Trubish: Pool still needs me

Bob Trubish is expected to return as pool chairman in January. PHOTOS/ GEORGE KATONGOLE

What you need to know:

It has been a rollercoaster for Bob Trubish as the chairman of the Pool Association of Uganda (PAU) since 2017. With an elective assembly in January, Trubish is expected to bid for the third term but he faces a backlog of issues including a non-compliant executive committee, which actually spearheaded his temporary removal from office in 2020. Pool, a popular sport across the country, is battling structural challenges and Trubish still thinks he has a lot more to offer

Who is Bob Trubish?

My name is Bob Trubish. I work with Centenary Bank as a senior staff in the Human Resources Division. In terms of my education background, I hold a Bachelors of Arts in Social Sciences, I am also an ACCA fellow. I previously worked with Standard Chartered Bank, Shell and I also held a position at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). 

On the voluntary side of life, I am the chairman of the Pool Association of Uganda (PAU). I was the head of finance of the HR Managers Association of Uganda for six years overseeing the transactions of more than Shs500m. Right now I am a treasurer of a Sacco of HR Managers Association. In all those roles, I have had a clean record, the only time when I had my record questionable was with PAU. 

I am going to make 10 years with Centenary Bank in January next year. I am not married; I don’t have kids. I have three sisters who all have kids and one brother who also doesn’t have children. I am a Pentecostal Christian. 

My mother was Russian, that explains my second name, Trubish, and my dad was Ugandan from Sheema. Apart from Makerere University, I studied at Old Kampala SS for six years and Buganda Road Primary School.

How did you end up in pool?

I first got to know about pool at Makerere University in Lumumba (Hall). There was a guy who had a pool table and we used to play once in a while. After university I moved to Kasangati where I joined Afro Pool Club which was playing in the national league.  

Later, I joined Hot Pool in Ntinda where I became one of the investors in the club. I started giving the club funding for player transfers and match allowances. The highlight was that the ladies managed to win the league in 2016. The men were always close but never won it. Then I had some issues with Hot Pool because I wasn’t comfortable with how some of the leaders were behaving, so I decided to leave and I joined Scrap Buyers. 

Scrap Buyers is a typical community-owned club because these guys deal in scrap metals. I thought I would be comfortable at this club given its nature. It was during this time that I became an umpire and I was considered one of the best to a level that I officiated the National Open final match twice. I was also selected as the Team Manager of the national team to oversee the team and motivate them ahead of national duties. During my term we won the 2016 All Africa Pool championship for both men and ladies at Lugogo. 

Afterwards, I started interested in leadership of the association. I felt I could make a contribution towards correcting some ills. I wanted the game to be governed better and ensure that there is accountability for funding. In 2017, I won the election to become PAU’s chairman.

Bob Trubish speaks during the official opening of Blacksheep Arena in Mukono.

What exactly did you want to bring to the table as chairman?

Key to me was proper management of funding making sure that funds that the association gets are used for the right causes such that we are able to develop the sport. 

The other one was about player welfare. I wanted to see that the players benefit from the sport, and that they can have their issues heard. There was an issue around funding and I wanted to try to see that we could get serious sponsors on board for the league while continuing with the partnership the National Open had with Nile Breweries. 

One of the things I remember vividly is that we had a trip to Zimbabwe and we didn’t have funds. I did a fundraising and we raised Shs45m which helped the team to travel.

How much do you think you have achieved as the chairman in your two terms?

I have achieved a lot in terms of accountability despite the issues we had in 2018. One thing most people don’t remember that year is that I am the one who identified the whole issue of how money was being used inappropriately by the treasurer (Oscar Ocakacon). I was doing the review of the bank statements and I saw some transactions I wasn’t aware of. 

The only problem with the PAU set-up was that you can withdraw money off the account without the chairman’s approval. You just need to have the treasurer, who is the principal signatory, and someone else to work as an alternate. At the time they had removed about Shs20m from the account and when I discovered it, I wanted it to be handled internally but it exploded. But when I look at the achievements, we have had a good audit of our accounts. 

In 2023, when we received the highest amount of money from the government, I know for certainty that we’ll not have accountability issues based on how we’ve utilised the funding. The other one is on player welfare and the National Open for ladies. In the past, we never had a ladies edition of the National Open. It was strictly a male event. 

There’s even a time when they mixed women with men, obviously the ladies stood no chance of winning. When I came in, I raised discussions with Nile Breweries and requested them to have a specific event for ladies at the National Open with a similar structure of prizes. In 2018, they approved it. Since then, we have had two editions with the ladies having a car as the ultimate prize. The other highlight is to do with the women’s National Team who have been dominant in Africa for a number of years. That dominance has continued to this year’s Hawley Cup which they won in South Africa. 

The other had its own issues later but the sponsorship that we got from Betway in 2018 of about Shs100m was a key highlight, the league has never had a sponsor that big in the past. Previously sponsors could give us t-shirts, company products, and things like that. Pilsner were the biggest sponsors pool had had in 2013 with Shs200m. The most recent achievement is the return of the National Open with Nile Special’s sponsorship. 

There was a time when people made accusations that I had played a part in Nile Breweries’ leaving. Remember we had them in 2018 and they missed in 2019. The next two years were for Covid. At least now they are back, it gives me relief. The last one is on funding. This financial year, we should receive a total of about Shs600m in funding. That is very significant compared to where we have been. 

Out of that money there is about Shs200m from the government. As you know, getting money from the government involves a lot of gymnastics. But the fact that we’ve managed to get it, is a plus for me.

Mbale captain Abbey Ssemuzibu receives the league trophy from PAU chairman Bob Trubish last season.

Talking about those achievements, one of the issues is about the league which has been unstable. You have not held it this year and it continues to be a burden to the clubs and their owners. What plan do you have to make it vibrant?

I have a club, Scrap Buyers. I know what it means to spend money on a league and at the end of the season you’re not getting close to what you put in. The first thing that we need is a solid sponsor. 

We’ve already started discussions with Nile Breweries to see if they can consider coming on the board as well. Without a solid sponsor it becomes difficult to run a league that most people would be happy being part of. 

The case of this year, the clubs didn’t want the league and it’s like your hands are tied because those that didn’t want to play were the majority. You can’t force them and also you don’t want to run a league with very few clubs which puts the integrity of the league in question. 

Since we already had an experience of Covid when we didn’t have the league for two years, we agreed to structure something next year.

You have promised to deliver the association into a federation in the previous two AGMs, what’s holding you?

What we didn’t realise is that a federation takes longer than we had anticipated. Based on the new sports act, it’s not as straightforward. The act says that you must have at least 75% presence in the country. That is not an easy target to achieve. 

We might not be able to achieve it as pool. The National Open, which is the national event, covers less than 50 percent at the moment. We might not be able to become a federation technically. 

However, there are certain gaps in the constitution that end up making decision making difficult for someone to execute their agenda. Simple things like how to manage people who are not performing. The options are limited for the chairman. The federation process has been handled by two different committees and both have failed. 

If it was up to me and I had the ability to remove certain people from office, I would have suspended them and we move on to have a better team.

The general elections are around the corner early next year. Why do you think you’re the right person to continue leading pool?

My capabilities in terms of financial management, strategic planning, and leadership talk a lot about me. The other would be issues to do with my integrity. For me it’s something very strong on my values. 

I will be willing to go to any extent to make sure that I remain with integrity in what I do. I believe that because of that integrity, if PAU members are looking for someone who will ensure that their funds are safe, and are used to develop the sport, I would be the right person for them. The other thing is who I am as a person. 

My networks, my ability to engage other companies, and corporates and my ability to build partnerships. That is what someone who wants to vote may consider. I am able to engage the corporate world since I also work in it. I also have connections that I have built over time with the media, government, sports administrators, and the corporate world. 

This can help in terms of the association getting funding to be able to run the activities. I am also very passionate about pool. If I wasn’t passionate about pool I would have left leadership a long time ago.  There’s a lot of negativity. I can even tell you that there are people in my other circles who don’t support me being in pool. But I am passionate about it.

Talking about integrity, you have been questioned by your members who even impeached you in 2020. What’s your opinion about it?

Remember the people who got me out of office were not an assembly. Interestingly, when I entered into pool, I have never lost an election. 

Actually, I have never lost an election in anything, whether at work or at school. It was all to do with the executive that decided to remove me from office. I firmly believe that if they had given me an opportunity to go to the assembly, I would have been able to explain clearly what had happened and I would not have gone to that stage. The only opportunity I had was to contest again and when I did, I won.

What do you think you can do differently if you get back in office?

There might not be many things I can do differently but the issue of sponsorship is key. I would change the methodology we use to court sponsors. It’s not working so well for us to get as many partners as we may need. 

I think I need to have a team that handles sponsorship or we might have to get a dedicated team to be remunerated according to the sponsors they bring on board. The other thing would be to create time to engage clubs at their locations. 

I need to build pool as a brand that is much more respected. We need to work with the media more regularly and share developments in the sport. But at the moment, I am yet to communicate my intentions to contest. The elections are going to happen in January, hopefully before this year ends, I will be able to share in detail my plans.

Does the lifespan of pool clubs concern you as a leader? Many seem to be short-lived. For instance, the two previous league winners; Ntinda Giants and Mbale are no longer in place.

This thing of the lifespan of pool clubs has not just started. If you look back like 10 years, there could be like 50 teams that have exited pool. The problem is fundamentally big. It cannot be addressed simply. 

One of the challenges is around ownership. These clubs need to get to a level where they have corporate sponsors who can invest in them. Most clubs are owned by individuals who change their minds with a simple disagreement. The clubs need to get income generating activities such as owning pool arenas. Clubs need to be sustainable.

Trubish hands over the Shs23.9m to PAU treasurer David Mugabi on Sunday to clear the association arrears arising from misappropriated money in 2018

About women pool, Uganda is excelling at the national level but there are limited opportunities locally to absorb the players. What’s your plan?

Women clubs are not easy to sustain. But first we need sponsors who are interested in women based on their products and what they do. If we build a better league that has more money, the ladies clubs will come. 

Previously there were many until we changed the rules that not every club must have a ladies team. Even now I don’t believe it was right to coerce teams to have ladies teams.

There’s a grey area of grassroots, what are you doing in that aspect?

For the grassroots we have to start with institutions of higher learning. We’re trying to engage with them and build some solid partnerships. 

We are thinking of an option of a university league that can enable universities to give scholarships to talented pool players. Pool is still attached to the breweries because of Nile Breweries which limits our entry to schools.

Bob Trubish

Age: 40 years

Job: Chief Manager HR Business Partnering at Centenary Bank

Leadership: Chairman Pool Association of Uganda

Education: Bachelor of Social Sciences (Mak)

Past leaders of PAU

Caster Ssemwogerere (1999-2003)

Adam Sebbi (2004-2006)

Bob Menani (2006-2009)

Godfrey Mabiriizi (2009-2010)

Farouk Wamala Kisuze (2011-2016)

Bob Trubish (2017-2019)

Herbert Turyagyenda (2019 co-opted)

Adam Sebbi (2019-2020- Interim)

Bob Trubish (2020 to date)