The president’s announcement on Friday March 26th that sporting activities in the country would cease has dealt a severe blow to rugby, and with it the larger sports community.
This directive was part of a series of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, which continues to wreak havoc locally and internationally, has put us in an uncomfortable position.
The suspension came at a time when Kenyan rugby was picking up again after a year of inactivity, crucial due to the initial lockdown and the resulting factors that were crucial in the government’s return to the green light. This period of inactivity came at a cost. We lost revenue from event cancellations, especially from Rugby Africa Barthes U20 Trophy, National Sevens Circuit and Safari Sevens.
While the government has been kind enough to offer our national team players a stimulus package, there have been players outside the national team who have been disenfranchised by the nationwide interruption of sporting activities.
Think of the men and women who contributed to the game as referees, medical professionals, service providers, salespeople, journalists, photographers and broadcasters.
We have also subjected our employees to wage cuts as part of the reduction factors caused by this unique situation.
The Kenya Rugby Union had to take these measures at a time when our national men’s and women’s teams were preparing to fly the Kenyan flag in seventh rugby at the Olympics. We received redress when the government allowed our national teams to resume training under a set of guidelines that we followed religiously.
We would get the green light a few months later to resume the local top-class competition behind closed doors and under further guidelines from the authorities. The Kenya Rugby Union has again scrupulously adhered to these guidelines as well as the guidelines issued by the global governing body of the game, World Rugby.
At the time the league was suspended on Friday March 26, 2021, we had performed a total of 1,551 COVID-19 PCR Tests, 44 of which gave positive results. This corresponds to a prevalence rate of 2.8 percent.
We have periodically tested players and match officers in the Kenya Cup league and taken the necessary steps, including contact tracing and retesting in cases where players tested positive COVID-19. We have gone so far as to postpone fixtures when we felt it was a greater health and safety risk. We are prepared and stand ready to play the game during this difficult time.
Beyond the league, there is an opportunity to effectively prepare our national teams for a number of international competitions, particularly the Tokyo Olympics and the rugby world championships for men and women, every day. Kenya is also hosting Rugby Africa 2021 U20 The Barthes trophy and preparations began with the formation of a government-sponsored local organizing committee (e.g.PLACE).
Rugby is a contact sport and it takes time to achieve strength and stamina. After the long break, the players had just started to get in shape. With another possibly longer hiatus, we will all lose profits and ultimately be uncompetitive in the upcoming international stakes.
Sports federations have worked tirelessly to resume activities in accordance with established guidelines. Many young men and women also make a living from sport and have no opportunity to participate in meaningful income-generating activities. In addition, cessation of physical activity poses a serious threat to the mental health and general well-being of athletes and other athletes.
It is our humble plea that President Uhuru Kenyatta overturn his decision to suspend sporting activities, including rugby.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU).
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