RFUEA Ground

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RFUEA Ground
RFUEA Crowd.png
Spectators at the annual Safari Sevens
RFUEA looking SouthWest.png
View from the north end of the ground
LocationNgong Road, Nairobi, Kenya
Coordinates 1°18′05″S36°46′17″E / 1.30139°S 36.77139°E / -1.30139; 36.77139 Coordinates: 1°18′05″S36°46′17″E / 1.30139°S 36.77139°E / -1.30139; 36.77139
OwnerShoj, Rugby Football Union of East Africa (RFUEA)
Operator Kenya Rugby Football Union (KRFU)
Capacity 6,000
Expandable to 15,000 [1]
Field size130×69 m
Broke ground1953
Opened28 September 1955
ArchitectJohn Tanner
Kenya Harlequins

The RFUEA Ground is a rugby union stadium located on the Ngong Road in Nairobi, Kenya. It was purpose built to be the home of the national team and to serve as the headquarters of the Rugby Football Union of Kenya (RFUK). [a] Coincidentally, the RFUEA ground has another parallel with Twickenham Stadium in the United Kingdom in that it also serves as the home ground for the Kenya Harlequin Football Club, just as their sister club the London Harlequins once played at Twickenham. [2] [3]

Rugby union Team sport, code of rugby football

Rugby union, widely known simply as rugby, is a contact team sport which originated in England in the first half of the 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand. In its most common form, a game is between two teams of 15 players using an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field with H-shaped goalposts at each end.

Stadium Place or venue for (mostly) outdoor sports, concerts, or other events

A stadium is a place or venue for (mostly) outdoor sports, concerts, or other events and consists of a field or stage either partly or completely surrounded by a tiered structure designed to allow spectators to stand or sit and view the event.

Nairobi Capital city in Nairobi County, Kenya

Nairobi is the capital and the largest city of Kenya. The name comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to "cool water", a reference to the Nairobi River which flows through the city. The city proper had a population of 3,138,369 in the 2009 census, while the metropolitan area has a population of 6,547,547. The city is popularly referred to as the Green City in the Sun.


Many internationally renowned teams have played here including the British Lions (1955 & 1962), the Barbarians (1958), the Springboks(1961) and Wales (1964). The 2009 IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy took place on this site (with some games also being played on the neighbouring Impala RFC ground). As the site for one of the largest and most prestigious annual sevens tournaments in Africa, the Safari Sevens, the RFUEA ground has hosted matches between such diverse teams as Samoa, Emerging Springboks, Zimbabwe, British Army, Public School Wanderers, Bristol University and Université de Grenoble.

British and Irish Lions rugby union team

The British & Irish Lions is a rugby union team selected from players eligible for any of the Home Nations – the national teams of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The Lions are a Test side and generally select international players, but they can pick uncapped players available to any one of the four unions. The team currently tours every four years, with these rotating among Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The most recent series, the 2017 series against New Zealand, was drawn 1-1.

In 1955 the British Lions rugby union team toured Southern and Eastern Africa. The Lions drew the test series against South Africa, each team winning two of the four matches. They won the first test by a single point and the third by three points and lost the second and fourth matches by wider margins. As well as South Africa, the tour included a match against South West Africa, two games against Rhodesia and one versus East Africa.

In 1962 the British Lions rugby union team toured Southern and Eastern Africa. Overall the tourists played twenty-five matches, winning sixteen, losing five and drawing four.

At an altitude of 1,650 metres (5,410 ft) above sea-level, it is higher than three of the four vaunted stadia of South Africa's highveld; Loftus Versfeld Stadium Pretoria at 1,214 metres (3,983 ft), the Free State Stadium Bloemfontein 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) and Royal Bafokeng Stadium Rustenburg 1,500 metres (4,900 ft). Only Ellis Park in Johannesburg at 1,750 metres (5,740 ft) is higher. [4]

Altitude or height is defined based on the context in which it is used. As a general definition, altitude is a distance measurement, usually in the vertical or "up" direction, between a reference datum and a point or object. The reference datum also often varies according to the context. Although the term altitude is commonly used to mean the height above sea level of a location, in geography the term elevation is often preferred for this usage.

Highveld Natural region in South Africa

The Highveld is the portion of the South African inland plateau which has an altitude above roughly 1500 m, but below 2100 m, thus excluding the Lesotho mountain regions to the south-east of the Highveld. It is home to some of the country's most important commercial farming areas, as well as its largest concentration of metropolitan centres, especially the Gauteng conurbation, which accommodates one-third of South Africa's population.

Loftus Versfeld Stadium is a rugby and football stadium situated in the Arcadia suburb of Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa. The stadium has a capacity of 51,762 for rugby union and it is occasionally used for football matches.


In the early days of rugby in East Africa, when major games were to be staged and larger than normal crowds were expected, Parklands Sports Club (the then home of Nondescripts RFC) served as the venue. But by 1949 attendance for these events had swelled and other venues had to be rented by the Union to facilitate them. The African Stadium (now Nairobi City Stadium) was most frequently used, though Mitchell Park Stadium (now Jamhuri Park Stadium) was the venue for the match against the Combined (Oxford and Cambridge) Universities touring team of 1951.

Nondescripts RFC

Nondescripts Rugby Football Club is a Kenyan rugby club based in Nairobi. The club is the oldest in Kenya, and was founded in 1923 after the splitting of the Nairobi rugby club. The club 1st XV compete in the Kenya Cup, while the 2nd XV compete in the Eric Shirley Shield. At the end of the now defunct Nairobi District Championship, they had the most wins with 19.

Nairobi City Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium in Nairobi, Kenya. It is located east of the city centre. The stadium is owned by the Nairobi City Council.

The Oxford University Rugby Football Club is the rugby union club of the University of Oxford. The club contests The Varsity Match every year against Cambridge University at Twickenham.

It had been apparent to the RFUEA, that renting facilities was not ideal and, in the long term, would cost more money and provide fewer options than would ownership of a dedicated facility. Indeed, the idea that East African rugby should have its own ground and headquarters was first put forward in 1930 and these early plans even went as far as identifying and inspecting a parcel of land in the Westlands area of Nairobi. Records do not indicate why this plan did not ultimately see the light of day.

By the beginning of the 1950s however, the required motivation, determination, expertise and good fortune were in conjunction and the Union was able to construct the stadium, and within ten years, RFUEA had saved enough money that it was able that it was able to begin loaning money to member clubs for the upgrading of their own grounds.


In 1951 the Kenya government granted the union the 10-acre (40,000 m2) plot of bundu (rough ground) adjacent to the Ngong Road. Individuals and clubs donated money and sweepstakes and dances were held by the member clubs in order to raise further funds. Life seats were also sold that entitle the holders to free entry to all rugby union matches at the ground, and a seat in the central section of the main stand, for life. Additionally a 10-year loan of £7500 was obtained from the Rugby Football Union (RFU) after 40 members of the Rugby Patrons Society provided personal guarantees; ten guarantors provided surety for £300 and a further 30 for £100 each which, in 1951 when £300 was equivalent to average annual earnings in the UK, was a considerable statement of support.

Rugby Football Union rugby union governing body of England, Guernsey and the Isle of Man

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is the governing body for rugby union in England. It was founded in 1871, and was the sport's international governing body prior to the formation of what is now known as World Rugby (WR) in 1886. It promotes and runs the sport, organises international matches for the England national team, and educates and trains players and officials.

This loan had been secured by D.M. Goldstein (then President of both the RFUEA and Kenya Harlequins) whilst on leave in the United Kingdom. It was the first loan ever made by the RFU to an overseas union. There is an apocryphal story [5] that it was paid off in three years by the simple expedient of taking out rain insurance with some London based companies; if more than an inch of rain fell in each year the policies would pay out. Not so much buying insurance as placing a bet, and in betting terms this would be a racing certainty. Unfortunately the story is not true, insurance companies have never been so naïve concerning weather conditions in tropical climes. In fact the loan and its interest was repaid entirely from the annual subscriptions of the members of the Rugby Patrons Society.

Kenya Harlequins, the tenant club, and Impala RFC, on the neighbouring ground, between them paid for the drilling of a bore-hole on the Impala grounds, the water from this well being used to irrigate the pitches on both grounds.

Design and Construction

The grading of the ground (carried out primarily by John Webster who donated hours of his time to driving the bulldozer) was carried out towards the end of 1953 but the grass planted for the short rains that year failed. The grass was re-planted in time for the long rains of 1954 and that crop was successful. The next step was to erect the 60 foot (18 m) goal-posts, in order to serve as a visual advertisement that something was happening, and to fence in the ground to prevent damage by livestock and casual pedestrians across the pitch. Bougainvillia shrubs were laid along the fence, four rows of trees were planted on the Eastern side of the ground to act as a windbreak and the car-park was levelled.

The Stadium was designed by John Tanner (Kenya Harlequins and East Africa) and the building works were carried out by a firm belonging to a member of the Rugby Patrons Society at a very reasonable cost. The stadium and the majority of the seating was placed on the western side of the ground such that in the early evening (when matches are normally played in East Africa) the spectators are not looking into the sun. The pavilion was designed for easy expansion; it consisted originally of two changing-rooms, showers, toilets, a small bar, seating for 200 and housing for the family of the custodian/bar-man. Within ten years it had been expanded to include a full-sized bar, committee-room, kitchen, seating for 3000 and a camera-tower/broadcasting-box on the roof of the main stand. In recent years the changing facilities have been further expanded.

On the eastern side of the ground an earthen mound runs along the length of the touch-line and there is a tier of five rows of simple stepped seats constructed from breeze-block material and concrete. This simple form of seating is replicated on the western touch-line and it is above this that the main stadium sits. The pavilion consists of three sections, the northern and southern sections, each approximately 30m wide, are larger than the central life-members' section which is approximately 10m wide. All three of these sections have seven rows of seating on wooden staging and are covered by corrugated asbestos roofing. Either side of the main pavilion are a further six rows of concrete benches which in recent years have been covered with a mabati (corrugated metal) roof.


The first match played at the ground was East Africa versus the British Lions on 28 September 1955. It attracted a gate (with borrowed seating) of 6000 and J.A.E. Siggins, the manager of the Lions, was given the honour of opening the ground in the presence of His Excellency Sir Evelyn Baring, the Governor of Kenya.


In October 2009 the Rugby Patrons Society donated KSh 1.2 million [6] (equal to £10,600 or 11,800 or US$16,000) [7] to the KRFU thus providing 60% of the funds required to sink a borehole in order to ensure that the pitch can be maintained in excellent condition. Then on 29 May 2010, the Safaricom foundation gave KSh13.2 million (equal to £123,000 or 143,000 or US$177,000) to the KRFU for the rehabilitation and expansion of the ground to seat an additional 1,500 people [8] on a brand new terrace on the Ngong Road side of the ground. [9] The Kenya Rugby Football Union plans to purchase an adjacent plot, the Unga grounds, [9] so that the stadium can be expanded to accommodate 20,000 people with state-of-the-art facilities. [10] It is the intention of the Ground Development Committee to create a venue that will enable Kenya to host a major International Rugby Board event in the near future. [9]

RFUEA Ground Panorama(1500x353).png
Panorama of the RFUEA Ground facing south.


a. ^ The RFUK was dissolved in 1953 with the formation of the Rugby Football Union of East Africa (RFUEA); the current Kenya Rugby Football Union (KRFU) was not formed until 1970.

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  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-18. Retrieved 2010-05-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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