Sports Act heralds new era for games

The crowning of Kenya as a world champion at the just-concluded World Athletics Championships in Beijing is a feat that will be relished for years to come.

Memories of Kenya’s sporting greatness are hard to forget. The first medal in the Commonwealth Games by Seraphino Antao in 1962, followed by Kipchoge Keino’s gold medal in 1966. Then the glorious days of the Kenya hockey team, when Kenya reached the semi-finals in the first hockey World Cup in 1971 at Barcelona and later the Kenya cricket team reaching the quarter-finals in the World Cup in 2003 in South Africa. These are historical facts that should catapult Kenya to greater heights.

Up to 2013, sports and sporting bodies were run haphazardly and in a fragmented manner and without any specific laws in place. Enactment of a statute dealing with sports has changed all that.

The Sports Act, 2013, designed to regulate all sports and their administration, was assented to by the President in January, 2013 and came into force in August the same year.

The Sports Act, when first published as law, was a pathetic and most confusing legal document with drafting errors of unimaginable magnitude. Thankfully, the sporting laws have at last settled down after a false start, with the Attorney General putting in place various amendments, thus giving some semblance of regularity to the laws.

The Sports Act establishes Sports Kenya, a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal. Sport Kenya has its main task as developing, managing, and marketing quality sport and recreation facilities, services and programmes.

Section 4 lays down over 20 Sports Kenya functions. These include promotion, co-ordination and implementation of grassroots, national and international sports programmes for Kenyans, establishing a sports museum and participating in the promotion of sports tourism, operation of sports facilities on public grounds in such manner as it deems necessary, and international competitions and recommending, in liaison with the relevant sports organisations, tax exemptions for sportspersons.

The National Sports Fund is also established under Section 12 of the Act, which is to be operated and managed by a board of trustees. A 14-member board was appointed in September last year.

The board is mandated to manage, control and administer the assets of the fund, enter into contracts on behalf of Sport Lottery Fund, raise funds through sports lotteries and investments, and disburse the funds and make recommendations relating to financial grants to sports federations.

The Act also establishes under section 33 an institute known as the Kenya Academy of Sports to be managed by a council. The sports academy is tasked with establishment and managing sports academies, organising, administering and co-coordinating sports courses for technical and sports administration personnel and linking with other institutions and organizations for regular updates on current sports trends among other tasks.

The Kenya Academy of Sports was launched early this year. At the launch Sports, Culture and the Arts Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario said that the ministry would soon launch a talent school where players would undergo skills development in a sport of their choice as well as pursue their academic development.

Section 55 of the Act establishes a Sports Disputes Tribunal tasked with determining appeals against decisions made by national sports organisations or umbrella national sports organizations.

The tribunal comprises a Chairperson; at least two members who are qualified advocates with at least seven years’ experience and who have experience in legal matters relating to sports; and at least not more than six other persons who have 10 years experience in sports. The Judicial Service Commission in consultation with the national sports organisation is mandated to appoint the members.

Although the members of the tribunal were sworn into office in September last year under the chairmanship of John Ohaga, the tribunal only began hearing cases in May this year.

The delay in commencing operations has been attributed to formulating of the tribunal’s rules and the directive from treasury that all tribunals should fall under the Judiciary.

The tribunal has set a time limit of 60 to 90 days within which to hear and determine disputes brought before it. Some of the cases the tribunal is set to handle is Charles Kariuki Wambugu’s case against the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, challenging his expulsion from the Kenya Bowling Association and Kenya Rugby Union’s case against the Registrar of Sports and the Attorney General

The 2013 Sports Act is in its infancy but if applied and enforced diligently it has the potential to herald a new era in the world of sports in the country. Commonwealth and Olympic games have over 28 disciplines, some of which are unknown in Kenya.

As Mr Yego has shown, it is time to take the Kenyan challenge to other unexploited sports.

Hopefully the Sports Act will give Kenyans the foundation for greater glory.