The Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr Sunday Dare, says the Nigerian Government is working on a new business model that would explore the business angle of sports to make it more rewarding, like it is done in other climes.
Dare said that the Ministry was already working towards starting a Sports Trust Fund, just like it is done in the area of security, in order to open up more avenues for sports to attract funding from individuals and corporate organisations.
He said this would better the lot of the country’s sportsmen and women.
The Minister made the disclosure during an interaction with journalists at the end of an unscheduled visit to the Obafemi Awolowo (formerly Liberty) Stadium, Oke-Ado, Ibadan, Oyo State, on a tour of the facility, on Sunday.
Information on Facilities
The inspection tour, according to Dare, is in continuation of a working visit to Stadia across the country to get firsthand information on the facilities on the ground so as to know how to make them better for optimal use.
He said “Let me say that this is in continuation of my working visit to various stadia across the country. I place a premium on the ones that are national monuments such as Ahmadu Bello, Kaduna; National Stadium Lagos; Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja and then of course, the first among equals, the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium formerly Liberty Stadium, Ibadan.”
The Minister promised to return for a more detailed assessment with directors, engineers and other experts from the Ministry, to do an exact evaluation of the level of maintenance or deterioration in the stadium.
Assessing the Facility
Giving an assessment of the facility, the Minister said he was impressed that the country still has a structure, built over 64 years ago, still standing, although it has suffered years of neglect in the areas of upgrade, maintenance and management.
“I have said it right from the beginning that our facilities will engage my attention in terms of upgrade, maintenance and management. We have seen here that, efforts have been made in the past few years but, we have seen that the efforts at maintenance, upgrade and management had not been sufficient.
“I have seen the indoor sports hall, the main bowl and I have seen the swimming pool, the training pitches and I think we need to bring this place back to work, we need to inject some funds back into this place. We are going to work on a new model of Public-Private Partnership, we have an “adopt campaign” going on, that is, adopt a football pitch, adopt a sports centre or an athlete,” Dare said.
The Minister explained that the complete detail of the programme would require that the private sector be invited to adopt from all that is put before them, that on an increment basis, the Ministry would work with the private sector to bring the stadium back to full use before the end of the year.
“As you know, globally, sports is a good business, we are going to look at the new business models built around sports, we want to bring back on the string, Kaduna, Abuja, Lagos, and Ibadan, once we are able to bring back these facilities,” he stated.
Dare stressed that when the Liberty Stadium was running in full swing, it hosted CAF and FIFA matches among many other sporting events, saying that the Ministry was set to bring back the glory days.
He said, “Recall that CAF, FIFA and the rest have standards, so, if they want to bring any game to this place, they will come and check from their checklist, if it does not meet the checklist that they have, they will not come here. So, our job is really cut out.
“I will not deny that there is the paucity of funds, but then we can try some novel way to bring funding back into sports in the interest of the public and the private sector. A couple of initiatives and ideas are on the table, an internal process is going on with the Ministry. So, I am at the level of consulting, we have ideas that we are trying to fashion out so that we can implement.”
Dare explained that the era of expecting government to fully fund sports is completely gone, that ideas to make sports become big business in the country could be borrowed from Europe, America and North America.
Athletes Sustenance Fund
He announced that there would be an Athletes Sustenance Fund, which is in line with best practices in global sports, explaining that in the UK, Europe and other developed countries, there are grants for athletes.
He said that the government was looking at starting some kind of Sports Trust Fund, like the Security Trust Fund, adding that the Ministry would look into efforts made towards that in the past, find out why they did not work and look for a way forward.