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Revamping sports funding

Revamping sports funding

By Kayode Adegbehingbe
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Sports is a veritable means of employment and engagement for many, especially the youth. It is an opportunity to develop the mind and body, rather than have it lie fallow and become the devil’s workshop.

For untold number all over the world engaged in it, it is a life line, path to economic emancipation, and a source of livelihood, with the body toned to give performances that entertains others.

No government policy is complete anywhere in the world without sports being a part.

It is a way to showcase the country, and the people of the area to the outside world in a good light.

Governments have been known to incentivise sports development as a service to the people and it can serve as soft sell for states and countries.

They prize their athletes, sportsmen and women and craft programs to help discover new talents on an ongoing basis, as a social service necessity. This includes the provision of scholarships and grants, helping them to actively participate in competitions which would help horn their talents and expose them to the nitty gritty of their sports.

They help them to succeed after which they become the toast of sponsors, and a pride to the place where they come from, which has given room for such talent discovery.

Sports is a tool for socioeconomic development and the state can encourage the grooming of sporting talents through the school system, and build them up to compete on the global stage.

Governments do not normally see sports investment as something that would bring return in hard cash, rather the return is in intangibles as it makes itself the servant of the budding talents found within its boundaries and even beyond as the case may be.

Just as governments everywhere in the world fund education to give everyone a level playing field for future  endeavours, it does the same (sometimes in a limited sense) for sports. That is why in Nigeria, the Ministry of Sports have been part of our political landscape. But its activities over the years have been hampered by lack of funds.

Sports development should be regarded as a social service, just like the health sector, with priority given in each budgetary cycle for the provision of facilities and payment of facilitators, laying a good foundation for the coming generation.

The Ondo State government, led by Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has taken some steps to show that the sporting community is not ignored, giving it support; steps that reveal that it is pro youth and pro sports.

However, the realisation as a nation that government funding is neither dependable nor sustainable, has been largely regarded as a maxim.

In recognition of the fact that the government by itself cannot successfully fund sports, it sometimes ago approved the constitution of the Sports Trust Fund Board.

The Trust Fund has become a new door for realising the sporting dreams of the present administration in the state.

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The Commissioner for Youth Development and Sports, Saka Yusuf-Ogunleye, said that the board would monitor and supervise activities of all sports bodies to generate funds for sports developments in the state.

The question of sports funding have been bedevilling sports administration in the country and a solution has come for the state in the shape of the Sports Trust Fund Board.

The concept is to relieve the government of being the sole financier of sports development in the state. It is to bring in private sector players, providing an avenue for them to give back to the society and fulfill their social responsibility in pursuit of public good.

There are sport lovers, enthusiasts and successful professional sportsmen and women who have gained international repute who can contribute to such a Fund, but they need to have confidence that such monies would be used for the targeted purpose. The board should therefore do all in its power to ensure that transparency, rather than be pushed to the background, actually becomes a major part of its objectives.

The Sports Trust Fund brings about a new vision for sports funding in Ondo state, with the government with humility, tacitly saying “we need help in sports development, we cannot go it alone.”

As an advice, the board should not be interested in getting kickbacks from projects awarded, otherwise the journey would have ended before it starts. You cannot be focused on kick backs and be fair, forthright and judicious in carrying out your duties at the same time.

There needs to be probity and prudence. It should not just be about amassing so much funds, and thereafter expending such on frivolities,  but like any charity organisation worth its salt, the expenses having to do with bureaucracy should tend towards zero percent as all values should be squeezed from every kobo to the advantage of the targeted beneficiaries the athletes.

However, the first thing needed is a template for sports development in the state, which would ensure that the resources gotten from different avenues are judiciously used following a carefully laid out plan of action, rather than being haphazard. With the latter, there would be a lot of motion but little movement.

In this, we can learn from Lagos State.

Lagos State has been a beacon in public private partnership funding particularly in the security sector and has made a success of it, creating a policy prototype that can be replicated in other areas of legacy government responsibilities to the people.

The Chairman of the Lagos State version of Ondo State Sport Trust Fund Board,  Otunba Femi Pedro, earlier this month, at the unveiling of the master plan for sports development for Lagos said: “Sports Trust Fund has been tested successfully in many nations with well developed sports facilities and infrastructure and successful athletes development.

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“The central core of our business is fund raising for sports development, using the public-private partnership model. We are therefore set to collaborate with the private sector in general, non-profit organisations, sports equipment manufacturers, sports betting companies, donor agencies, high net worth individuals, high profile elite athletes, media organisations and the general public.”

Otunba Pedro said that the aim of the board is to save the government the burden of solely financing sports; hence the Public-Private Partnership model was adopted.

His words: “Sports Trust Fund has been tested successfully in many nations with well developed sports facilities and infrastructure and successful athletes development.

“Our vision is to be a world-class trust fund, propelling Lagos to become the leading sports hub in Africa. Our mission is to raise and manage fund for the sustainable development and promotion of sports in Lagos.

“The central core of our business is fund raising for sports development, using the public-private partnership model. We are therefore set to collaborate with the private sector in general, non-profit organisations, sports equipment manufacturers, sports betting companies, donor agencies, high net worth individuals, high profile elite athletes, media organisations and the general public.”

Mr Pedro further explained that the public private collaboration in sports which the trust fund is about, could be through various avenues:  sponsorship of athletes, provision of cash and grant, donation of sporting equipment, branding of sports facilities and event venues, sponsorship of sporting events, and sale of sports memorabilia.

As lofty targets, he said: “We are committed to ensuring that no less than 10m lagosians participate actively in sports. In addition, we plan to deliver at least 10 infrastructural projects annually; develop 10 athletes from 20 different sports from grassroots to podium; and to train 10 coaches wash in different sports annually.”

This is apart from targeting N10billion in resources over a five year period. And the people that would be targeted to provide funding include: sports-focused organisations, corporate entities, development institutions, faith-based organisations, high net-worth individuals, and the general sports-loving members of the public.

It should also be noted that some tax incentives have been specifically designed for foreign and local investors who would support sports development in Lagos state. And KPMG, being a foremost consultancy firm has been brought on board.

The Lagos state government has not designed its Sports Trust Fund (LSSTF) to just be about getting money from the private sector alone but has committed to a yearly contribution to the Fund of 10 percent of money generated by the State Lottery Board. Not only that, one percent of internally generated revenue, IGR, of local governments in the state is to automatically be remitted to the trust fund.

But according to Mr Pedro, the goal of the Board is to make sure that government’s funding is not more than a tenth of its total revenue. That means that the board, though poised to receive regular funding from the government, has given itself the target of going all out to ensure that no matter what the government brings to the table, it would not rest on its oars but would ensure it matches government funding to the ratio of nine to one.

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Nevertheless, the level of financial commitment displayed by government to the board could spur the interest of many others to come on board. They would want to be part of the success story of the board, seeing the financial backing already given to the board by the government.

By committing a certain percentage of its revenue to sports development and administered by a credible independent board, sports development in that state has been put on a sure footing.

Ondo state is already doing the same with the establishment of the trust fund, among other things.

While Lagos State inaugurated its Sports Fund Trust February last year, Ondo State set up its own in May of the same year to give fillip to sports development.

With a booming population, states cannot afford to continue to drive sports development based on sentimental consideration, and a hit and miss methodology. The lack of adequate planning has, many times led to the accusation that other sports, apart from football, are neglected.

The attention given to football has more or less asphyxiated others. To prevent such, efforts of the Board should cover a spectrum of sports. With football, we were more or less putting all out eggs in one basket, which is not a wise thing to do.

Governor Akeredolu, while expressing commitment to Sports development in the state said, “everything that accrues to the Ondo State Sports Trust Fund will be meant only for sports development. Any team representing Ondo both within and outside Nigeria can get fund support.”

He was referring to the funds meant for the state from the gains of Nigeria Sports Development Fund Inc (NSDFI)’s Community Lottery.

While Lagos State has given a standing order that 10 percent of gains from its Lottery programme should be contributed to the Trust Fund, Ondo state is committing 100percent of funds from the NSDFI’s community Lottery to the same objective.

It is definitely time for sports development to be taken from the government house to the public square. And with the establishment of the Trust Fund, the government has created a policy framework, as it is empowered to do, for a foundation for future expansion and sustainability, and also reducing the pressure on its available funds.

The Ondo State Sports Trust Fund has Ifeoluwa Oyedele as chairman of the board, while Lincoln Ojo, Benson Obayelu, Alex Ajipe and Dupe Eshiofonie are members.

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Revamping sports funding

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