Ronnel Armengol’s strategy for reviving rugby 7s is way to go

ONE of the challenges facing sports development in the country is lack of funds.
Almost all the sports disciplines are battling for funding from the treasury but few manage to benefit from the national cake.

Without a properly laid-down procedure for accessing funds from the treasury to fulfil international fixtures, sometimes it takes connections to get funding from the Ministry of Sport.

While funding may seem to be a challenge for the ministry, sports associations’ failure to break even points to most of them not embracing marketing in their operations.
However, even some sports associations with marketing departments are also failing to attract the business community to help them.
As far as sports associations are concerned, writing letters of request for help is all it takes to win sympathy of the corporate world.
While corporates may entertain requests from household disciplines such as athletics, basketball, boxing, football, golf, motorsport, volleyball and swimming, it is difficult for them to appreciate some minor disciplines such as darts and bowling.
Darts is deemed as a sport for drunkards while bowling is perceived to be a lazy people’s game.
This is because very few or any in some corporates may have heard about some disciplines or simply lack appreciation.
The landscape may, however, start changing with passionate marketing experts such as Ronnel Armengol taking it upon themselves to start promoting some sports disciplines.
Armengol, director of R&G Events, is helping to re-invigorate Zambian Rugby Sevens.
Armengol, who runs RG Sports Management (RGSM), had wanted to help for a while and had even approached the Zambia Rugby Union (ZRU) years ago.
R&G has been in marketing for over seven years.
“But it was only in November 2016 when the ZRU president contacted us that we had the opportunity to step in to assist the ZRU,” Armengol says.
Armengol has been working with ZRU since December 2016 after a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed.
He describes the task of reinvigorating the Zambia Rugby Sevens as extremely challenging.
“We are rebuilding infrastructure and developing new channels to support the many needs a national rugby 7s team needs. With Zambia 7s out of the limelight for so many years, we didn’t have a ‘brand’ to ‘sell’ and had to start a fresh new brand that we could sell to sponsors and to the public to source funding to go on tours and to host our own international tournament,” Armengol says.
He says RGSM is very lucky in that its sister company, R&G Events, is a well-established events management company giving them both the resource, specific expertise and skillsets to market Zambia 7s in a very aggressive manner.
Armengol, 38, has been playing rugby since he was 10 years in the United Kingdom.
“On my return to Zambia, I had the privilege to be selected to play for Zambia in both rugby 7s and rugby 15s for about five years. Rugby is in my blood. Rugby has personally given me a lot, and this is our way to give back to rugby and to Zambia. We have every intention to branch out to other sports disciplines should respective unions need our services,” he says.
Sports disciplines that may not be difficult to market include basketball and volleyball as they are played in schools. However, people may be excused for misunderstanding darts as a game for drunkards because it’s mostly played in bars, while bowling is deemed an old or lazy people’s sport because throwing the black balls seems effortless.
Yet, both bowling and darts require a special skill to master them.
For rugby, the outlook is now becoming very positive.
With RGSM signing a three-year broadcasting agreement with Kwesé Sports (Kwesé ESPN), they have a platform to showcase Zambian rugby to the region and to the world.
Anyone with the Kwesé mobile app can watch the Zambia 7s tournament live.
Coupled with big sponsors like Windoek Draught, Isuzu, Paratus Telecom, Aquaclear, Power FM, Capital Fisheries, Freddy Hirsch, Best Western Hotel, Zambeef and BSi Steel, RGSM is able to execute the mandate set by the ZRU in the MoU signed last year.
“Corporates have been very generous and have been the backbone in re-building Zambia 7s. The future looks bright, especially when we can start recording some wins on the international stage,” Armengol says.
Armengol says what he is doing with rugby can easily be replicated with other sports disciplines.
This should excite Football Association of Zambia president Andrew Kamanga and bring RGSM on board to market the country’s number-one sport.
“Run your sport discipline like a business. Kenya 7s is a prime example of this model’s success,” Armengol says.
He says there is need to engage partners/companies and ensure that there is accountability and responsibility with the resources given by sponsors. “Building a brand is not about one-off sponsors, but building long-term partnerships to ensure that there is continuity for years,” Armengol says.
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Sport – Zambia Daily Mail

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