The Kenya Rugby Union says they could not mobilize finances to fund the Kenya Lionesses, (national women's sevens team) to Dubai Sevens set for early December.
KRU chairman Richard Omwela says the Women’s team is not covered by the Ksh0.6b Sportpesa sponsorship in equal measure as the men’s team, Kenya Sevens do.
In an exclusive interview with KTN Prime on Sunday, November 26, 2017, Omwela said: “They are not in equal measure, their (Sportpesa) main focus was to get into HSBC World Sevens Series which is the men’s tournament. Why they came in as part of the sponsorship for the women was to see whether we can continue to support the women but their key focus was on the men’s rugby.”
In 2016, KRU and Sportpesa signed a Ksh607 million deal that saw Sportpesa become the headline sponsor of the rugby union. All national teams bear Sportpesa name on their shirts during training, travelling and playing.
“Sponsorship particularly targets the men’s team, let’s not run away from that responsibility,” Omwela told KTN.
The Lionesses were to use the invitational tournament as a build-up to next year’s Commonwealth Sevens where they will be the lowest ranked nation. Other nations include Rio Gold winners Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Fiji, England, South Africa and Wales.
And when asked whose responsibility is it to ensure the Lionesses go to Dubai Omwela said:
“I can say partly the government, why is the government funding Nyayo Stadium, Kasarani stadium and other stadia and not a rugby stadium?”
“I can confirm that we are not able to support the women to go this time round but we are looking at taking them to Hong Kong where we are able to mobilize the finances for them to be able to participate.”
Before the Commonwealth games, most of the teams taking part will have taken part in Dubai and Sydney 7s in January 2018.
On the issue of not informing the Lionesses in time about the cancellation of Dubai 7s, Omwela said:
“It may have been a communication issue as I said this tournament is an invitation tournament as soon as the information comes in we look at resources to see are we able to get the team to Dubai or not. If there was a miscommunication then that is something our team has to look at, as to why wasn’t it communicated in time.”
The men's team had a week-long camp in Nanyuki to prepare for Dubai 7s as the Lionesses were left in Nairobi.
“Do not forget that the team has just returned from Tunisia where they had gone for World Cup and Commonwealth qualification and they have qualified for the Commonwealth and we need to see how best we can support them into going to the Commonwealth Games.”
Unless there is another well-wisher to help the Women’s team, they will have no tournaments to attend anytime soon.
“In terms of whether we were able to go I am telling you for free without the government’s support there is no way we were taking the team to Dubai.”
Omwela, however, says the challenge with women’s rugby needs to be addressed from a national perspective.
“It’s not something I can run away from, look at any rugby club in this country. Do they have changing rooms for the women? We need to address this as a nation and not an association. Go to Impala or Quins and find out do they actually have women’s changing rooms so that we have women training there? That’s why we focus and take the women to a different facility.”
The Lionesses took part in the Rio Olympics in 2016 finishing 11th.