It happened in April 17, 2016. Kenya Sevens beat Fiji to lift their maiden World Rugby Sevens Cup in Singapore.
The boys collectively made history. Kenya nodded in appreciation.
Seven months later, the players who wrote down the name of the country into the great book of history have not been paid their bonuses. And to add salt to injury, no one is talking about it.
It has not escaped our minds how the boys were crowned heroes by almost every publicity seeking politician, corporate firms and the Kenyan Government — including President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The Nairobian can report that the entire team led by then coach Benjamin Otieno Ayimba, have not been paid a single cent in accrued bonuses for the 2015/16 HSBC Rugby Sevens series.
According to documents obtained by The Nairobian, Kenya Rugby Union owes players and the technical bench millions of shillings in the form of accrued bonuses.
By close of 2015/16 season, the team through their previous technical bench claims a total of $202, 000 (Sh20,580 366).
In January 2016, Kenya Sevens players threatened to down their tools over unpaid dues.
At that time Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) chief executive officer Ronald Bukusi described the standoff as a sponsorship complication occasioned by troubles bedevilling their major partner , the national carrier.
Apparently, Kenya Airways failed to deposit their sponsorship package on time but promised to do so in due course.
“The sponsorship covers salaries, insurance, medical, travel and match bonuses among other things. Without giving the sponsorship figures.
This is a personal matter that we are discussing with the players but we shall definitely do something in the next few days as we plan the way forward,” Bukusi had told a local daily.
To avert the early 2016 stalemate, KQ and KRU were locked in weeks of negotiations that saw the two factions reach a deal in February. In the new dispensation, KQ scaled down their annual grant from Sh112m to Sh36m for the 2015/2016 season, and instead increased air ticket allocation for the team from 190 tickets the previous season to 280 in 2016.
KQ then renegotiated new terms with the Union that would see the national carrier scale down their bonus scheme to a figure that remained undisclosed for the entire season.
Previously, KQ used to pay the players directly by remitting cash to the players’ bank accounts.
According to the previous contract between KQ and KRU, whenever the team would make it to the Main Cup quarter-finals at HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, then each player would earn $1,000 (Sh101,859) and a semi-final appearance $2,000 (Sh 203,619).
However, a mere appearance at the finals would guarantee each player a $3,000 (Sh305,506) in bonuses while winning a leg, like the case in Singapore, 2016 would fetch the boys a whopping $5,000 (Sh509, 177) each.
It is on the 2011 deal that Ayimba-led-team wants the Union to pay bonuses.
“Do not tell us that Kenya Airways is broke and that the Union has no deal that includes payment of bonuses. Why did KQ pay $1,000 dollars upon our return from Singapore? Is it not because they simply wanted to ride on our fame and success?” posed a player who did not wish to be named.
So, is Kenya Airways to blame?
KQ Chief Executive Officer Mbuvi Ngunze shocked the world in November 8, 2016 when he turned down the Union offer for contract renewal. According to Mbuvi, the airline after evaluating their business strategy, chose not to renew the sponsorship.
“We are proud of how far the sport has come with global interest in Kenya’s participation in the World Rugby Sevens Series rising by the day, and appreciate the determination of our sports personalities which has cemented Kenya’s position in the Series,” Mbuvi told journalists at the time.
When The Nairobian wrote to Kenya Airways’ Corporate Communications Manager Wanjiku Mugo on status of Kenya Sevens’ outstanding bonuses, the airline distanced itself from any blame or wrong doing.
“Our contract with KRU comes to an end in November 2016.
The 2015/2016 bonus was for the Singapore leg of the World Rugby Series, which was an offer of USD 1,000 per player and three tickets per player to any of our destinations to be used within a year.
This was paid,” wrote Wanjiku.