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Kenyan athletes have lost Sh5 billion due to Covid effects

ATHLETICS By Rodgers Eshitemi | April 22nd 2021
Hellen Obiri competes in the Mixed Relays during the AK/LOTTO National Cross Country Championship at the Ngong Race Course on February 13, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Kenya has lost close to Sh5 billion in revenue from athletes’ prize money earnings since March 2020 due to the disruptions caused by Covid-19, Athletics Kenya (AK) Executive member Barnabas Korir has revealed.

The pandemic turned the world of sports upside down leading to cancellation, suspension and postponement of many major sporting events like the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, London Marathon, Boston Marathon, Paris Marathon, Rotterdam Marathon, Hamburg Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon, New York Marathon, some of the Diamond League meetings, World U20 championships and several half marathons spread across Europe, Asia and America.

All this was as a result of health, logistic concerns and travelling restrictions brought about by the coronavirus.

The financial impact has not only been huge on the organisers, but also on Kenyan athletes who rely on the races and events abroad to make money through prize money, endorsements (disclosed and undisclosed), salaries and winning allowances.

And in an interview with Standard Sports, Korir who doubles up as AK Nairobi Region Chairman and AK’s Director for Youth Development, said local athletes have been affected financially and psychologically by the pandemic. “Our athletes are really facing a rough time financially and psychologically.

Statistically, from the earnings of athletes per year excluding appearance fees and contractual obligations, the prize money that they earn for the country is about Sh5 billion,” said Korir.

“The earnings for our athletes are always enormous, but if you calculate the percentage of the events that took place last year, it is very minimal. We have lost almost Sh4 billion during this pandemic. Just a few of the athletes participated in races, not even 10 per cent of them competed.   

“For your information, we are only talking about the prize money. But these are the figures that we can calculate when they run in the London Marathon and other events in the world.”

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Kenya's Brigid Kosgei, right, and Kenya's Ruth Chepngetich race during the London Marathon in London, England, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. [AP]

With AK’s sponsors Nike either terminating contracts of some of the athletes or cutting their pay, the federation has also been impacted by the virus.

“The cancellation of these major events has also affected us in terms of finances. Though the government has come on board on several occasions to assist the athletes in camp, AK depends on the support from Nike,” said Korir.

“But the athletes have been tremendously affected because more than 100 athletes have lost their contracts with Nike. Nike are either cutting their money or not paying them at all because they are not participating in events. Based on that, they use the contracts’ technicalities to cut a certain percentage of the money.

He continued: “The biggest problem we have right now is to counsel them. Save for those from the services (KDF, Prisons and Police), the majority of them are struggling. But we are trying our best to see how we can help them during this pandemic.

But Korir is confident the pandemic will not stop them from successfully hosting the World U20 championships and the Continental Tour Gold on August 17-22 and September 18

“We had a youth sub-committee meeting on Wednesday. We have already drawn an action plan,” said Korir.

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