HomeSportThe voracious devil visits rugby

The voracious devil visits rugby

With Itai Dzamara

THE superstitious among us might conclude there is some devil lurking somewhere waiting to visit one by one our sporting disciplines and cause havoc.

rdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>This devil must have recently visited the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) and could be determined to drag the union to the same level as the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).

Zifa has become a House of Hunger and this has resulted from squabbles centred on power struggles and looting of the little funds that have found their way to the soccer governing body over the past couple of years.

The ZRU holds its AGM on Sunday, which is likely to be fraught with controversy following reports of abuse of funds involving senior administrators.

As reported in this paper last week, ZRU vice-president Lawson Mutongwiza and national team manager Noddy Kanyangarara are accusing each other of mismanagement of funds. At the same time, an audit of the ZRU finances is expected to open a can of worms at Sunday’s meeting as it could implicate other administrators in the union.

There will be elections for top positions in the rugby union at Sunday’s meeting and jostling has intensified, which could be partly responsible for accusations of financial mismanagement as a way of eliminating each other from the race.

As we have experienced in local soccer circles these allegations and squabbles usually suck a lot of energy from the sport as the involved administrators battle to remain in power and vindicate themselves. Probably at the same rate and with the same vigour that these squabbles would be unfolding, the game on the other hand would be sinking into mediocrity, chaos and confusion.

Behind all these images is the insidious destruction of the sport, which inevitably suffers a flight of sponsors.

Uncertainty surrounds the sponsorship deal between ZRU and Delta Corporation through its Lion Larger brand. A number of reasons have been given as leading to Delta’s pullout of their sponsorship. This year Delta, which has in the past couple of years bankrolled the National Rugby League, only sponsored a one-off tournament. Sources say Delta is likely to completely sever ties with ZRU in the next season.

Worse still, all these squabbles currently rocking ZRU could deal a fatal blow to the sport of rugby in this country if the International Rugby Board 1(IRB) decides not to give ZRU an annual grant.

IRB this year gave £72 000 to the ZRU and indications are that the amount could be increased next year.

The grant from the international mother body was vital in enabling the ZRU to at least maintain the remaining skeleton structures.

It is the IRB grant that enabled ZRU to manage the affairs of national teams with some modicum of respectability.

Now there is a prerequisite for sanity and harmony in order to access the IRB grant. The IRB this year cited the ZRU as one of its affiliates that needed to put their houses in order!

The warning sound from the IRB should have prodded the ZRU leadership into taking corrective measures and attempting to revive the sport but it appears it did just the opposite.

Delta is sadly the only member of the corporate world that still had a relationship with the ZRU. Not very long ago a number of leading members in industry such as Farmec and Puzey & Payne were involved in rugby and that accounted for a vibrant developmental programme as well as serious national structures.

Just like at Zifa where allegations of abuse of funds from the Federation of Football Associations (Fifa) emerged during the days of former chairman Leo Mugabe, the fights at ZRU are also over a few bread crumbs that should have been used to develop the game.

This year’s grant from IRB must be the main reason behind all these silly reports of officials for example buying two sets of track suits when just one could suffice or four litres of orange juice for each player per day, when half a litre could do.

The grant must have caused unnecessary excitement and instead of focusing on saving the game of rugby from its deathbed the administrators started falling over each other fighting the wrong causes.

Regrettably, and as if by the devious scheming of the devil bent on destroying sport, these latest developments in rugby come at a time there were hopes and prayers for the revival of the game. Rugby had suffered immensely from the depredations of individuals motivated by political and racial agendas in the mid-90s.

The destructive crusade, ostensibly done to force racial integration, did just the opposite by intimidating white players, administrators and coaches and driving them from the sport. The dark cloud of uncertainty that hovered over the sport also affected blacks talented and interested in rugby, huge numbers of whom took flight.

Sponsors also took flight while the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) merely stood by and watched.

Just as it has done with soccer, it should be emphasised. Or when it has intervened, the SRC’s efforts have yielded nothing but simply worsened the situation.

The SRC will do the same this time round as the fight for bread crumbs intensifies at ZRU and no prizes for guessing what headlines would be dominating the newspaper sports pages on the sport of rugby.

It only requires a look at the national rugby team, the Sables, as well as what remains of the national league to understand the state of rugby in the country.

The Sables have been reduced to something like a social boys’ club that only meets occasionally for a few money-games and doesn’t mind about losing because it is inescapable. These are the same Sables who had become a regional powerhouse and the most vital product of the sport of rugby in this country.

The national league on the other hand has been reduced to some kindergarten circus, characterised by very few teams, playing very few games and suffering from lack of resources as well as enduring underdeveloped infrastructure.

There would definitely be the gnashing of teeth if the IRB for example chooses to send a fact-finding mission to this country before releasing next year’s grant.

There is simply nothing to show for rugby. Period! A small ZRU office and individuals fighting for power could be all that the IRB might have to assess. And what a shame it would be.

It is therefore in the background of these scenarios that Sunday’s meeting is likely to take an obvious course — that of chaos and squabbling.

And then we will brace for another episode of endless meetings convened by the SRC aimed at solving the crisis in rugby.

As we now all know, it will be meetings after meetings and more meetings accompanied by copies and copies of statements.

Who will save our sports from this voracious devil?

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