James Magayi @magayijim
Anxiety is building up at the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) owing to a standoff between Kenya Sevens players and the Union over their unpaid May salaries.
The timing could not be more critical as the team is due to reassemble this week for World Cup preparations.
Players who are mulling the formation of a union to champion their rights have however, indicated that they will not start preparations unless their dues are settled. KRU directors have been on a mission to acquire funds to enable them to foot the outstanding bills but have so far not been lucky.
Kenya is headed to her second appearance at the Rugby Sevens World Cup due at the AT & T Park in San Francisco, United States next month.
The team enjoyed a roller coaster run in the just concluded series and were tipped to replicate or better their fourth place finish in the sixth edition four years ago.
Following the embarrassing fallout that saw the erstwhile head coach Innocent Simiyu dismissed from his role, assistant coach William Webster is expected to lead the World Cup preparations.
A director on the board confirmed that preparations for the upcoming Sevens World Cup could be in jeopardy if the players’ dues are not settled on time.
“We have insufficient funding and have run the union on a shoe string budget. The directors have funded some projects from their own pockets and now things are getting thicker with World Cup fast approaching,” he said
“We however, will get money and settle the May salaries for the players to start preparations. We also want to get a good team and send them out well prepared to do well in the World Cup. There is no issue with coaching staff as the assistant coach will lead training. The only issue is players’ salaries,” he said.
The National Assembly Departmental Committee on Sports, Culture & Tourism chairman Victor Munyaka also weighed on the matter preci[itated by the shirt debacle in Paris last month.
Munyaka said: “I am equally deeply concerned at the turn of events just after the team has achieved the best score ever in any Seven Series events. Achieving 104 points after the Paris Series was no mean feat. As the first National Assembly Committee ever since independence to directly oversight Sports, I want to assure Kenyans, that we are committed to getting to the bottom of this matter, in a way that does not jeopardiSe the participation of the Kenya Sevens Rugby Team’s in the forthcoming World Cup in 2019.”
Kenya Sevens finished fourth in the last edition of World Cup staged in Moscow Russia. Expectations were heightened towards the closure of 2017/2018 World Rugby Series in which the team amassed over a century points but a terrible fallout that saw Simiyu’s head rolling has checked expectations.
There is uncertainty over the response players will give the next coach, having been so close with Simiyu who stood with them in solidarity. “Money will come, we funded Kenya XV’s side trip to Morocco where the team won and we will find a way to sort the sevens team as well.”
Players’ state of mind and commitment will be under close scrutiny if and when they reassemble for World Cup preparations as KRU is yet to clear them over their actions of blacking out sponsor’s logo on their jerseys during the final World Rugby leg in Paris. Their actions drew the wrath of government and led to cancelation of a Sh20 million deal with Brand Kenya.