The Uganda women’s national sevens. The Katso Memorial by Impis RFC at Makerere Rugby Grounds. The Robert Seguya Memorial between Jinja Hippos and Toyota Buffaloes at Dam Waters Rugby Club. Club pre-season friendlies between Stanbic Black Pirates and Heathens at King’s Park, and Rhinos and Plascon Mongers at Legends Rugby Grounds. And a sundowner Blue Army Get-together by Kobs Rugby Club at Velocity Bar in Kyanja.
With these and more events that have not been listed, one is spoilt for choice on which to catch this weekend. Saturday, as they say, truly is rugby day.
But on such a day when there are significant events in which either technical and/or emotional attachments are involved, Uganda Rugby Union has also scheduled the federation’s Annual General Meeting at Nob View Hotel.
If one needed evidence that the stakeholders in Ugandan rugby as a whole work in silos, look no further than this.
Therein lies one of the many glaring problems that have slowly eaten away at the foundation on which Ugandan rugby is building.
Not to say that any of the aforementioned events are more important than the others, but here’s some context on why this buffet of Saturday rugby is a katogo instead.
For the women, the national sevens series comes on the back of a Rugby Africa Cup that was embraced by the fans despite being played at a new venue for rugby. National stars who represented Uganda will play and upcoming talents will get an opportunity to showcase. Thus, one would expect some effort from the Union to keep the country engaged with more women’s rugby.
But alas, this is the second time in two years that URU will hold an AGM on the same day as a national women’s tournament. In 2021, it was tens rugby at King’s Park.
For the men, it is a fortnight to the start of a fresh 2022-23 rugby calendar. The teams are in their final touches ahead of the Uganda Cup which is the purpose of the pre-season friendlies. It goes without saying.
More importantly, Impis, Hippos, and Buffaloes are remembering the legacies of their comrades and legends with their respective memorial matches. This is an emotional event where clubs expect their colleagues and the Union to show up, for moral support at least.
But, on the other hand, the Union expects the same clubs to attend the AGM. In addition to minutes of previous meetings, committee reports, audited accounts, and budgets that will be presented publicly, sources say the Union will also propose amendments to the composition of the men’s top-tier premier league.
So, one wonders, who will attend these events? Or, if a better question may be posed, how will the different organizations ensure that they are best represented at these events?
One could argue that this opinion attempts to rain on Ugandan rugby’s parade at such a time. The different available options are a sign that rugby has grown, and there is evidence of recent success, whether realized intentionally or by sheer luck, to support that.
But is that the reality on the ground? I think not, and there is evidence to support that.
Pulling in multiple opposite directions is not an ideal strategy, especially for a sport whose pool of resources is only meagre.
I am inclined to believe that ‘moving in silence’ is an intentional strategy employed by clubs and the Union to run the sport. If that is the case, then it is a symptom of a huge disconnect between the two, straight from the planning phase through to execution.
The people in charge of Ugandan rugby must sit at a round table and address this disconnect between clubs and the Union.
The starting point, as I have always advocated for, is to streamline communication channels both internally and externally. Once every concerned individual and organization is aware, in time, of what is coming up, then they have enough time to plan for it.
Consequently, the Union organizes more colourful events and is able to attract more fans to the stands and corporate partners with fatter cheques. Also, the clubs are able to assemble their best players and resources for the said events which results in more competitive tournaments.