By ERICK OCHIENG’
Nairobi,Kenya:Pay Television station Zuku has splashed Sh250 million in sponsorship for the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU).
The multi-million shilling sponsorship is scheduled to run for the next five years. This translates to a Sh50 million investment per season, for exclusive broadcast rights, production of KRU matches for the 2013/2014 and 2017/2018 seasons. Besides, Zuku, which now becomes the federation’s official partner, will use its channels to promote rugby.
Under the agreement, the station will have the right to televise several rugby events, including Safaricom Sevens, Bamburi Rugby Super Series and the Elgon Cup. It will also cover the Kenya Cup, Eric Shirley Shield, International Mombasa Sevens as well as the National Sevens Circuit.
Wananchi Group CEO, Richard Bell, underscored Zuku’s commitment to partnering with KRU and bringing the action directly to viewers. He acknowledged the tremendous growth rugby has enjoyed.
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“We are pleased to pioneer in the production of local rugby matches, which means Kenyan rugby fans can now watch their local rugby teams in the quality that they watch international rugby matches,” he said during the signing ceremony with KRU.
The deal is also inclusive of a bonus for the National Fifteens squad — who recently put on a stunning performance in Madagascar — should they qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
KRU Chairman Mwangi Muthee (pictured) who welcomed the deal said: “The rugby fraternity is delighted that Zuku is continuing with its support of Kenyan rugby. This deal will go a long way in bringing our fans closer to the teams across East Africa and will inspire our players to excel.”
The KRU chairman added: “The deal will hasten the growth of Kenyan Rugby by popularising the game.”
Ten years ago, at the start of the IRB Sevens World Series, Kenya was on the periphery of the game – enthusiastic but in no way competitive against top teams New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa and Australia.
The Kenyans had failed to qualify for the earlier World Cup Sevens finals in 1993 and 1997, and in their first season as occasional participants they were never really in contention.
Worse still, they lost every game in their first four tournaments – 17 games in a row between October 1999 and November 2001.
But then they broke the mold and won their first silverware in the Shield in Dubai and since then have scaled ever-greater heights, reaching Cup quarter finals, then semi-finals and lately, a semi-final loss to England in the just concluded Rugby Sevens World Cup in Moscow.
The 15s game has also witnessed tremendous growth, with the team recently crowned African Champions after an emphatic 29-17 victory over fierce rivals Zimbabwe in the finals of the Confederation of African Rugby tournament in Antananarivo, Madagascar.