Jollof Sports

Their main challenge has been player disunity in previous tournaments, as well as delayed payments in allowances and bonuses. The team has also had the unlucky streak of losing in the group stages in the last 2 consecutive World Cups. If they can cross that bridge this time, who knows they might be Africa’s first nation in the semi-finals…or as Daniel Amokachi said purpose to win the World Cup?

Team Manager/Coach: After working with Nigerian managers, the Nigerian Football Federation settled on German’s Gernat Rohr – who’s previously managed Burkina Faso, Gabon and Togo national teams.

Group D pits them against Argentina, Croatia and Iceland – one of the toughest groups!

Our Prediction: Advance to 2nd Round and Quarter-Finals
Kit: Green Shirt with White & Black Sleeves and White Shorts OR All-Black with Green trimmings
Official Kit Sponsor: Nike

3. Morocco
(FIFA Ranking: 42nd world and 4th in Africa)
The Atlas Lions were the first African country to win a group match in 1986, going on to qualify for the 2nd round only to be eliminated by West Germany.

Morocco jersey and shorts - Image courtesy of adidas.com
Morocco jersey and shorts – Image courtesy of adidas.com

Their main undoing would be the lack of World Cup experience being only their third time and first in over 30 years. The team is also drawn against Spain and Portugal – who emerge as favorites to move to the 2nd round. The other team is Iran in Group B.

Group B consists of Spain, Portugal and Iran.

The team has a mix of players plying their trade in the European leagues as well as a sprinkling of Moroccan homegrown talent. Most of its players maybe unknown but such is the tag that makes them lethal as they were in 1986.

The team also qualified conceding only one goal, showing the defensive depth.

Team Manager/Coach: The current manager is Frenchman Herve Renard who has previously coached the Zambian and Ivory Coast national teams.

Our Prediction: Group stages (either finish tied 2nd, losing out on goal difference or 3rd in the group).
Kit: Red Pants, Black Shorts and Red Socks with White trimmings OR All-White with Red trimmings.
Official Kit Sponsor: Adidas

4. Tunisia
(FIFA Ranking – 14th world and 1st in Africa)
The Carthage Eagles – come into the 2018 WC in their fourth time of asking having been at the 1978, 1998, 2002 and 2006 edifices. The team has a heritage of upsetting the form book in its first outing beating Mexico 3-1 in Argentina in 1978 as well as drawing in the same tournament with West Germany.

Subsequent participation has not yielded much but this can be the source of strength to draw from. The under-dog tag works well for a well-gelled team which plays under the radar of its main opponents.

Tunisia National Team - image courtesy of fifa.com
Tunisia National Team – image courtesy of fifa.com

Group G’s made up of Belgium, England and Panama. The former two form the favorites to win the group. It will take more than a sterling performance to get through to the second and subsequent rounds.

Team Manager/Coach: Nabil Maaloul is entrusted with guiding the team to a favorable performance compared to the previous outings. He’s one of only two of African’s coaches from their home nation.

Our Prediction: Group Stages
Kit: White with Red trimmings OR Red with White trimmings
Official Kit Sponsor: Puma

5. Senegal
(FIFA Ranking: 28th worldwide and 2nd in Africa)
Famously known as The Lions of Teranga their proudest WC moment was shocking the defending champions France in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea & Japan, and will look for the same inspiration to get them through this time.
In 2002, thanks to their sterling performance and a second round knock-out ‘golden goal’ they managed to become the 2nd African country to sail to the quarter-finals only to be knocked out in the same fashion.
The team is made up of members plying their trade in top flight football in England and France including; Sadio Mane- Liverpool, Cheikhou Kouyate – West Ham United, Diafrra Sakho of Rennes, Moussa Konate – Amiens and Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli.

Group H  other members include: Colombia, Japan and Poland.

Sadio Mane celebrates goal with Senegalese teammates - Image courtesy of Getty Images
Sadio Mane celebrates goal with Senegalese teammates – Image courtesy of Getty Images

X-Factor: The foursome of Kalidou Koulibaly at the back; Cheikhou Kouyate and Idrissa Gana Gueye in the middle and Sadio Mane at the front form a formidable core of the team.

Team Manager/Coach: Aliou Cisse – who captained the team in 2002 comes back as team manager and hopes to inspire the team from the bench to better the performance.
Our Prediction: Advance to 2nd Round and depending on their opponents, could play in the Quarter-Finals for a 2nd time.
Kit: Green Shirts and Pants OR All-White
Official Kit Sponsor: Puma

Of Sports Legacies – Kenneth Matiba’s

In keeping with the spirit of localized sports content, we took time to pay homage to one of Kenya’s foremost entrepreneurs and influences of sports. Though known more for his political exploits than his sporting streak, his legacy will live to endure. Here’s to the late Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba.

In April this year, Kenya mourned the loss of one of its most astute politicians and efficacious entrepreneurs in Kenneth Njindo Matiba. Even more significant to this column, we lost one of the best sports administrators and visionaries the country has ever had.

Starting off as a senior civil servant, Matiba quit politics to join the world of business (before making a re-entry back to politics in the 1980s). His entry into one of Kenya’s blue chip companies, Kenya Breweries otherwise trading as East Africa Breweries Limited, his impact in both business and sports started being felt almost immediately.

The late K.N. Matiba tests the track at Nyayo National Stadium - Image courtesy of www.nation.co.ke
The late K.N. Matiba tests the track at Nyayo National Stadium – Image courtesy of www.nation.co.ke

First off was Kenyan football where he cajoled the revamp and formation of a new team to run the sport. This ensured that not only were the officials meant to be competent people but also accountable to both the sports people and sponsors alike.

As if to reciprocate his intended mission, Kenyan football entered one of its golden periods late 1970s to early 1980s. This was both at club and national team performances – where the AFC Leopards and Gor Mahias of yore won the CECAFA Club title and Harambee Stars the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. In the same token, Matiba managed to develop an in-house team in the form of Kenya Breweries which would occasionally challenge the top clubs of Kenyan football then – indeed it was the foundation set in the 1980s which saw the club reaching the continental club cup challenge in 1994 – only to lose in the Finals to DRC’s DC Motema Pembe.

He had intended to professionalize football as early as 1978 while serving as the KFF Chair. Even though this never came to fruition following his resignation from the federation, he had aspired to leave the game with what would have been its enduring legacy. He handed over to the new team with the transparency and accountability of a custodian entrusted to run the federation’s properties.

To ensure his impact wasn’t restricted to one sport, Matiba assigned some of his colleagues at Kenya Breweries to manage the boxing federation. This was through one Marsden Madoka – as chair of Amateur Boxing Association (now known as the Boxing Association of Kenya). Through the latter’s stewardship, Kenya had its best decade to date in the 1980s when the national team, affectionately known as the “Hit Squad” participated in several international tournaments coming home with worthy wins. From the 1987 8-Gold medals performance in Nairobi at the All Africa Games to the first and only Gold medal outside of athletics for Kenya at the 1988 Olympic Games held in Seoul.

Would we forget it’s during Matiba’s stint in the Culture Ministry that Kenya hosted boxing legend Muhammad Ali as well as FIFA’s top honcho then, Joao Havelenge?

Talking matters Olympics, it was during his legacy that the Olympic Youth Centres were launched in Kenya. This was a youth development program meant to develop and nurture talent from all parts of the country. This program produced some of the best footballers who came of age in the 1980s including the likes of Ambrose Ayoyi, Davies Oyiela, Hassan Juma and Wycliffe Anyagu just to mention but a few. It is this breed of players who stood up to Egypt’s The Pharaohs at the 1987 All Africa Games only to lose by a goal in the gold medal match.

Kenya's Harambee Stars at All-Africa Games 1987 - Image courtesy of www.kenyanpage.net
Kenya’s Harambee Stars at All-Africa Games 1987 – Image courtesy of www.kenyanpage.net

The team had beaten strong teams that included Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions (who three years later made history in the 1990 World Cup in Italy getting to the quarter-finals), Malawi and Tunisia. Imagine where The Pharaohs are playing now? At the World Cup in St. Petersburg, Russia. If Kenya had only followed through with the dreams of the 1970s and 1980s? If not at international level, at least the continental onslaught would be more likely achieved by now.

Do you recall the Festival of Darts screened on national television in the 1980s and 1990s? “Gaame shot!” invoked one Sammy Lui Wang’ondu – who worked as Matiba’s PA at Kenya Breweries at one time and moonlighted as an MC on other occasions. For what would appear to have been a nondescript game, the sponsorship and screening of the same by Kenya Breweries popularized the sport immensely locally.

It introduced us to the English and Swahili banter of Michael Round-Turner and Dunstan Tido Muhando whose analysis kept us glued to the screens just before the English news on the only TV station then. Thanks to these developments, the Kenyan Darts national team participated in the 1993 Darts World Cup in Las Vegas emerging 8th out of 34 nations.

To other less visible sporting and outdoor activities including the Outward Bound and Hodari Boys Club – which sought to nurture young boys in their teens to formidable young men to the mountaineering club which did became an obsession to the man, Kenneth Matiba did it all. From snow-capped mountains of Equatorial Africa in Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro in Africa to Mt. Everest on the challenging and tall ranges of Himalayas in Asia. For him, it was not enough to put money into sports but rather put money where his mouth was. He did walk his talk, quite literally!

His lessons in sports business and management ought to be chronicled in the annals of Kenyan sport.  He managed to convince the sports federations to style up and clean house.  His was investing in sport but also ensuring the monies put into sports were well spent and sports persons rewarded for their performances.  Our current state of sport in the country is dire need of such a visionary.

Sports federations have been riding roughshod over sports teams and athletes. How do we explain the sad tale of two of Kenya’s top teams who still can’t afford to pay their players on a monthly basis? Why do the clubs have to depend on a single sponsor who whenever it doesn’t suit their needs withdraws sponsorship on a whim? How many times will we keep hearing of unpaid allowances and bonuses for teams on national duty?

Even with the enactment of the Sports Bill, the magic bullet that we have waited for to change and transform sports in Kenya is still a nonstarter. Two Cabinet Secretaries later, the National Sports Lottery is still a cropper even as our athletes keep bringing honor to this nation – at amateur, semi-professional and professional levels. We have seen divestiture by companies from sports on mismanagement of the sponsorship monies as well as increased costs of doing business – Naspers SuperSport comes to mind. If I were to list the companies that have offered to sponsor sports but give it a wide berth due to mismanagement and lack of foresight, I’d run out of space on this article.

What can we learn from the late Matiba?

For starters, sports federations have to learn to operate within the confines of their respective laws and those of the land. Transparency and accountability ought to be second nature to the daily operations.

  • To sports officials, the sports discipline is about the athletes or players – never about you. Let your actions and decisions be the yardstick by which the sporting fraternity uses to judge your performance. Your legacy should speak for itself not weekly press briefings.
  • To Kenyan corporates, put your money where your mouth is. Choose a sport, research well and be invested for the long-haul. The sporadic and measly sponsorships to get good mentions and media mileage will not fly.
  • Still on investment in sport, it should not be an afterthought and peppered CSR activities that brand managers run for. Offer the time, experience and skills to run sport like a business – for we ought to be in the business of sports in this century.
  • To sports athletes, players and coaches discipline, focus and leadership where needed will ensure success of your respective sports disciplines. In the crazy millennium that is the 21st century, yours isn’t an enviable task but it’s the one thing that you have chosen to do – do it well.
  • With his stints in both Kenyan football and other sporting activities, as well as his stint in the Ministry of Culture and Social Services, he served his country diligently. Though brief, the legacies left in respective disciplines are more than we can share here.

God bless Matiba’s time with us, rest in sport brave warrior!