Co-operative Bank could be changing gear in matters sports sponsorship and starting a rugby team at the expense of their basketball teams that have been in existence for close to three decades and are reportedly folding up.
The bank management is said to be split down the middle on the issue with some board members feeling strongly that the bank will get more value from rugby which they deem more popular and receiving better coverage compared to basketball, while the rest want the status quo to remain.
“For the bank it is all about visibility and the tussle on the two sports first has to do with the success of their banking rivals, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) in rugby and the visibility of the brand following the team’s exploits,” said a source that sort anonymity.
Co-operative Bank Spartans and their women counterparts have not been in action since the Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) league threw off on May 5, missing more than three matches and as per the league rules, the two teams should be relegated from the premier league to division one.
Trouble for the teams started last season when, during the playoffs, the bank’s management requested for a postponement of fixtures for Spartans who were to face Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) in the men’s semifinals only for the request to be declined leading to the team missing Game One and Two and the latter handed walkovers. Spartans then lost in Game Three gifting the title holders a chance to defend their title.
A social media outburst by a basketball fan following the injury of one of Spartans’ players who was not on the bank’s insurance cover programme yet, might have added insult to injury leading to the management feeling that the bank was receiving ‘bad publicity’ from the sport.
“The bank management had requested that they be allowed some time to sort out some in-house challenges and that no walkovers be handed at the time. Nothing is concluded just yet,” said the source.
Fixture secretary Joseph Amoko confirmed that he is still working on the updated fixtures following the postponement of several matches in week two and the absence of Ulinzi Warriors from June 10-22, but could not reveal whether or not the teams will be included in the fixtures.
The uncertainty of the teams’ future also puts to question the fate of their players as only three have been confirmed to have signed for others teams. The exit of the two teams would add to the list of corporate-sponsored teams that have folded in the recent past from basketball.
Efforts to get an official comment from the bank was unfruitful after a senior officer at the CEO’s office failed to get back by press time.