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.