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Why the quality of rugby refereeing in Kenya is still poor

Although the shorter version of Kenyan rugby is successful internationally and the full 15s format has great potential, we are still struggling to produce top referees.

The best we’ve had is Constant Cap, who was an assistant referee at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. Recently, the rising Victor Oduor from Nakuru was appointed to the African Rugby panel for this year’s Junior World Rugby Trophy in Hong Kong.

What prevents referees from rising?

Apart from skewed career progression conditions (which favours South African refs), most Kenyan referees’ careers are cut short or stunted by politics and sadly – bullying by players and coaches.

Intimidation

The growing culture of intimidation against refs should stop. Recently, Nondies coach Kanyi Gitonga told off referee Allan Khakame after their 17-20 loss to Strathmore. Khakame said Kanyi does not deserve to be a referee and must be punished for favouring Strathmore.

This has put Kanyi on warpath with Kenya Rugby Referees Society, leading to the withdrawal from all Nondies matches. The issue has escalated to Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) disputes committee.

Lack mentors

Fingers point at senior refs who’ve failed to guide and mentor young ones.  They are accused of selfishness for fear of being outshone.

Godwin Karuga, John Bosco Muamba, Paul Weloba, Raymond Oruo and Mwangi Karimi are some of the senior refs who are about to retire and must groom successors.

The other reason for poor refereeing standards is the rise of impunity in elite clubs. Nondies, Kenya Harlequins and Impala RFC have a misguided mentality of entitlement. They think that all decisions should go their way.

The third is poor working conditions as refs have not been paid their allowances for the past three years and getting to matches is a problem. They seem as they are an afterthought to KRU and have lost the drive to work.

KRU needs to review this area for rugby to grow as a whole.