Foreign investors need to be lured into Kenyan sports

Trailblazers Volleyball Club.

Trailblazers Volleyball Club founder and owner Haiti-born Richard Sylvain (right) during a past league match at Nyayo Stadium Indoor Gymnasium.


Photo credit: Pool | Trailblazers Volleyball Club

What you need to know:

  • Richard has taken a path that many investors have not walked before by investing in a different sport - volleyball. And just like Kalekwa in his early days with Sofapaka, Richard has changed the mentality of stakeholders in the local volleyball scene.

Private investors continue to impact the sports industry the world over through their investment in clubs.

From Roman Abramovich (former Chelsea owner), Nasser Al-Khelaifi (Paris St-Germain), Sheikh Mansour (Manchester City), Stan Kroenke (Arsenal) and Dietrich Mateschitz (RB Leipzig), the business moguls currently rule the football world both from a sporting and business perspective.

Locally, Elly Kalekwa (Sofapaka), Jonathan Jackson (Nairobi City Stars) and Ricardo Badoer (Wazito) stand out as foreign investors who have put a considerable amount of money in Kenyan sport.

While Kalekwa has sustained Sofapaka for more than a decade, it’s not been rosy for Badoer with Wazito currently in the Football Kenya Federation Premier League relegation zone due to financial constraints. Jackson's investment into Nairobi City Stars is finally showing with the club flying high in the FKF-PL.

Kroenke, Sheikh Mansour et al continue investing millions of pounds in English football simply because it makes business sense to do so.

So long as Arsenal and Manchester City books remain green then the pair have every reason to pour money into English football. This explains the influx of foreign investors in England with Newcastle United the latest beneficiaries in the Premier League. Their new found financial muscle has suddenly turned them from a team battling relegation to a mid-table side in less than six months.

Locally, the newest foreign investor into the Kenyan market is Haiti-born Richard Sylvain who is the founder and owner of Trailblazers Volleyball Club that features in the Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) men National League.

Richard has taken a path that many investors have not walked before by investing in a different sport - volleyball. And just like Kalekwa in his early days with Sofapaka, Richard has changed the mentality of stakeholders in the local volleyball scene.

Trailblazers is the first club to train indoors throughout the season thanks to their partnership with Absa Sports Club. The club has employed modern training methods in their daily routine with a wide range of modern equipment to help players with their physiological and strength aspect. The effect has been felt on the league standings with the newbies currently ranked seventh with nine points.

And this weekend, Trailblazers will host a four-day volleyball bonanza at the Nyayo Stadium Indoor gymnasium that will double up as the fifth leg of the KVF National League.

Fans will be treated to good music, food and entertaining volleyball from Thursday to Sunday for only Sh100 per day. This is part of Richard’s innovation to recoup part of his investment into the team that is already stretching into millions with the season yet to reach its climax.

Last week, Trailblazers signed a three-year contract with Mafro Sports that will see the manufacturer kit the club for the next three campaigns.

Indeed, its a new dawn for Kenyan volleyball with Trailblazers setting the pace in almost every aspect of the game; commercial, sporting and management. But with one individual financing this noble project, the general fear is his pockets might run dry if there is no return on investment.

The Ministry of Sports has to find ways to lure these foreign investors into the sports sector to make it a sustainable industry.

More Kalekwas, Jacksons, Badoers and Richards are probably waiting on the sidelines but what is government doing to ease their entry into the sector? Mkono mtupu haulambwi (An empty hand doesn’t get licked).

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