With a few days remaining before the new Kenya Cup season there is a lot that needs to be done on and off the pitch.
As teams gear up for other competitions like the Enterprise Cup and National Circuit, there are certain aspects that need to be addressed to make the league more appealing and competitive.
The Scrummage Africa desk has analyzed the league and identified some key areas that require improvement. Here are some of the issues we believe need to be worked on:
Work on a proper broadcaster for the Kenya Cup
Over the years, our league has had various broadcast partners such as Zuku, Bamba, and K24, who have televised our matches to a wider audience. However, the recent two deals have ended without much fanfare, resulting in a decline in the number of matches aired this season. Unlike last season, where we had at least two matches per weekend, this season, we have only had three aired matches.
Broadcasting our league matches offers numerous benefits, including expanding our market reach, both locally and globally. By reaching a wider audience, our league will attract more fans, which is vital for the growth and success of the sport. Brands will also be eager to associate themselves with our league, knowing that their brand can reach a wider audience than just those who can attend matches.
Furthermore, broadcasting our league will create a platform for our players to be scouted by talent scouts from other leagues, opening up opportunities for them to land deals abroad, which will not only benefit them but also the development of rugby in our country.
In addition, broadcasting our matches will also create more revenue streams for our clubs, who can attract more sponsors and advertisers, knowing that their brand exposure will be amplified by being associated with our league. This, in turn, will lead to more investment in our clubs, which will help to develop our players, facilities, and infrastructure.
If a league partner cannot be secured, the organizers can explore other options, such as utilizing online streaming platforms. For example, the Uganda Premiership used Kawowo as a platform that streamed at least two matches per weekend for the last two seasons until NBS came on board as the official broadcasters. Alternatively, clubs that have the ability to stream their home matches should be allowed to air the matches until a proper broadcast deal is secured.
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In conclusion, having our league broadcasted is crucial for the growth and success of rugby in our country. We must explore all possible options to ensure that our matches are accessible to a wider audience, which will not only benefit the league but also the individual teams and players who will gain exposure, attract more fans and sponsors, and ultimately elevate the level of rugby in our country.
Secure a league sponsor
The recent Kabras RFC and KCB final highlighted the untapped potential of our league to attract more fans and spectators, and it’s clear that securing a league sponsor for our top tier is essential. If the organizers can consistently secure sponsors for the National 7s Circuit, they should be able to do the same for our premier league.
A league sponsor can provide critical financial support for teams to cover matchday expenses such as travel, accommodation, and equipment costs, ensuring they can compete at their highest level and avoid forfeiting matches.
Having a league sponsor can also improve the league’s competitiveness by providing incentives for teams to perform their best, such as a season-end prize money and cash rewards based on rankings. This can motivate players and enhance the standard of rugby played, making the league more exciting and engaging for fans.
Across the border, Nile Special recently provided our neighbours Uganda Rugby with UGX 2.6 Billion (Kshs 90 million) sponsorship for three years, with funds allocated to administration, incentives and prizes for clubs and players, brand and marketing, and media. URU CEO Isaac Lutwama then announced in a presser that clubs would receive UGX 20 million (Kshs 600,000) each to prepare for the season. Such sponsorship can level the playing field and prevent situations where only corporate clubs can compete effectively.
Have data available for our league
It is common for me to request Team Managers to share the scoresheet immediately after the final whistle, but I have encountered challenges where some managers claim they have already submitted the sheet and did not keep a copy This makes it had for us a dedicated rugby content providers to provide data for our leagues.
This issue becomes more complicated when Kenya Cup publishes the top try scorers list, and players start to complain about unrecorded tries. Unfortunately, some clubs cannot identify their top scorer in the concluded season.
To address this issue, Kenya Cup organizers should consider implementing a standardized system for recording player data at the local level. This would assist selectors when choosing players for national teams. Additionally, clubs should keep their own tally of scores, appearances to have accurate data for their players. This would not only benefit the selectors but also players and clubs in evaluating performance and making informed decisions.
Branding and marketing of our league
Uganda’s league launch at the start of the season was successful in creating buzz and anticipation for their rugby league. The club captains were featured in a video towing a Nile Special truck, and photos and media sessions were held to spread the word about the league’s start. Our league can also find ways to brand and market itself, with or without sponsors.
With proper strategies the league can create a strong brand identity for the league and attract more fans and sponsors, ultimately leading to its growth and success.
Organizers, Kenya Cup and host clubs should work more on hyping matches each weekend to create a buzz all through the season.
Have league awards
Recognizing only the points scorer, top try scorer and MVP is not enough. It is crucial to acknowledge the contributions of coaches, team managers, club media teams, team doctors, and positional performers.
Our neighbors, Uganda, have set an example of how to elevate the recognition of players by upgrading from beer awards to medals and now awarding every Man of the Match with a trophy and approximately 3,000 Kshs each weekend.
Last year, they had end of season awards with over seven categories, which is a great initiative. Back at home, fans from Kabras had an initiative to award their best player of the match which also a good initiative. Clubs should adopt in-house awards and Union should look at overall awards.
Activity on Social Media
With the exception of a few clubs, most of them seem to be neglecting their social media presence. It appears as though their social media managers only have access to accounts for team news on Fridays, and the accounts are dormant for the rest of the week.
There is a vast potential to harness the power of social media by providing official updates, match-day updates, and engaging content. While some clubs like Kabras RFC, KCB, Daystar Falcons, and Menengai Oilers are doing a good job, there is still much room for improvement.
Besides this, clubs should ensure they have a good relationship with media groups to boost their coverage,.
Club should work on merchandise and fans should support
Merchandise is an important aspect of any club’s revenue stream, brand promotion, and fan engagement strategy. It serves as a tangible reminder of the club’s history and accomplishments, and fans wear the club’s colors to promote the club’s identity. The revenue generated from merchandise sales can help fund the club’s activities and initiatives.
Clubs must strive to make merchandise available to fans throughout the season, whether online or at matches. By doing so, fans can show their support and loyalty to the club, not only during games but also in their everyday lives. Merchandise can also help to attract new fans to the club, as fans become walking advertisements for the club’s brand when they wear its colors and logos.
Fans should support their own clubs by purchasing merchandise, which goes beyond official replica kits just like they do for foreign clubs.
Club should work on pitches
In my sports coverage, I remember an assessment being done to establish if foootball pitches met the standards to host matches in the Kenya Premier League. Teams would be banned from using home venues until certain standards were met.
Such assessment should be adopted in rugby to ensure that pitches meet the necessary standards. This will help avoid playing on dusty, muddy, and patchy surfaces, which can lead to player injuries and affect the quality of the game.
In the long run, clubs should prioritize creating better playing conditions to enhance fan experiences. This includes maintaining high-quality pitches, improving facilities, and ensuring that fans are comfortable during matches. These efforts will not only attract more fans to matches but also improve the overall image and reputation of the league.
We have seen Impala Floodies matches kick off as early as 9:30 am and run up to 9 PM on Saturday’s and the atmosphere is always great. We can have such an arrangement for our league matches where by clubs on Ngong road can host their weekend matches at the same venue, have a good fan experience and at the end share revenue.
It is not limited to Ngong road as Thika Road, Nakuru clubs and Western clubs can do the same including Nationwide and Championship clubs in same towns.
Spread out fixtures
Fixtures in rugby should be planned to ensure that matches are spread out throughout the weekend. In 2014, at least two matches were played on Friday night and the rest on Saturday, providing fans with the opportunity to watch double headers on Friday and more matches on Saturday.
However, with the current schedule of all matches kicking off at 4:00 PM, including Championship and some Nationwide matches, fans are limited in their ability to support multiple teams, and the media is also restricted in what they can cover. This may explain why, while all media outlets were reporting about Kabras winning the Kenya Cup last weekend, less was said about Nondies scooping the KRU Championship and Mwamba retaining the women’s title.
We have Impala Club, RFUEA Grounds and Mamboleo Stadium with Floodlights which provides room for late evening or night matches.
Rugby organizers should consider spreading out fixtures to maximize coverage and support for all teams, while also accommodating fans who may have other commitments on specific days. This will not only help promote the sport but also give fans a better experience by providing them with more opportunities to support their favorite teams.
Other areas to improve including officiating, organization among others.