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Kenya Sevens World Cup participation in
doubt after sponsors cancels lucrative deal

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya Sevens team preparations and participation in the Rugby World Cup are in jeopardy after a deal it had entered with its sponsors was cancelled Thursday by the government.

This comes days after the Kenya team players opted to block sponsorship signage on their shirts at the final round of the World Series in Paris on June 10 in protest for non-payment of their allowances, which had accrued to 40,000 U.S. dollars by Kenya Rugby Union (KRU).

“You can’t promise to give us publicity and then in an international event we lose that publicity.

"No way, not under my docket.

"They can do it in other dockets not mine.

"KRU we are disappointed.

"We thought you guys are professionals but we are disappointed,” Sports Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

Balala added that the move embarrassed the country injuring the plans to promote Kenya as a tourism destination.

KRU had signed a deal with Brand Kenya to have the Sevens team wear shirts branded with ‘Make it Kenya’.

The deal cost 200,000 dollars.

Just before the contract was signed, KRU had threatened to pull out all the national teams from competing at the global level after their former sponsor SportPesa had stopped their contracts with Kenya teams citing exorbitant government taxation of its proceedings.

The government then promised to intervene and pay all KRU expenses.

However, now with their new sponsor out and the government not paying, uncertainty remains over the Sevens team preparations and participation at the World Cup.

Kenya will face-off with Tonga in their first match at the World Cup where the winner will gain the right to play eighth seeded Scotland in the Round of 16 in new playing format released by World Rugby.

The three-day Rugby World Cup Sevens is set for San Francisco, USA from July 20-22.


Kenya Sevens names Briton as new coach

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Briton William Webster will take over the mantle and lead Kenya Sevens team as head coach to the World Cup in San Francisco in the United States in July.

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) has opted to name Webster as the new coach taking over his senior Innocent Simiyu with whom he served as assistant coach.

Simiyu has been fired after he owned up to the decision by the team to block out sponsors logo off their shirts during the final round of the World Series on June 9-10 in Paris.

The players said their action was triggered by frustration after they failed to get paid bonuses and salaries, which had accrued to about 40,000 U.S. dollars.

This is despite the team having entered a financial deal with Brand Kenya to a tune of 200,000 dollars. Kenya government has since cancelled the sponsorship deal with KRU.

"KRU has mutually parted ways with Kenya Sevens head coach Innocent Simiyu effective immediately.

"He took full responsibility for the display that saw the playing unit blank out sponsor’s branding in Paris Sevens which negatively impacted our country and sponsor’s image," said KRU in a statement on Thursday night.

"We are fully aware that the Rugby World Cup Sevens is around the corner and are taking the necessary steps to ensure our participation."

However, insiders said Webster has been promoted to head coach role as Kenya will be out to face Tonga in the World Cup preliminary round with the winner facing Scotland in the last 16 category.

However, it was not clear when the team will resume training. Webster has been Simiyu’s deputy for the past season.

The World Cup is due from July 20-22 in San Francisco, USA.

Ex-Kenya Sevens coach blast rugby union for sacking competent Simiyu

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Former Kenya Sevens head coach Mike Friday has defended his colleague Innocent Simiyu after he was sacked saying he has the ability to succeed elsewhere.

The USA coach Friday, who trained Kenya in 2012/13 season hitting the 99 point mark, said Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) erred in terminating his contract saying Simiyu was the right man to guide the team to greater success and had come to gain the trust of the players.

This season, Simiyu guided Kenya Sevens team to reach 104 points, a historic mark, never attained before as Kenya finished eighth in the World Series log.

"He is competent and Kenya must have embraced him if they are to achieve their milestone.

Simiyu guided the team to break the 100 point mark, something never done before under hard conditions and made two Main Cup final appearances.

He has made Kenya team a serious contender for the World Cup Sevens in San Francisco," said Friday from Los Angeles.

Friday warned Kenya risk performing badly at the World Cup if they fail to resolve the player’s welfare.

The World Cup will be held in San Francisco, USA from July 20-22 and Friday believes Kenya was one of the title contenders despite the side war it is embroiled in.

Kenya has twice reached the semifinals of the World Cup in their last two appearances in Dubai 2009 and Moscow 2013.

"Perhaps it’s time for President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is a passionate rugby man, to step in and bring order for the Kenya team who have always been wonderful ambassadors for the country and were recognized this year for being so," added Friday.

This season, they reached two Main Cup finals in Vancouver (Canada) and Hong Kong.

They also took part in the Commonwealth Games.

But with a new coach coming on board, Kenya should embrace for a bumpy ride as he must massage egos of players and union officials to steer the ship in turbulent waters.

Coach Simiyu, who has been in charge for the last two seasons, was given marching orders on Thursday after he took responsibility of his players action, having blocked the logo of their sponsors Brand Kenya off their shirts during the last leg of the World Series in Paris on June 10-12.

Kenya government has reacted by canceling the deal worth 200,000 U.S. dollars leaving the union with no choice but terminate the coach’s contract.

However, the team, which was due to start its training in Nairobi on Thursday ahead of the World Cup in USA, failed to do so.

"I wish to take this opportunity to thank God for his blessings.

"I leant about my sacking from the media.

"KRU are yet to communicate with me officially.

"I must wait for that before making any comment.

"However, I must thank the Kenya Sevens fans all over the world and my family for their continued support," said Simiyu.

"It was a great honor to be your coach and wish you all the best in the World Cup.

"Let’s keep the focus and achieve of our mission."

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