The dates for the annual invitational Safari sevens have now been confirmed as 2-4 October this year. But in a departure from previous years this year’s tournament will be a lean tournament running for 2 days because of lack of enough sponsorship according to Richard Omwela, the Kenya Rugby Union chairman. This year the schools tournament which is usually played on Friday will not be there. This year only 16 teams will play in the tournament, which is in its 19th year.
The great news is that Safaricom will be coming in as the Main sponsor with 30 million shillings. But they will not be the title sponsor so this year the crown of the 7s circuit will revert to its original name Safari 7’s. The sponsorship money from Safaricom 7’s will mainly cater for international teams’ flight tickets and accommodation.
This year the Safari 7’s will raise its international profile higher as it will host many world class international teams including England Saxons, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Samurai International, Welsh Warriors, Spain, Uganda and the Kenyan Shujaas. Brazil who will be hosting the Olympics next year and they will be coming to see how Kenya hosts its world class 7s rugby tournament. Omwela said that although teams had confirmed that they plan to attend, the short notice in terms of dates might make it difficult for some teams to attend so the team list will be firmed up closer to the tournament date.
Safaricom who have been the title sponsor for the last couple of years, had this year pulled out of sponsorship because of allegations of corruption and fraud at the Kenya Rugby Union. This has necessitated changes at the Union to clean up house. Although Safaricom will be sponsoring the tournament they still insist that much more needs to be done. Safaricom says it will still be vigilant and monitor the situation. It says there is still more to be done but they are willing to support rugby because of its potential. The sponsorship will not be at the expense of proper governance and they will still hold the union to its promise to reform.
“We have reviewed the steps taken by KRU to address the issues we raised when we withdrew our sponsorship in April, and are confident in the progress we are seeing,” said Sylvia Mulinge, Director – Consumer Business, Safaricom.
The current sponsorship will not cover the 2016 edition of the National Sevens Circuit and the Safaricom Sevens tournament.
“We thank Safaricom for their willingness to support and invest in a sport that has the potential to perform just as well as athletics does on the world stage,” said Mr. Omwela. “We are committed to cleaning up rugby from the inside out and have even applied to World Rugby to seek their endorsement so as to give the Safari Sevens Series greater global presence.”