Kisumu RFC was formed in 1982 and has thus been in existence for over 30 years. For most of those years however, the club did not feature in top flight rugby and was hardly a factor. In fact Kisumu RFC has often fallen on hard times and was once disbanded in 1988 before being revived in 1990.
Throughout its existence, Kisumu RFC has survived on a shoestring budget. Unlike clubs like Nakuru RFC, Mombasa Sports club and the premier Nairobi clubs, Kisumu RFC has never had a training ground on its own and has often had to borrow facilities from Kisumu Polytechnic. Not having a training ground has been a severe limiting factor. Over the years the club has been dependent on the generosity of financiers like Lutta Kasamani and more recently Karyna Jerusha Okwaro, a die hard rugby fan who passed away in Mid 2012. With the passing of the generous Mrs Okwaro, the clubs fortunes have taken a turn for the worse and even making it to away games has become a major challenge. In fact the club has failed to appear for a number of away matches.
Do not let the talent go to waste
Kisumu RFC has over the years produced several players who later played for the national team or for the bigger Nairobi clubs. The list includes players like current Kenya Rugby sevens captain Andrew Amonde, Ted Omondi, and going further back Jim Owino and Dennis Awori, one of the greatest sevens players Kenya has ever produced.
In addition, the Kisumu area has plenty of talent available from schools like Maseno School, Maseno University, St Marys Yala, Among the players who have recently emerged from this area include national team players like Benjamin Ayimba, Lesley Mango, Paul Oimbo, Lavin Asego and Victor Oduor.
Should Kisumu RFC fall apart, many of the players currently residing in that part of the country will have nowhere to play rugby. The national team will thus miss out on all the talent available. And with the current poor state of the club, players are unlikely to be motivated to play. In fact it is possible that some players have quit due to the poor state of the club, thus making it impossible for the team to get enough traveling players. Fans from the Lakeside region are likely to tune out as well. Loss of a segment of the fan base is something that Kenya rugby cannot afford to do. Establishing a professional league is dependent on having a large enough fan base and thus Kenya rugby must continue to grow and not shrink its fan base.
KRFU Must Step in aggressively
The reasons above as well as Kisumu RFC’s history of poverty make it imperative that the KRFU must step in to rescue the club. KRFU must use its expertise to perform an in-depth analysis that identifies the issue facing the club and come up with solutions. If the current officials are the problem then KRFU must take over running the club on an interim basis to provide stability. This act along is likely to bring to lift sagging morale at the club. There is precedent for this : In 2011, the IRB took over running the Namibian rugby Union when Namibia rugby was falling apart.
Speaking of the IRB, one can make the case to IRB to provide some funding for struggling clubs like Kisumu RFC. Surely KRFU can make IRB understand the critical importance of keeping the club afloat given that it exists in a talent and fan-rich area.
Long Term solutions.
KRFU must identify potential long term solutions for the clubs perennial problems.Western Bulls which has existed for a much shorter period is not facing similar problems. Perhaps Kisumu can apply some lessons from them. KRFU should help Kisumu RFC come up with ways to raise revenue, to entice players to come and play and entice fans to show up for games.
Seek Government support
With the new constitutional dispensation, KRFU might be able to make the case to the county governor to provide a piece of land on which a rugby field can be built. It need not be anything spectactular. Just a field with two rugby goals and two benches will suffice to begin with. If the county government does not cooperate then perhaps the national government will. Sports is a critical element in keeping the youth busy in positive activities and away from crime and drugs. Sports can also provide employment and income for the youth. And with crime spiraling out of control and youth unemployment hovering at 60%, its high time KRFU started to aggressively make the case that the national as well as county governments should provide material support for sports like rugby. Virtually all the rugby grounds in Kenya today were bequeathed by the colonial government as far back as the 1930s. It is a crying shame that since Independence in 1963, successive governments have not seen it fit to provide rugby grounds.
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