The Kenya Rugby Union Chairman, Richard Omwela, has warned booze lovers and merry makers that there will be no alcohol in this year’s Safaricom Sevens games.
According to Omwela, the union plans to capitalise on rugby enthusiasts who are focussed on the pitch- and not sideshows. The plan, according to Omwela, entails a strategy that would only attract the ‘true to heart’ real rugby fans - who flood the stands to watch and cheer action on the pitch.
Troublesome socialites who only pay to drink themselves silly and playing hide and seek games with lasses - without a clue on what teams are playing on the pitch will not be prioritised.
“There are some people who just come to have fun, and we have noticed over the years that many of them do not really come for the game. They troop to the grounds to meet friends and so on,” said Omwela, adding that “We are increasing the gate charges to only allow people interested in the games.”
In an attempt to vouch for this move, Omwela makes reference to gate charges at IRB Circuit games.
“Whenever travel to Hong Kong, we pay Sh15,000 for a day ticket, but you ask our people to pay Sh1,000 and it is like you are fleecing them,” said Omwela.
Safari Sevens will return to Ngong Road this year. Omwela’s plan to return rugby to Ngong Road is likely to earn him some points especially just after failing to clinch the popular vote after a majority of the delegates voted against the long serving KRU chairman.
Omwela garnered 25 votes against Sasha Mutahi’s 23, while Pepe Sembi as expected, came a distant third with only 9 votes. That means 32 folks voted against Omwela.
Like a snake shedding its skin, Omwela must now reinvent his leadership style, shake off his past and quickly embrace change. A number of club officials who attended the elections opine that rugby has grown— and that the union has faced unanticipated challenges as a result. A case in point is the growing number of affiliates who feel left out because they are not involved in certain levels of decision making.
And the KRU constitution has not been spared. Sasha, who two years ago failed in his attempts to change the union’s constitution said: “The current constitution is unconstitutional— where the incumbent and three board members have a vote on the election.”
On his part, Auka Gecheo, Chairman Nondescript Rugby Football Club said: “The game has changed. Right from World rugby. It’s time we must actively look at the contemporary challenges in line with the Sports Act and locally emerging challenges.
He added: “At times you have to rub against a hard place to pull yourself through, but in the end the results is worth the trouble. Our current constitution cannot hold. I ask myself if it is still tenable to conduct elections annually, and how do we include our colleagues from the grassroots?”
Then there is the issue of elite Kenya Sevens players who openly supported Sasha’s candidature.
A number of the young men in the national team have blamed Omwela for the long-standing strained relationship with the Union, right from pending issues within player-contractual obligations to the unwarranted on the pitch tensions that in turn have seen Kenya register poor results at the global stage.
In February 2017, the team’s Strength and Conditioning coach Ian Gibbons resigned adding more puzzle to the string of poor performance and dwindling fortunes that have seen Kenya drop further down the rankings.
Omwela however maintains that all rugby players should rest easy— including those who supported Sasha in the just ended elections.
“It is never about whether you like the chair or not. If I were the team coach, then there would be reason to worry. However, my role as the chair is to first bring together all the factions; whether you voted for me or not is now water under the bridge.
I need to reconcile the Union as a father figure and ensure that all the children including the ones that wondered away are all back home. As such, we must give the players a conducive atmosphere to perform. As the chairman, do the players have their welfare looked at and allowances paid in time? If I can do that then I will win back their confidence and that remains my number one priority,” said Omwela.
As the team leaves the country for Hong Kong and Singapore leg, some of the players have signed their contracts while others are still consulting their legal counsel; the major contention being the period of the contract.
“The IRB Sevens season ends in May but the player want contacts running through to September. So, for four months, I will be paying someone who is actually not playing, is that fair?” posed Omwela.
“I do not have the funding to sustain such a salary structure but the good news is that some have already signed contracts and we hope that soon enough we shall put this matter to rest.
Given the nature of Sevens, you would find that some of the players who are going on strike are not really the ones that we would need next season. So, some of them are actually being unfair if the refuse to sign because maybe their playing time is coming to an end,” explained Omwela.
Footnote: Good news for rugby lovers, this press statement was an April Fools prank from the union. Y'all need to learn to take a joke once in a while.