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!

Commonwealth Games @ Gold Coast – Not so Common for #TeamKenya?

The team at SportsKenya decided to take a deeper look at  #TeamKenya’s participation at Australia’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. This post is also a response to an article by former athlete and Chef de Missio for the Gold Coast Kenya team – Barnabas Korir  titled Gold Coast was stepping stone to 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Striking while the iron is hot, let’s indulge you for the next few;

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Commonwealth Games down under in the Gold Coast have come to an end. The 21st edition aptly labelled as  XXI CWG saw one of the poorest showings by the Kenyan team. While the National Olympic Committee-Kenya (NOC-K) – the body charged with preparing and kitting the national teams for multi-sport events such as this – exuded confidence touting this as ‘the best Games ever’, they were forced to eat humble pie at the end of the 12-day(10 if exclude the opening and closing ceremonies) extravaganza.

Context

For the uninformed, the Commonwealth Games are a colonial heritage from Great Britain. It started off in 1930 as a confluence of countries with British heritage or colonized by the British. The Commonwealth Games Federation is mandated to run the Games including identifying the host country, reviewing and approving sports disciplines to be featured among other Games-related activities. The Games have had various monikers as follows;

  • 1930-1950: British Empire Games
  • 1954 – 1966: British Empire and Commonwealth Games
  • 1970 – 1974: British Commonwealth Games
  • 1974 to date: Commonwealth Games

For Kenya, the Commonwealth Games represent the first time Kenyan athletes ever participated in both individual and multi-sport events at a global stage – in 1954.

The true ‘coming out party’ though happened in 1958 when Kenya – then participating as a colony when it collected two medals in athletics through

  1. Arere Anentia – Bronze in 6 mile (present-day equivalent of 10,000 m )
  2. Bartonjo Rotich  – Bronze 440 yards hurdles (400 m hurdles)
1st ever Kenyan Medallist - Bartonjo Rotich
1st ever Kenyan Medallist – Bartonjo Rotich – Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Games of this magnitude have usually been used to showcase the best of budding talent from the wealth of Kenyan sport. For a multi-sport event who’s participants include top sporting nations such as Australia, England and South Africa. A shift ought to have occurred by now from your usual attendance and filling the numbers.

The Games need to used by Kenya’s athletes more so the team sports to gain exposure and perform at a fairly competitive global stage. The disciplines such as basketball,hockey, netball, rugby and volleyball need to set themselves for the challenge of playing their counterparts in the Commonwealth.

A cursory look for example in rugby shows that 80 % of the top rugby 7s teams are represented in the Commonwealth – from Fiji, England, New Zealand to our erstwhile peeps South Africa.

What Worked

Before the team left for Gold Coast- Australia, the respective sports bodies made a beeline of ensuring the players are paid their allowances – not too sure theirs was athlete’s driven or a need to procure monies in their usually depleted accounts. All in all, the Government managed to pay off  was forced to pay pending allowances and bonuses in time.

Comparing previous outings such as the Rio Olympics fiasco in 2014, the athletes were adequately kitted by the NOC-K and official sponsor Nike. This was a departure from the joke that has been our athletes complaining not having the prerequisite gear for training and participating while on national duty.

While the selection team may have fluffed by selecting youthful and novices to participate especially in athletics, this can help build up for the next major meets at the World Athletics in 2019 and Olympics 2020. In Wycliffe Kinyamal, Stacy Ndiwa, Samuel Gathimba there is still rich talent in our midst…far-fetched but possible.

Wycliffe Kinyamal - 800m Men's Gold Medal at Gold Coast, Australia
Wycliffe Kinyamal – 800m Men’s Gold Medal at Gold Coast, Australia

What went Wrong?

Starting with the preparations, the NOC-K put out an ambitious budget of KES 450 million. Though it’s not clear whether they managed to secure the full amount, what boggles the mind was how this figure was arrived at and how much was eventually going to reach the athletes.

Secondly the selection process for some of the disciplines was not to par. This was especially so in athletics (marathon) and where elite athletes gave the Games a pass. Given the shift from August to April, the disruption on the athletics calendar was not taken well by a number of seasoned runners (and their agents).  Other disciplines such as squash, shooting and archery were reduced to hand-picking of participants by officials.

Third, reduced corporate sponsorship and Government dependence. While the overall role of the team is to represent the country on national duty, there was little to no corporate sponsorship or support. Sports associations have not endeared themselves to local corporate firms and most have become indifferent to demands for sponsorship. Lack of accountability and transparency in use of secured funds plays a major role in this. Little to no use of funds for developmental purposes has affected most sporting disciplines.

Eunice Wambui - Bowling at 2018 Commonwealth Games - courtesy of www.the-star.co.ke
Eunice Wambui – Bowling at 2018 Commonwealth Games – courtesy of www.the-star.co.ke

Fourth, no sense of national pride and duty. Majority of athletes going to international events in the last couple of years have become disillusioned with doing duty for the country. Delayed allowances, bonuses, poor handling at athletes’ village and no sense of national recognition has meant athletes giving the Games a wide berth. Where were the Rudishas, Kipchoges and Kiplagats? Is it the agents’ to blame or our national officials lack of commitment to the cause?

Fifth, promoting and featuring our sports athletes on both traditional and social media. While not all of the athletes may have been featured, the national officials of the respective sports disciplines sent to Australia would have been propped up. The team had no less than 15 disciplines represented! What would it hurt to have the captains or favourites of say athletics, archery, boxing, cycling, swimming and weightlifting featured and social media presence enhanced? The prominence this would have had on their respective sports and also the athletes’ brands would have been a dollar notch higher.

Take Out

Kenyan Flag Image - courtesy of http://kenyaflag.facts.co
Kenyan Flag Image – courtesy of http://kenyaflag.facts.co

The GoK has been shouting ultimatums to sports officials for the longest time. It’s time they acted on their words. If a sports association doesn’t provide a full account of its participation and corrective measures, there’s good enough reason to send them home. Lock a few and banish others for life. We have seen it happen at FIFA and IOC, I don’t see why Kenyan sports should be held ransom by a few individuals and their selfish motives.

Sports associations need not be run like kiosks and personal fiefdoms for rewarding mediocrity. If the sport discipline doesn’t provide a viable youth development and business case to the Ministry of Sport and soon-to-launched National Sports Lottery, it can kiss any other support goodbye.

Competitive leagues – national and county levels. These are already happening in some team sports such as football. However there is no cohesive effort from the national associations and branch level activities. Even worse is the disconnect between sports associations and county governments where each should be leveraging the others capabilities to muster community support and the other utilizing county funds to develop infrastructure at the lower levels.

National selection and preparation – a deliberate effort must be made in future selection and preparation of our national teams. Beyond the national trials for such sports as athletics, historical data and scientific training practices need to be incorporated in preparing our athletes. Some of the disciplines such as rugby are making these steps. It ought to be a collective effort across all sporting disciplines represented at any multi-sports event – be it the All-Africa Games and Olympics.

Interesting Facts about CWG2018:

#There was an equal number of events for both men and women medals awarded.

#Gold Coast 2018 incorporated the para-athletes to see a complete Games as opposed to separate Games as Olympics and Paralympics – 7 para-sports and 18 sports disciplines

#Gold Coast was the 5th Australian city to host the Games after Sydney, 1938; Perth, 1962; Brisbane, 1982 and Melbourne 2006.

For more reading on Kenya’s performance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, check these links below:

  1. Gold Coast was a terrible, unpatriotic outing Elias Makori – Daily Nation
  2. Optimism, despair and relief for Team Kenya – Kimathi Kamau – The Standard
  3. Why Kenya disappointed in Gold Coast – James Magayi – The People Daily

 

 

Sports Renaissance or Regression?

Good day to you ladies and gents! As we get back to our roots, we welcome you to read and indulge with our articles and posts. To get us going is an article published in the Marketing Africa magazine by Richard Wanjohi – who will be sharing these more often as well as other posts on sports in Kenya. Karibuni and feel free to indulge us in on Twitter @sportkenya and Instagram #SportskenyaTM

Salutations, ladies and gents! Great to have us reading from the same page in the New Year. We would be saying good riddance to a most challenging 2017 but alas the bad luck followed us straight into 2018! Work with me…

Image courtesy of www.spoonflower.com
Image courtesy of www.spoonflower.com

Sponsorship Blues

To the Kenyan sports fans following the last days of 2017, we were treated to the announcement of the ‘hallowed Kenyan’ courts throwing out a petition by one of the biggest sports betting firms in the country. The case had been taken to the courts for interpretation and suspension of the Finance Act 2017. In June 2017, the Finance CS had sought to introduce a 35% levy on revenues obtained from betting, gaming, and lotteries and as well, as firms with competitions running prizes to be won.

There was hue and cry from the many betting firms that have been at the fore in the sports scene both for betting and sponsorship purposes. At the turn of the year, it became apparent that the Government was not going to balk at criticism thrown at it.

Within the first week of 2018, the biggest sports betting firm in the country which had also become sports main sponsors across many disciplines dropped most if not all local sponsorship deals. Second-tier and smaller betting firms have also been mulling over their support of smaller outfits in the sporting world.

The ruse by the Government on the 35% levy may have two elements to it,

  • Revenue generation – most taxes are introduced to rake in monies which maybe in circulation and as a way of Government easing off its budgetary obligations. For an ambitious Government like ours has been it would be a no-brainer given the monies that betting and gaming firms have been making in the last 2-3 years. Conservative estimates put the figures at between KES 30-40 billion per year.
  • Regulation – the betting and gaming industry has been on an abnormal growth trajectory for the same number of years as above. Mobile technology has made it easier for even the common person in the village to bet and win monies at the palm of their hands. As of writing this article, there were over 20 betting and gaming firms. If we add the slot machines and other gaming platforms in most urban areas, this will easily cross the 50s.

To reduce the number of companies (maybe through mergers/partnerships) and introduce barriers of entry, it was important for the GoK to rein in on charlatans or those operating below standards.

The effects of the levy though have been to shake up the industry and potentially ring a death knell on a number of investments in the betting, gaming and lottery space.

Sports critiques have also harped on a Government that ‘gives’ with one hand and ‘takes’ with the other. Only 2 years ago in June 2016, the same Finance CS had introduced a tax holiday for companies investing and sponsoring sports activities – to entice companies both existing and new to invest more in sport.

In the subsequent 18 months, a number of firms did oblige. They set up shop in the country and invested in sports in unprecedented ways, with 2017 seeing the resurgence of sports sponsorships.  Other companies engaged in sport as they pushed their CSR budgets to procure visibility and presence as sports quite easily gives the spotlight. This has come a cropper in the past few weeks and may dwindle further if the sentiments of corporate firms are anything to go by.

What is amusing is the Government’s knee-jerk response to the withdrawal of sponsorship monies – a KES 500 million contribution. It may seem like a sizeable amount but it is a trickling if all the sports bodies and organisations in need of financial support from withdrawal of sponsorship monies.

Quick aside: I have a bone to pick with the national sports bodies and teams, is the challenge of procuring a single sponsor for your sport. We have seen the tragedy of singular partnerships in sport that prove detrimental and cripple the organisations activities’. It started with the sourcing of media partnerships and overall sponsorships for their sporting disciplines.

If there is anything to learn from the activities in January, it is the need for a number of corporate firms engaged in your sport. An example to learn from is the NBA, which has managed to rope in sponsors for most of its activities. Watch the NBA All-Star Game in the third weekend of February and you will know what I am talking about.

New CS – New Wine in Old Wineskins?

Coming through in the last days of January were the appointments to the Cabinet that included the new Cabinet Secretary for Sports. With 2018, being a busy sporting year for #TeamKenya, then the new office bearer already does have his hands full.

Starting off with the Winter Olympics in Pyeongyang – South Korea (yes Kenya is represented by the charming and affable Sabrina Wanjiru being only the second Kenyan and a chosen few of Africans to participate in the Games held under wet and chilly conditions on the icy slopes of this city in Korea.

It was embarrassing to see a South Korean company decide to pick Sabrina’s tab for sponsorship to enable her train and participate at the upcoming Winter Games. Where are the myriad Kenyan companies’ and what other proposition would they need to invest and brand such a rare gem?

Back to the CS’s matter, looking forward to his agenda for sport for Kenya in the next years. Beyond the political pronouncements – including the stadia et al – the most urgent matter is the setting up of the National Sports Lottery Fund.

Sports Fund

Drawing from the Sports Act, the Sports Lottery Fund serves as to receive an annual sports programme at least 6 months before commencement of every financial year. This programme shall specify and outline a comprehensive plan of action for development, rehabilitation and maintenance of the projects and programmes of the sports agencies and estimated costs for every activity.

4 years since the enactment of the Sports Act, nothing has happened yet – no officials, no structure and still no monies to boot. As a top sporting nation, we should be serious with this Fund and it would have come in handy with the reduction of sponsorship monies.

The Fund ought to form a centralised system and basis for disbursement of monies meant for sports development – be it the physical infrastructure or the sponsorship of teams especially those on national duty.

Last year saw Kenya miss hosting the CHAN (which ended up in Morocco – and to add insult to injury their national team ended up winning this year’s edition). In total contradiction of the Government’s pledge to sport, the country hosted the World Athletics championships, which the IAAF gave raving commendations (sic).

We can avoid such misadventures if the Ministry and relevant sports bodies had not only made the commitment to host continental and international sports fetes but also look towards investing for the future.

This column has noted severally the need for infrastructure for our sports disciplines and with the devolved functions, it is now imperative for both national and local (read county) governments to make this happen.

 

 

 

Success Stories of Sports Fund

When and if the Sports Lottery Fund becomes operational, it can form the basis of a rebirth of sport in Kenya. We have a number of countries that have benefited from such Funds in building teams to sterling performances and long-term invested in the future.

In South Africa, we have programs such as Sport for All – a trust fund whose monies come from the National Gambling and Lottery Board. This sees a fraction of monies generated from casino gambling as well as national betting and lotteries companies deposited in the trust fund.

The programme has been successfully in initiating youth programs for most of South Africa’s sporting disciplines including cricket, football and rugby to mention but a few.

In the UK, the country has a number of active and well-managed sports trust programs, which include the National Lottery Fund, which disburse over £600 million per year. Others are UK Sport – which manages monies from both the Lottery Fund and affiliate bodies such as NOC among others and UK Youth that ensures youth programmes for not only sports but also educational, arts and sciences in the schools.

The success of these programmes has seen the UK emerge as a major sporting nation in most sporting disciplines and good showing in international sporting events. This was the case in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games held in London.

To bring us home, sports will remain secondary to our national psyche until there is a deliberate and sustained effort to invest in it. Beyond the national levies imposed on corporate firms and businesses, which have sought to engage in sport, the Government has to take a lead in investing and providing an environment to nurture sports.

Enactment of the Sports Act in 2013 was a step in this direction, but we have to move beyond the written laws and act. National sports bodies that are sponsored well have multiple revenue streams to ensure their sports activities across the year. The reward for this would be the supplementary monies from the Sports Lottery Fund once it starts functioning.

Beyond this, we can keep harping the same tunes year-in, year-out.

 

SportPesa’s Sponsorship Withdrawal – Biggest Gamble

2018 Cometh……

2017 has been one momentous year for the country. Even in the world of sport, it has been a well mix in the basket. Talking of baskets, tongues are wagging about the biggest sponsors of sport in Kenya – SportPesa – who are thinking of pulling back their bountiful offering, effectively reducing its involvement in sports in Kenya. What does this portend for sports in 2018?

We got the world...(image courtesy of SportPesa)
We got the world…(image courtesy of SportPesa)

A few posts ago, we predicted the impact of sports betting companies on our sports scene. A casual look at Kenyan sport in the last 3 years has seen a major impact both directly and indirectly on how we consume and interact with sport.
A PwC report on Kenya Entertainment and Media 2013-17 , revenues from sports betting were projected to rise from US$ 11.7 million (2012) to $17.3 million (2017).
As of writing this post, there are about 25 sports betting (and gambling )companies registered in Kenya. The biggest and easily recognisable is SportPesa – operating BCLB (Betting Control & Licensing Board) license no. 673 through Pevans EA Ltd.

Conservative estimates of sports betting and its impact to the economy are at between KES 635-700 million p.a. This is mainly in sports sponsorship, direct spending in improving sports facilities and teams, as well as employment. Add another KES. 2.4 billion in media spend (various media research reports in 2017) – from digital, print, radio and TV – as well as daily spends and we’re talking of billions of shillings!

The synergy enjoyed by both betting and telecoms companies have seen the mobile money in Kenya grow to daily transactions worth KES 18.4 billion! A good fraction of the monies are from your common man on the street, to the discerning campus student and many in blue-collar jobs who review their odds every other morning to make the winnings.

SportPesa Success

Back to SportPesa, the upsurge of sports betting in Kenya can be attributed to its adeptness and adaptability to their audience. As aptly summarised by BetMoran on the post titled ‘ Why SportPesa is very successful‘ the main points include;

  • Consumer spend – 50,000 users spending an average of KES. 500 = KES 25 million per month;
  • High and engaged web audience – an average of 16-18 million users every month (if using Google AdSense-this is another revenue stream);
  • Consumer education – when launching in 2014 just in time for the World Cup, SportPesa has continually educated its target audience on its various betting platforms and options;
  • Mobile technology – as noted above, riding the wave of over 25 million unique mobile phone connections, SportPesa was able to ride the wave of mobile money and making it integral in its platforms;
  • Media spend and engagement- as of Aug 2017, SportPesa was the biggest ad spending firm in media in Kenya rivalling telecoms and FMCGs such as Safaricom, Coca-Cola and P&G that have traditionally been high spenders in these.
  • Timing – launching in time for the 2014 World Cup, the brand was able to take advantage of the biggest sports extravaganza in the world. Pray they’re already looking forward to the 2018 one…

Enter GoK’s hand

In May/June 2017, the Treasury CS tabled proposals to tax sports betting firms in Kenya as high as +50% of the daily collections. While it is not our forte in matters taxation, with the numbers mentioned above, it would be foolhardy to assume this would not attract the Treasury technocrats. Given its agenda to invest in infrastructure including the now-on-then-off stadia development, the GoK has had a tough year in looking to bridge the budget deficit.

Sports betting firms did what is becoming our typical litigious selves in Kenya and took to court to stop the tax measures. The case to nullify the tax measures was dismissed last week, effectively attracting a 35% tax cap on the gross earnings of the sports betting firms effective January 2019.

As of close of 2017, the tax percentages were as follows;

  • 5% of lottery sales;
  • 7.5% for betting firms and bookmakers;
  • 12% for casino gambling and
  • 15% for raffles.
  • Additional taxes include 30% corporate tax and 25% of their total sales dedicated to social causes, including sports activities.

SportPesa is currently involved in major sporting disciplines including;

a) Football – FKF, Premier League, Super 8 , Gor Mahia FC, AFC Leopards FC and Nakuru All Stars FC

b) Rugby – through KRU, National 7s team and Kenya Harlequins;

c) Boxing – Boxing Association of Kenya and boxer Fatima Zarika;

d) Rallying – by sponsoring Leonardo Varese.

Other sponsorship includes shirt sponsoring Everton FC; sports partnership with Arsenal FC, Southampton FC and Hull City as well as La Liga in Spain.

All these associations are likely to be affected in one way or the other once the firm confirms its future role in sponsoring sports in Kenya and overseas too.

Having started expanding its geographical reach in the region to both Uganda and Tanzania, the main market still remains the local scene. The firm’s perceived close links within the GoK will also be exploring ways of either reducing the burden of taxation or enjoying tax holidays for a little longer than the prescribed date.

Way Out?

  1. National Sports Lottery – the establishment of this lottery is long overdue. The GoK through the Ministry of Culture and Sports ought to have fast-tracked this in the last 3 years. Among the many options would be to push for all betting and gambling companies to remit part of their monthly revenues to this common Fund. The monies raised would be apportioned to the sports associations proportionate to the scope of the sport and planned activities for the year. This has worked successfully in countries such as the UK.
  2. Commensurate Social Responsibility – in South Africa, betting and gambling companies have to engage a fair amount of their revenues to corporate social responsibility. While it may not be a sustainable business model for sports business, it is a means to the end of sports development in parts of the world as this.
  3. Lobbying – while we are not privy to what may have happened along the corridors of Parliament and the delays in confirmation of respective committees, it would serve them well to lobby the legislators to reduce the impact of the taxation on their revenues. Alternatively they can give their options of tax regime or tax holiday for those setting up to their 2nd or 3rd year upon which the applicable tax kicks in.

As of 1st January 2018, SportPesa had sought to appeal the ruling in the courts seeking to overturn the ruling. In the meantime, all local sponsorship stands suspended.

To managing the taxman and his demands, a lot still needs to be done to reach a consensus. For the sports organisations likely to be affected, a common ground on appealing to those in Government can be pursued.

It remains to be seen how the biggest gamble will finally play out in 2018.

 

Kenya at the Olympics – Infographic

It’s Olympic time again and what better way than to give our good fans something to cheer about. Our very able designer Nzilani Simu (@nzilanisimu) reprised her 2012 infographic and gave us another piece of great work. See it for yourself as you follow and enjoy the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Share widely too and follow us on @sportskenya for updates on #TeamKenya’s performance at the Rio Games.

 

OlympicsKenya FINAL - 2016-midres-01

No to Rio 2016 ? Zika Virus, Boycotts, Controversies and all that appertains to the Olympic Games

This year is surely not disappointing with its drama-filled headlines and issues around sport. The biggest one at the moment is the Zika Virus which is seen as Brazil’s latest hurdle in hosting the largest multi-sports bonanza.

Rio 2016 

While Brazilian authorities have been battling with polluted waters along the Rio shoreline ( as well as diminishing commodity prices, the Zika virus has shaken the very essence of the Games threatening it with boycotts or no-shows by major sporting nations.

Many have even brewed conspiracies such as;
Whatever the case, the impact of the pandemic will surely be felt at the Summer Olympics to be held in Rio in just under 6 months. Even Kenyan sports administrators have mixed feelings of attending the Games with some calling for tighter safeguards or else, while others insist on participating in the spirit of the Games.
Never before have the Olympic Games looked at risk of missing the largest gathering of nations since 1984. Speaking of missing the Games, we shall take a cursory look at some of the Games which either didn’t take place or were mired in controversy, leading to boycotts or low attendance.
1916 Berlin Games logo – courtesy
1916: The VI Olympiad at the Berlin Games in Germany – with the world tottering towards an arms race thanks in part to the German empire and emerging disquiet in parts of Europe, the Games were not held. This is to avoid endorsement of the German Reich as the Games had suddenly become important social and political platforms. 
1940 and 1944 XII and XIII Olympiad in Tokyo-Japan (then Helsinki-Finland) – by now the dalliance of the Games with political and warring regimes seemed to be buttressed. While Japan had won the rights to host the Games, it got into war with its larger (and by then less developed neighbour) China in the 2nd Sino-Japanese War. The IOC hastily awarded the Games to Helsinki, Finland only for the cold weather to rule the Games completely off. Given the 1940 Games debacle, the World War II meant that no Games were held in 1944, though the Summer Games had been awarded to the Britain’s London. 
Kenyan Olympic team 1956 – image courtesy of Kenya Archives
1956 XVI Olympiad in Melbourne, Australia ( and Stockholm, Sweden) – these Games had two hosts thanks to the quarantine of livestock and animals meaning the equestrian events – horse jumping were held in Stockholm. The rest of the world or what remained after the boycott of the Chinese Republic, England, Iraq, Lebanon, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland to make a statement of their political positions. See it’s a joke when the virus is on the loose…. 
Kenya participated in its first Olympic Games though still as a British colony. This was one year after the establishment of the National Olympic Committee Kenya (NOCK). This would be the only Games that Kenya never won a single medal too (thus far, yaiks…)
1976 XXI Olympiad in Montreal, Canada – Tanzania managed to rally 22 other African states to boycott the Games ( including our very own Kenyan state). This was due to New Zealand’s rugby team the All Blacks tour of South Africa , which was still suspended from the Games due to its apartheid system of governance. This meant the world was denied the exploits of one Henry Rono among other top athletes and sports personalities of that time. 
1976 Montreal memento – courtesy of www.olympics.com
The Games also were occasioned by one of the largest debts ever to hit  host city which was finally repaid 30 years later in 2006. They also had one weird mascot – don’t know whether it was a beaver but it surely doesn’t inspire much confidence.
1980 XXII Olympiad in Moscow, (then USSR) – The height of boycotts had reached its zenith and the US led about 62 nations into boycotting the Games in the Russian city. This was to protest the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan. Although some were in solidarity with the boycott, others were undergoing economic hardships thanks to unstable fuel prices and commodity prices of the late 1970s. The UK was part of the boycott though it sent its athletes under a neutral flag. 
Some of the countries that boycotted the Games ended up participating at the Liberty Bell Classic or Olympic Boycott Games – mainly the athletics disciplines. Kenya participated in these and won two gold medals in the 400m ( Billy Konchellah) and 5000m (Kip Rono) as well as silver in the 4 X 400m Men’s Relay.
Julius Korir – courtesy of sporting-page.net
1984 XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles, USA – To return the favour for the 1980 Games, the USSR and its 14 ‘satellite states’ including Angola, Cuba, East Germany, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe to name but a few decided to boycott. Though the boycott did not achieve much it also led to a similar parallel Games in the form of Friendship Games – sponsored by one exuberant media magnate in the form of Ted Turner. Kenya only participated in the Los Angeles Games after coming off an attempted coup in 1982 and a bruising election in 1983. The team’s performance was dismal with only one gold medal in Julius Korir’s 3000m steeplechase triumph.
1988 XXXIV Olympiad in Seoul, South Korea – The tumultuous 80s would mark the last of the Games boycotts but surely not without controversies. North Korea boycotted for not being considered as part-host of the Games. Albania, Cuba, Ethiopia. Madagascar, Nicaragua and Seychelles all boycotted for various reasons. The Games would also be the last that East Germany participated as a single state as it would merge with the West Germany to form the Federal Democratic state of Germany. USSR would also participate for the last time as a union of soviet states as it broke in 1989 after the collapse of the union under Pres. Mikhail Gorbachev.
Kenya had one of its best outings winning five gold medals including Africa’s first ever gold medal in boxing – with the late Robert Wangila Napunyi winning in the welterweight while Chris Sande won bronze in the middleweight. The athletics field had 4 gold including Paul Ereng (800m), Peter Rono (1500m), Julius Kariuki (3000m steeplechase) and John Ngugi (5000m).
The Games were also marked by the biggest scandal in doping with the positive testing of Ben Johnson who had won the 100m in record time then of 9:79 secs ahead of everyone else. He would be banned for life from the Games. 
The Games also marked the first time an openly gay athlete was forced to disclose his HIV-positive status in rather odd and almost tragic circumstances. Read more on Greg Louganis’s diving exploits at the Olympics

These but a few  are some of the many controversies that have dogged the Games. We do hope that this time round there will be no boycotts and the concerns of health and general environmental state of the city of Rio are addressed in time before the Games. Who would want to ruin what would surely be one Samba party to remember? 

For quick Qs and As on the Zika Virus check out this link by WHO.  

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 www.iaaf.org

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 www.iaaf.org
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…

Kenyan National Honours, who makes the Sports Category shortlist?

Jamhuri or Independence/Republic Day is usually the last major national day on the Kenyan calendar. This day also serves as  when the list of state commendations or honours are awarded to various Kenyan nationals who have served diligently and exceptionally within the given calendar year or in their lifetime. It is structured in the same vein of civil awards and decorations such as are awarded in the UK ( Kenya’s former colonial master), US et cetera.

Kenya State Commendation Bars
Image courtesy  of http://www.coleccionesmilitares.com/

Immediately after Kenya’s independence, the roll of honour was largely composed of politicians, businessmen, educationists and sadly cronies of the Government of the day. This was perpetuated in by the Moi government in the 1980s and 90s. Then came the Kibaki era which is coming to its sunset days. Again not much change there and though there have been a couple of deserving Kenyans who have been awarded, there are also some ‘suprises’ who show up every now and then. (FYI -In 2012, two of the President’s children or is it First Family’s were among those honoured)
Do you always wonder if you have made the list or at least someone who you know deserves? It was a bit of an embarrassment for the Kenyan state in 2004 when the Nobel Committee honoured Wangari Maathai with its Prize for Peace while back home the best we could do is offer her a Deputy Ministerial post with its lowly honours and priviledges.

All the same we have a list of the honours listed as follows;

  • Order of the Golden Heart – Chief/First Class(only Kenyan Head of State & other exemplary people from other parts of the world are awarded this) denoted as CGH, Elder/Second Class (EGH), Moran/Third Class (MGH)
  • Order of the Burning Spear – Chief (CBS), Moran (MBS) and Elder (EBS)
  • Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (OGW) 
  • Silver Star (SS)
  • Head of State Commendation ( HSC)
  • Distinguished Service Medal
  • Distinguished Conduct Order

This year there were a couple of sports personalities awarded including;

  • David Lekuta Rudisha (MBS)
  • Sam Nyamweya (MBS)

Last year’s list included among others;

  • Collins Injera (OGW)
  • Humphrey Kayange (OGW)

Other previous honours include Catherine Ndereba (DSM & OGW), Tecla Loroupe (OGW), Ezekiel Kemboi (OGW), Jason Dunford (OGW) and Paul Tergat (MBS) to name but a few.

Pres. Kibaki garlands The Aga Khan with Chief of Golden Heart (CGH) honours – 2007

Now my beef starts with the ‘economy of that list’. It was too short considering there are many sports personalities worthy of recognition whether still active, retired or post-humously. This has been done before. For example, Kenya never honoured her late boxing hero Robert Wangila Napunyi, marathoner Samuel Wanjiru, footballer Jonathan Niva, former tennis star Paul Wekesa et cetera.
Secondly, what criteria do the State operatives use to vet those deserving of these awards? Yeah what great honour did some of those mentioned bring us? For example, football honcho Sam Nyamweya though in charge of Football Kenya Federation currently, our take is that he has not really lived up to expectations. In fact, he could be part of why Kenyan football languishes in mediocrity. Look at how they handled the Henri Michel case. What about Sakata Ball?
Finally we’re reminded that there was supposed to be a Heroes Corner at Uhuru Gardens. What happened to that initiative? Athletics Kenya came up with its own Sports Museum to try and honour those who achieved great deeds in the sport for the country, though it doesn’t quite measure up to standards.

Next year at a time like this,we shall be having a new government and hope that they will improve on the way  we honour our sports people. They have been our greatest and most consistent ambassadors and should treated as such if not better!

Paul Tergat nominated to head National Olympic Committee-Kenya…Good Choice

Having served to the mandatory age of 70 years, Kipchoge Keino is calling it a day at the helm of the  National Olympic Committee of Kenya. He held office since 2000 after taking over from then beleaugered Charles Mukora who had resigned after the Salt Lake City games debacle that rocked the IOC. In the 12 years at helm, Mr. Kip Keino has managed the best and one of the worst of performances by a Kenyan team in country’s Olympic history. The most recent bad performance in London is one sticking point.
The speed-cop has also managed to keep steady the NOC-K but being a semi-independent sports body from the local national sports federations and associations, it has not been an easy task. His regular spats with the one of the most powerful sports association Athletics Kenya for example is another of the unforgiving jobs he had to do while as NOC-K Chair.
We shall not enumerate his major undertakings as Chair or shortcomings for now. That’s for another day/post. We wish him well as he takes up his position as honorary member of the IOC.

Paul Tergat  – image courtesy of www.runblogrun.com

In comes Paul Tergat. Now if ever there was an athlete who would rival Kipchoge Keino in terms of both national and international appeal, it is Paul Kibii Tergat. He has been on the running circuit until injury and loss of form made him leave the tracks and roads last year. His 5 consecutive titles on the world cross-country circuits, half-marathon and marathon races as well as his memorable but disappointing 2nd place finishes at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics to another athletics legend Haile Gebreselassie.
Beyond his running exploits he has set up the Paul Tergat Foundation and also set up a private sports marketing firm, FineTouch Communications which handles the SOYA (Sports Personality Of the Year Awards) – an event used to honour Kenyan sports men and women who have excelled within a certain calendar year as well as honour those teams and past heroes too. He has also been serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for WFP- World Food Programme.
And though his sports organisations management may be in doubt, he has cultivated a relationship of mutual respect and honesty with Kenyan corporate firms and sports bodies – a rare feat for many sports people both active and retired. He has also been known to be a consensus builder and has business acumen which he will need to muster to run the NOC-K which still needs regular funding to meet its obligations.
As a former Olympian he did manage to embody the spirit of sportsmanship by not only losing gracefully two times to the same athlete but also cultivating a healthy relationship with his nemesis Gebreselassie. The two took battle from the cross-country tracks to the race tracks in the 10,000m to half-marathons and full marathons. They even broke world records in the marathon between themselves before Kenya’s Patrick Makau took the course record in Berlin last year.
We do applaud him on his nomination and do hope the IOC picks him to represent Kenya in the greater Olympics body. It should also be noted that other Kenyan sporting bodies should take the lead of the NOC-K to nominate, vet and elect officials who’s track record speaks for itself. Too many charlatans in town are costing Kenyan sport as great fortune and goodwill from their international peers.
Godspeed though to the “Gentleman”  !
  

Athletics Kenya distances itself from Olympic Report

After London Olympics’ fiasco ( not entirely suprising from our quarters), Athletics Kenya President Mr. Isaiah Kiplagat sought to lay out the blame on other issues. Again no suprises there. Once the report is out, we shall analyse it and give our honest opinion(s) – hope they count for something.
But back to Mr Isaiah Kiplagat, as he answered questions from journalists fresh from London ( where he attended the Games as an IAAF Board member and guest). He said that the Government has been making these reports from Olympic Games since 1976 and none has been acted upon. He also said that Kenyan sports should look into other disciplines to seek medals from in future Games.
Well, Mr. President, we won’t talk on behalf of the Government for not working on the reports since some of the officials involved in the fiasco are part of the blame. We had a similar situation in the All-Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique and nothing was acted upon. It was only going to be a repeat at a larger scale.
Other sporting disciplines bringing Kenya gold, first accept the blame for a dismal show in athletics which you head. Secondly explain to us the whole joke at the Prefontaine trials which AK heavily endorsed and Kenya didn’t manage gold in any of the long races. Third, you might want to suggest a departure date since it’s about time you called it a day for the athletics top job.

Enjoy your weekend though!