Corruption in sports could kill Kenyan heritage - report

Tuesday February 23 2016

Kenyan athletes celebrate winning 3,000m

Kenyan athletes celebrate winning 3,000m steeplechase final in Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. PHOTO | FILE 


Kenya's sporting talent faces imminent death if the government does not take action against doping, bribery and match-fixing, among other graft activities.

A report released Monday by global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) says that while sporting events generate huge revenues, they are also attracting cartels, which means athletes gain little.

In its Global Corruption Report, TI says corruption in sport manifests in the appointment or election of officials, financing of sporting activities, the planning of major events and match-fixing.

The watchdog says that with global sporting events generating at least $145 billion (Ksh14.5 trillion) a year, it makes sport attractive to corruption but with limited checks.

The report, a 390-page document, was inspired by the indictment of nine former global football management officials by the US for corruption related offences.

It led to the resignation of football organisation Fifa president Sepp Blatter as other officials were banned from the sport. Athletics and tennis are also facing corruption claims.

But in Kenya, Bob Munro, the chairman of local football club Mathare United argued that graft in the sport could ruin the future of the youth and in turn make it difficult to fight the vice in other sectors.

“The huge rise in revenues and lack of external as well as internal accountability pose a serious threat to sport as a force for good.

“Corrupt sports officials are not just stealing money. They are also stealing the future of our youth, the future of our athletes and the future of our sports,” Mr Munro, who said his childhood character was shaped by playing local football with immigrants in Canada, writes in one of the chapters titled “Sport as a force for good. Tackling corruption in sport can reinforce anti-corruption efforts in other sectors.”

And to participants gathered in a Nairobi hotel during the launch of the report in Kenya, the government was blamed for doing little even as officials plundered funds, athletes cheated and matches fixed.

Transparency International-Kenya chairman Richard Leakey criticised government officials for turning a blind eye to sports management, something he said could ruin Kenya’s heritage.

Government officials not present

“It is, to me, tragic that in areas such as sport which since independence have represented Kenya’s image and is Kenya’s most important outreach, we face issues and when we come to present a report, our government officials are not present,” he said.

“It is, to me, a great shame. It is ruining our country in so many ways. Sport is now being tarnished,” added Dr Leakey, who took issue with the government for ignoring “a big challenge.”

There are currently claims that Kenyan athletes have continually doped and the country is now on the watch list.

Kenya could be banned from the 2016 Rio Olympics if it doesn’t convince the World Anti-doping Agency (Wada) within two months that it has enhanced checks against doping.

A banned athlete recently accused Athletics Kenya CEO Isaac Mwangi of demanding a bribe so the length of the ban could be reduced. Mr Mwangi denied the claims but stepped aside for investigations.

Demand and supply

Dr Leakey had finished his speech and left the venue before a representative of Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario arrived at the event to deny claims the government was looking the other way.

“I wish to state that corruption is not a government policy,” said Mr Martin Wekesa, who read Dr Wario’s speech.

“Corruption has two sides, the demand side and the supply side. And while the demand side can be attributed to the government, the corporate sector is the supplier.

"The best strategy is to focus on both sides,” he argued, adding the government has been demanding accountability from sports managers.

Representatives from athletics and rugby associations, the Kenya Premier League, The National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) and the Africa Centre for Open Governance (Africog) were present, and they all seemed to agree that corruption in Kenyan sport is on the rise.

“When we are banned, it doesn’t mean that only athletes will be affected, it surprises me that everyone else is quiet. This is a national issue that we must all face,” Barnabas Korir, an executive committee member at Athletics Kenya said.

Dr Richard Omwela, who chairs the board of the Rugby Union added: “Sponsors have told me, 'Richard, we are not coming back because we believe your board is corrupt.'”

“I am trying to get them back but there will come a time when I will say enough is enough because I do not earn a living from rugby. I am trying to do good for the society.”