Sound administrative architecture key to rugby development, says Mbagwu


After his success at the June 13 federations’ elections that ushered in new boards for the nation’s sports ruling bodies, new Nigerian Rugby Football Federation (NRFF), Kelechukwu Mbagwu says the time for rhetoric is over. It is now time to walk the talk.

Mbagwu was the popular choice of stakeholders at the polls, but the Lagos-based property chief knows too well that if he failed to meet expectations the same people that hailed him to power would turn around to work for his downfall. Already, he has promised to leave a legacy that would make it easy for his successors to add a few blocks to an expected solid growth foundation.

Unveiling his agenda at a recent parley with journalists, Mbagwu said his new board has developed an eight-point agenda that would tackle
“Practically the things that are critical to rugby and are achievable in the administration of the sport,” adding, “We want to change the governance and administration of the game.”

Taking a retrospective look at the game, he added: “We have had presidents who ran the secretariat from a briefcase. We have also had this strange phenomenon that every time there is a hand over to a new board, the new board starts from square zero, even creating new emails and new letterheads. It is not like that in other sports. All they do is hand over to the supervising ministry, who hand over to the new board. We will change all that. The board was trying to use only rugby people in running the sport and that in my opinion is not proper.

“We are looking at seasoned administrators to come and help us build Nigerian rugby. They don’t have to be former rugby players. It is good the government allows us to appoint seasoned administrators, who would bring their expertise to help build the game… people who know a lot about organisation.

“We will also have a headquarter, a base, not just an office at the stadium. This will ensure that any time information is needed… if there is any issue we have in rugby, everybody will migrate to the rugby house, where all the records can be found.”

Mbagwu is looking at building a database to solve some of the problems that nearly marred the last elections, adding that the database would help the board and stakeholders to identify all the rugby playing clubs and all their recorded players, including their photographs.

This information, he said, would be stored on a database centrally by the rugby administration. “It will also be replicated and stored at the NOC and other independent bodies so that any interested party can access it whenever the need arises.”

Aside putting rugby administration in order, Mbagwu said another issue the NRFF would tackle is coaches’ training, adding that it is a shame that in “Nigeria we have only one certified coach, Ntiense Williams, and that is not good enough.”

According to the NRFF president, Rugby Afrique and World Rugby are willing to help Nigeria train at least 30 coaches through the board’s programme.The managing director of CMB Building Maintenance and Investment Limited sees the National Sports Festival as key to the growth of the sport in the country and therefore wants to ensure that rugby returns to the festival.

He said, “the National Sports Festival represented its own flavour of growth in rugby. Every time the festival came up, the players forgot their clubs and went to play for their states. It helped to create awareness of the game and the states even put some money in the teams… money that could not come through the NRFF. They created several development centres.

“Our goal is to see how we can get all the 36 states and Abuja to bring rugby back to the festival. We will help all the states to raise teams for the festival.“I want to emphasise that rugby does not belong to anybody because there is no boss. The game progresses because people who love the game play it. We want to encourage as many people as possible to take to the game.”

On his decision to contest for the NRFF leadership, Mbagwu said, “to be honest, I saw that what was about to evolve was important enough for me to come out to try to change things.“In the past, people asked me what my mission was with all the money I was putting into the game. They were surprised that I did not attempt to take charge of the game.

“However, I saw this as a pivotal year because there was the issue of the constitution. The important things had to be done and if others didn’t recognize the pitfalls, then somebody had to come out to put things right so that when elections come, we will have a constitution to guide us during the exercise.

“We didn’t want a situation where somebody will just bring out something and say it is our constitution. We wanted a property drawn up, well thought out constitution. The minister said at our inauguration that we should send out within three months a memorandum for the constitution. He also said that the last election would be the last to be done using government guidelines.

“We want to create a strong structure for rugby and after doing this, I will step down. I am promising you that I will not seek re-election. I want to create a structure that I hope and believe cannot be dismantled by any administration.”

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Kelechukwu Mbagwu
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