Mutai targets to bring the Safari 7s groove back as KRU boss
Reviving the defunct annual Rugby Super Series 15s tournament and restoring the fading glamour of the Safari 7s are some of the key campaign pillars for Alexander Sasha Mutai who is vying for the chairmanship of the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU).
The former KRU vice chair is seeking to dislodge incumbent Richard Omwela during the polls that will be held next Wednesday (March 22).
Having narrowly missed the England 2015 Rugby World Cup qualification, Mutai, 40, has also included making the 2019 edition in Japan a priority in his tenure.
“My vision for the game is very big, and I’m quite ambitious and for the last three years the KRU in my opinion and of that many others has not been run well and there are many issues.
“My candidacy is on and I have been requested by the clubs and players to run for office because of the mess that is currently in the union. My leadership is very involving and my main stakeholders are the fans and players,” he charged.
Mutai claimed mismanagement has led to the downturn of Kenya’s premier international sevens competition, Safari 7s with dwindling spectator numbers and lack of sponsorship appeal.
“From 2014 up last year they made losses, the numbers of fans going to see the spectacle dropped. The spectacle of the Safari 7s is no longer the case.
“I think last year we had 2000 fans unlike when I was running it. In my time we had a lot of fans, up to 47,000 and the money I made went back to the clubs and that is what they used to honour away matches,” Mutai alleged.
Speaking to Citizen Digital at his offices in Nairobi on Wednesday, the Union chairmanship candidate lamented the financial woes facing local clubs.
“Teams are constantly asking for well wishers to send them money so that they can honour tournaments. This shouldn’t be happening in 2017,” Mutai complained.
Apart from Omwela who returned to the position after being ousted by Mwangi Muthee, Mutai will also face Rajinder Sembi, a KRU board member and founder of the Western Bulls Rugby club.
Sembi has served one term as an elected director when Omwela came to power after being co-opted during the previous administration.
Omwela, a Nairobi lawyer, was re-elected Union chairman in hotly-contested elections where he polled 25 against Gabriel Ouko’s 18 during the Annual General Meeting at Nairobi’s RFUEA Grounds in 2015.
During his tenure as the Union Vice-chair, Mutai credited himself as among those involved in the establishment of a partnership program with South African premiership club, Western Province for technical support.
“I managed to get the Western Province Rugby Union which has a reputation of being the best managed union in South Africa, with good development structures that are the envy of many rugby unions around the world.
“We managed to get a coach from there for the national 15s team, Jerome Paarwater and from world rankings of 40 we have now reached to position 25. He took us to a game of the world cup and we got a team to play in the Vodacom Cup in South Africa.” Mutai explained.
Despite its rich rugby pedigree, Kenya does not have a rugby stadium of international standards despite being allocated land in Kasarani by the government, something Mutai pledged to address.
The 15s Super Series was discontinued after sponsors Bamburi Cement pulled out in 2014 with the regional franchise tournament crucial for development of the longer version of the domestic game.
“I look to extend our relationship with South Africa to get Kenya into the South African Carling Cup tournament to give the necessary support it requires and provide with all it needs to qualify for 2019 World Cup,” Mutai stressed.
Mutai also credits his role in ensuring the national rugby sevens team qualified for the 2009 Rugby world cup sevens in Dubai where Kenya stunned previous sevens world champions Fiji to reach the semifinals.
Mutai is seeking to marshal support from the 43 clubs affiliated to the KRU.
Kenya Cup clubs hold two votes by virtue of fielding teams in the domestic top flight and the Eric Shirley Shield competitions.
Teams in lower divisions have a vote apiece.
All KRU Board members serve two terms, but for the sake of continuity, the Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and three Directors are elected in alternate years.
Therefore, if the posts of Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Director are up for election, in the following year the position of vice chair and other posts in the Board of Directors will be up for grabs.
-Additional reporting by Bernard Ndong
KRU Chairmanship Candidates
Richard Omwela – Incumbent
Alexander Sasha Mutai
KRU Directorship candidates
Oscar Mango – seeking re-election
Ian Mugambi – seeking re-election
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