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County governments need competent sports chiefs

The County Governments Act hands Governors powers to appoint Members of the County Executive, along with County Chief Officers.

Articles 30 and 45 spell out how governors should go about appointing competent persons to hold these portfolios, while at the same time ensuring issues like gender and broad-based representation come into play in the appointments. Already, the freshly-elected Governors have started advertising these positions as provided for in the Act.

From the outset of devolution, many counties failed to appoint competent persons to run sports dockets as executives or chief officers. Only a few took advantage of suitably qualified persons to occupy these positions, and the difference can be seen as some counties have already developed impressive sporting infrastructure and programmes, while others continue to lag behind.

Some Governors were notorious for gifting their campaign chiefs, relatives and friends with key positions in the county governments with scant regard to their competencies in these dockets.

Kenya is a great sporting nation, and has the potential to grow even stronger if we have solid management of sports from county level. That’s why I agree with former Harambee Stars striker Elijah Onsika’s recent appeal to county governments to appoint only competent persons to hold the sports dockets if they were to spur talent development in the devolved units.

“For proper management of sports facilities and talents in the Gusii region, we need the governors to appoint individuals with a track record in sports activities and management,” Onsika rightly said, pleading Kisii and Nyamira counties’ case.

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“Youths are making millions in successful sports careers, including in football, across Europe and Asia, and if we properly manage our talent resource in the Gusii region, we can lift many families out of poverty by exposing their talents on the international arena,” he added.

“It is unfortunate that out county administration is yet to formulate a proper talent management policy that will enable us to facilitate the development and exposure of sporting talent.”

Onsika is spot on because each county has unique talents with North Rift, Nyanza and Central Kenya counties, for instance, well known for producing world-beating distance runners and Western Kenya a reliable nursery for footballing and rugby talent besides nurturing sprinters.

Counties at the coast have perennially produced great swimmers too. If county governments focus on setting up academies to cash in on their respective talents, they would most certainly be making solid contributions to national sports development programmes. In recent years, Nakuru County, for instance, has proved to be a hotbed of talent with world champions emerging from the athletics-rich Keringet area.

It was, therefore, reassuring to hear Governor Lee Kinyanjui pledge to set up an athletics camp at the Keringet-Kuresoi area to nurture talent that would follow in the footsteps of area stars who include world and Olympic 1,500 metres champion Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon and world marathon champion Geoffrey Kirui who also won this year’s coveted Boston Marathon title.

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Colleague Michael Bowen, who has covered sports extensively from county to global level for his vernacular service station Chamgei FM, sees the fresh county governments as an impetus to right the wrongs of the previous leaderships.

“I welcome the move in which Governor Lee Kinyanjui took in his inauguration speech to propose that an athletics camp be built and equipped in Keringet-Kuresoi to nurture and grow more talent in the area,” Bowen observed.

“It is a bold move that will see more Faith Chepng’etichs emerge, putting the county on the global map in athletics. Coupled with appointments of experienced and competent executives and chief officers that will keep the athletics pedigree in place, Nakuru, and indeed other counties, will make significant steps in the development of Kenyan sport,” Bowen adds.

The pivotal role of counties in the development of national sports cannot be gainsaid. Kenya’s stellar performance at last year’s Olympic Games in Rio, for instance, can be largely attributed to financial and logistical support Team Kenya received from the county governments of Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Elgeyo-Marakwet who hosted the team’s pre-Olympic training camps with Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago even generous enough to pay the athletes’ local allowances.

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Uasin Gishu County also hosted the Olympic athletics trials, drawing overflowing crowds to the Kipchoge Keino Stadium throughout the sessions.

Former Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka also did well to launch the construction of an athletics training camp and track that will most certainly harness athletics talent in the Mt Elgon region.

Nandi County has also set rolling sober sports development projects, including the construction of a stadium, largely thanks to the competence of its sports executive Patrick Sang, a former Olympic steeplechase silver medallist and renown distance running coach. Governors and their deputies should cash in on such competent, retired sportsmen and women to drive their sports programmes.

Generous budgetary allocation to sports by county governments and assemblies will also positively reward talent development.

In the outgoing administrations, sports received paltry allocations that could hardly suffice to drive serious talent development programmes, which we hope won’t be the case as the new regimes take shape.

Onsika and Bowen represent millions of sports-loving Kenyans who hope to see county governments improve on their delivery of sports programmes.

Because such focus will make Kenya a truly global sporting powerhouse.

He said sports is a major source of income for talented youth.

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