Can support from private sector change course of grassroots rugby in Kenya ?

Futures Cup opening ceremony. Photo/DBA Africa

Morendat and Almar have committed to propel grassroots rugby to greater heights by sponsoring the Futures Cup 2024.

The Futures Cup, organised by DBA Africa, was first held in July 2023 and became the first age-grade regional rugby tournament in East Africa.

It was a huge success, with 8 teams from Kenya and Uganda taking part and 9 players from across the teams gaining rugby scholarships for their secondary education; it set the foundation for strengthening the pathway in youth rugby in Kenya and Uganda.

In 2024, it is planned to expand to include 8 boys’ teams and 4 girls teams.

Lessons from Uruguay

Taking notes from tier 2 rugby nation Uruguay; after the lows of missing out on Rugby World
Cups in 2007 and 2011, the URU restructured, acquired a national stadium, created a High
Performance Centre and went from strictly amateur to professional.

Uruguay took a systematic approach to developing grassroots and age-grade rugby programs, and the impact of these initiatives is reflected in the improved performance of their national teams.

Rugby is introduced to young players through school programmes and community initiatives
and the URU organises youth competitions and tournaments at various age levels.

These events serve as a platform for young players to showcase their skills and gain valuable playing

High-performance centres are established to provide specialised training, coaching, and support
services to talented individuals.

The impact of these initiatives is evident in Uruguay’s national teams’ improved competitiveness on the international stage. Uruguay has consistently qualified for Rugby World Cups, showcasing the effectiveness of their player development pathways.

The emphasis on grassroots and age-grade rugby has contributed to a deep pool of talent and a more sustainable and competitive national rugby programme.

Grassroots Rugby in Kenya

While some strides have been made in grassroots rugby development in Kenya, exemplified by
rugby projects like the Futures Cup held by DBA Africa, Nondies Rangers Rugby Academy
Festivals and the KRU’s focus on age-grade initiatives like the Prescott Cup, Damu Changa and
Safari Sevens Age grade tournaments, a large void remains.

The absence of structured age-grade leagues as well as consistent fixtures and tournaments across the country poses a challenge in cultivating and retaining young talents within the rugby fold.

Here, grassroots rugby development stands as the stage where raw talent can be turned into
promise. From colonial-era exclusivity to a sport for the masses, rugby’s evolution is marked by
inclusivity and a broader appeal.

Recent announcements by World Rugby and KRU to launch a  Girls Participation Program to bolster female participation in the sport, as well as announcements from the KRU on plans to introduce rugby in primary schools are undoubtedly steps in the right direction.

However, to fully capitalise on this increase in young athletes, there must be a comprehensive framework to sustain their progress. At present, the lack of sustained engagement through age-grade leagues and fixtures hinders the transition of budding talents from schoolyards to competitive platforms.


In addition, a lack of corporate backing holds the sport back as there is limited financial backing that would inject the needed resources into age-grade rugby, facilitating tournaments, coaching programs and infrastructure development.

Age-grade rugby feeds the sport’s growth and needs a framework of tournaments, fixtures, and competitions, providing young athletes with the opportunities to compete, test their skills and
see themselves as important contributors to the world of rugby.

The Futures Cup aims to give young rugby players a chance to dream – for them to see a pathway toward competing at the highest level of the game for both club and country.

It is also a scouting ground for UK schools who come to watch the tournament and offer East African players scholarships.

Yet while we celebrate support from Morendat and Almar Containers, it falls well short of what is needed from the private sector for grassroots rugby to thrive and grow.

In the absence of funding from governing bodies and World Rugby, the Futures Cup still requires an infusion of support to the tune of 10 million Kenyan Shillings in 2024, and KES 15 million per year
thereafter, with festivals and regional rugby tournaments requiring a further KES 10 million per

This appeal for assistance echoes not just as a call for financial backing but as an invitation for all stakeholders, rugby enthusiasts, and corporate entities to unite in nurturing the
next generation of rugby players.

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