Is Rugby an Elitist Sport? I think it is but the elite don't agree


Staff member

Writer Bethuel Oduo provoked a discussion which some struggling elites in Nairobi doesn't want to have or pretend not even to be aware of. In his column in the Nairobian of 10th July, Bethuel Oduo opined

Have you ever wondered why there are fewer retired rugby players who live in penury in slums or are vegetating in shags? Unlike footballers, rugby players retire in relative creature comfort and hardly fundraise for rent or medical bills. Most hardly sink into alcoholism, which speeds up premature ageing and with it, opportunistic illnesses.
And that brought swift reactions from the fans like Peter Nduati of Resolution Health. Without much elaborations, he started by trying to provoke the discussions.

But remember some things why people right consider Rugby as a sport of the elite.

57 years after independence there are no rugby programs in vast open spaces in the poor Eastern sections of Nairobi or even any of the low-income neighbourhoods while the sports' programs in middle-income targeted schools like Upper Hill are largely highlighted.

Corporate sponsors like Sportpesa get caught up in conflicts with government policies affected football but not rugby because even the gambling firms have avoided engaging rugby in any deals. Some years back CEO of RFC wanted sponsorship from a sports betting firm. When she approached the firm, she was categorically told that rugby is a sport of the elite and it's not the target market of the firms which targets the base of sports fans pyramid.

Research by various marketers has found that most football, volleyball, athletics etc are run or managed by almost illiterate network of goons and so the corporate engagement has been limited with even the most popular clubs struggling to get corporates to partner with them. That's not the same with rugby where you'll find some of the most prominent firms like Coke, EABL, Safaricom, KQ, HSBC getting to sponsor it.

Still the unofficial academies or rugby mentorship clubs are almost solely available in elite schools that feed the big teams. Again, have you asked yourselves why teams like Mwamba RFC's clubhouse is located in the rundown Railway Club. Also, Impala Club, Harlequins, Nondies are rooted in colonial heritage circles where one must belong to be accepted.

While the likes of EABL, Safaricom, KCB, Menengai Oil and Kabras Sugar have been instrumental in mainstreaming rugby programs, it hasn't gone beyond Maseno, Upper Hill and Kakamega High.

Rugby boys are better exposed and generally socialised to think widely.

Someone added this

We handled virtually all the sports federations in Kenya, all of them and I can tell you the first thing you realise is how uneducated most other sports personnel are except for rugby! Football is the worst. Uneducated buffoons “Chairmen, secretariat who can't even read, don’t know what their constitution states and have never read it! They don't bother to follow any rules or regulations) Illiterate folk! I tell you it's shocking.

Football was the biggest mess many such folks all over the place, very loud and aggressive too! We gave them simple assignments to check their constitutions and report back to our bases on some checklists and barely two or three could do it on their own! So where do you start teaching such an illiterate bunch things like strategic planning or marketing or growth factors or sport?

After 4 years we gave up! Illiteracy in Kenyan sports management is a big problem!