Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Safaricom boosts rugby ground overhaul

By AYUMBA AYODI

The 58 year old Rugby Football Union of East Africa ground is undergoing a transformation with 2010 Safaricom Sevens just around the corner.

The 1,500 seat terrace coming up at the Ngong Road side looks good and it should be better after the Safaricom Foundation gave the Kenya Rugby Union Sh13.2m to help in the general rehabilitation of the grounds ahead of the June-4-6 championship that will draw 16 top class teams.

Kenya Rugby Union that is targeting to raise a total of Sh70m to purchase the adjacent Unga grounds for the construction of an ultra modern rugby stadium.

Safaricom is the title sponsor of Safari Sevens for the next three years. They have committed Sh 25m to this year’s festival.

The KRU chairman Richard Omwela was at hand to receive the sponsorship cheque from Les Baillie, the Safaricom Foundation chairman.

Omwela, who was accompanied by the Grounds Development Committee chairman, Aggrey Chabeda, said it is the union’s endeavour to refurbish the grounds so as to give Kenya a great opportunity in hosting major International Rugby Board (IRB) events in future.

“Safari Sevens have been used by many countries to develop talent for instance the hosts Kenya and South Africa’s Emerging Boks,” said Omwela.

“We now need to have the grounds in better shape with every event by providing better facilities from where fans can enjoy their favourite game of rugby.”

Omwela disclosed that 10 per cent of the gate collections and a similar amount from advertising revenue from the stands will be used to enhance their grassroots pilot programmes across the country.

Baillie noted that there was great need to support community rugby programmes through out the country with a view to provide an avenue to discover and nurture budding talent.

Among the teams that are coming for Safaricom Sevens are newcomers Argentina, New Zealand’s Ponsonby and Georgia.

Other regulars are Emerging Springboks that lost to Kenya 19-40 in the final last year, Morocco, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Uganda, Zambia, Bristol, Hamilton Raiders, Grenoble.

Legendary All Blacks coach Gordon Tietjens will be the chief guest. Meanwhile, the rugby fraternity continued to mourn international scrum half, Joshua Gathumbi, who died on Tuesday morning in Nairobi.

Omwela said a moment of silence will be observed on Saturday before the Bamburi Rugby Super Series final in his honour. Players will also don black arm bands.

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