What Safari 7s Can Learn From The Kenya Open.
For years, the Safari 7s had been Africa’s premier sevens tournament, it had been the top sporting and social event on the Kenyan calendar. We all know where we sit at the moment.
Not long ago, I had the opportunity to work for what is now Kenya’s top sporting and social event, the Kenya Open, and as I was grappling with pars, bogeys, albatrosses, hole in ones, greens and tees. I couldn’t help but think back to my beloved sport and what was our gem, the Safari 7s.
The Kenya Open is a 49 year old Golf tournament, it was first played in 1967 at the Muthaiga Golf club, and has taken place every year since, except two, 1976 and 2003. In 1991, the Kenya Open become an event on the European Challenge Tour, and is now the longest serving event on the tour.
If rugby had a European Challenge tour it would be like a second tier to the World sevens series. The tour is the second-tier men’s professional golf tour in Europe, with events across the globe, this year the tour started at the Muthaiga Golf Club and will end at the Almouj Golf Course in Oman on the 4th of November 2017.
In many ways the Kenya Open stands as the big brother for not only the Safari 7s but all sporting events in the country. As far as sponsors go, this year the Kenya Open attracted over 10 companies to partner with the tournament, both in cash and kind. This year the tournament attracted over 10,000 fans, probably more than Safari 7s in the last two years, combined.
So what can the Safari 7s learn from this behemoth of a sports tournament? While planning for a golf tournament requires a bit more in terms of preparations, at the core of it, we are all basically preparing for people to come, pay and enjoy the sport.
Preparations for the 2017 Barclays Kenya Open, begun in late 2016 before the tournament was officially launched in December. The tournament is organised by the Kenya Open Golf Limited, a company specifically formed by the Kenya Golf Union to handle the Kenya Open. The Chair and vice Chairman of KGU sit on the KOGL board, apart from that the Golf Union is an overseer.
The board includes a director of Publicity and PR, one for Sponsorship, another for financial and the tournament director.
This highly effective seven member board then enlists a third party company and a committee to run the event on their behalf. Once upon a time, the Safari 7s was run under an almost similar structure, under the Safari Sevens Limited. For some reason we saw it fit to move away from this structure and let the KRU board run the tournament. The results are clear for all to see.
At this point, it doesn’t really matter who did what and when, our main concern should be how we get back to the good old Safari 7s.
While it might not be feasible to re-constitute the Safari 7s limited this year, the Union has so far made promising steps towards making this year’s tourney a success. Apart from already having acquired the services of a third party company to run the tournament, the same company that handled the tournament last year.
An internal committee working on the Safari 7s has already been constituted, these will be the same ladies and gentlemen who will handle the Kenya Simbas international tests. As a result we already have a date for the tourney, 4th and 5th of November, a location, the RFUEA grounds and team confirmations have started coming in.
Key on their agenda is sourcing for sponsors of the tournament, especially a title sponsor, like Barclays Bank and the Kenya Open, who pumped in 50 Million towards the championships. Which brings me to another point on sponsorship in the Kenya Open.
At the Open, sponsor roles and entitlements are clearly defined, that way there are minimal gray areas as to who gets what and who controls what, lights at the village and all. I digress.
While we are making positive steps towards the success of this year’s edition. In the long term, we can not escape making the Safari Sevens a professionally run tournament, like the Kenya Open, especially if we still harbour hopes of seeing Africa’s premier sevens tournament at the Sevens World Series.