Who has been raking in the profits from the highly successful annual Safari Sevens tournament that has recorded steady growth in stature over the years?
This is the question that’s been doing the rounds in rugby circles lately.
A pandora’s box was inadvertently opened during a series of media updates from Kenya’s rugby authorities on plans to build a modern rugby stadium.
According to the first media update sent out last week, Safari Sevens Limited had paid a Sh7 million deposit to acquire a piece of land adjacent to the Rugby Football Union of East Africa (RFUEA) grounds located on Ngong Road with the aim of eventually building a modern rugby stadium there.
The total cost of the land, which currently hosts the age grade Ligi Ndogo soccer league, will be Sh70 million.
Hot on the heels of this first update came a correction stating that the company that made the deposit was called Kenya Rugby Limited (KRL).
Trivial as this correction might appear at first glance, it has led to lively debate in rugby circles.
In an interview, the Kenya Rugby Football Union (KRFU) chairman Mr Richard Omwela was quick to quell rumours about the identity of the owners. “Kenya Rugby Limited is wholly owned by the union. Safari Sevens Limited does not exist,” he insisted.
Mr Omwela says KRL is the investment arm of the Union and it has steadily been amassing the surplus from the annual Safari Sevens tournament.
It now plans to build a fully-equipped 20,000-seater stadium complete with hostels gyms and various other modern facilities at an estimated cost of Sh100 million in order to boost the stature of the game locally.
According to the Union, rugby has not attained a level that would enable it be hosted in larger stadiums such as Kasarani and Nyayo.
In the next six months, the Union will have to scour for the remaining Sh63 million to complete the acquisition of the land.
“The bigger task is to raise the remaining cash to buy the land. Once we own it we have plan,” said Mr Omwela.
The Union plans to seek funds from multiple sources including the government, commercial banks and corporations based locally.
This will be a true test of whether the reputation rugby has gained over the years due to the sterling performance of the national sevens team on the world stage can be converted into hard currency.
This also means, however, that the KRFU will be subjected to increased scrutiny of its financial books. It’s audited accounts for the year 2008 have been delayed apparently due to as a change of auditors.
The auditor in 2007 was a firm called SCI Koimburi Tucker but the Union is said to have contracted Ernst and Young to conduct its 2008 audit. At the end of December 2007, the KRFU was in the red to the tune of Sh1.6 million, making the operation a going concern.