Rugby: AIPS calls out Rugby Africa for hosting World Cup qualifiers in France

Topfry Nakuru RFC and Menengai oilers players confront each other during the Kenya Cup Match played at Nakuru Athletics club on February 26,2022.[Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

International Sports Press Association (AIPS) Africa has called out Rugby Africa President Khaled Babbou for hosting the African qualifiers for the Rugby World Cup in provincial France, rather than keeping it on the African continent.

AIPS Africa President Mitchell Obi said Rugby Africa Cup has shrunk from a celebration of an entire continent down to an unfancied provincial event.

“I believe the decision made by the president of Rugby Africa to host the African qualifiers for the Rugby World Cup in provincial France, rather than keeping it on the African continent is completely wrong, and sends a highly disturbing message to all Africans, especially the young populace and the continent's rising rugby community,” said Obi who doubles as AIPS Vice president.

“People will rightly be asking themselves why the most prestigious rugby tournament on the continent is being moved away and played in Europe when there are plenty of alternative locations within Africa that are perfectly well-equipped to host it.”

“Playing the tournament in France not only deprives African audiences of watching world-class rugby on their doorstep, but it also denies local economies of much-needed income from a high-profile event that would have driven the tourism and hospitality industries, and increased international exposure and investment.”

The Rugby Africa Cup 2022 is to be played in ‘Région Sud’, a region of France that ranks seventh-lowest in terms of population and is the furthest away from the capital, Paris.

The games will be played in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille – a city that is the beating heart of France’s football scene, but is hardly known for its love of rugby.

“The Rugby Africa Cup has shrunk from a celebration of an entire continent, down to an unfancied provincial event in a distant sphere lacking the colour and charm of a welcoming host,” added Obi.

“At best, it is depressing and patronizing for the players and fans of African rugby. At worst, it is an insult to the whole continent of Africa.”

“It reinforces the stereotypical depictions that Africa still endures in Western media, so it is incredibly disappointing that Rugby Africa’s president – an African himself – has chosen to follow this path Obi said the main reason he has given for his decision to host the competition in France rather than Africa seems to centre around ‘mediatization’ and visibility - with the argument being that events hosted in Africa are somehow less accessible to international audiences.

Interestingly, more international sporting events than ever are turning to Africa for hosting duties.

Even the International Olympic Committee is coming to Africa, with the Youth Olympics Games to be held in Senegal in 2026 - the first time any Olympic competition will hold on the continent.

“Anyone suggesting that Africa is ‘not ready’ or is in some way unsuited to hosting major global sporting events is reinforcing old colonial stereotypes of arrogance and entitlement. It is a laughable thought. The world has moved on and knows the promise which Africa holds as the choice host of events.”

“As the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) in Africa, we have particular concerns about the ability of African sports journalists to access and effectively cover the Rugby Africa Cup in such a remote location. We have urgently reached out to Rugby Africa and to World Rugby to ask what is being done to help them secure visas, flights, and accommodation.”

“Notably, the entire family of Sports Journalists across Africa and all those who care passionately for the health and growth of Rugby in the continent insist on the need to bring and keep home the Gold Cup where it rightly belongs and finds its shine.”

“President Babbou must change gear without delay and forget his provincial French fancies.”

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