'Why Sponsors Shun Nigerian Sports'

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Lack of strategy and transparency from the sports administrators in Nigeria has been identified as one of the major factors militating against the proper funding of sporting activities in the country.

This was revealed by Yusuf Suleiman, the Minister of Sports and Chairman, National Sports Commission, NSC, during the strategic session he had with the Presidents of all the sports federations in the country. The meeting deliberated on how private organisations can ease the burden of funding sports from the Federal Government.

Suleiman said that from the discussion he had with the various federations’ presidents, funding is a major problem confronting most of them, adding that this problem would continue unless the federations develop funding strategy supported by transparency to attract funds from the multinational and indigenous organisations in Nigeria.

“I realised one thing when I was having discussion with the presidents of various sports federations that every sport is having the problem of funding. I think it is now time for us to develop funding strategy for sports development in Nigeria by meeting with organisations that are going to provide the funds. We have to ask questions and listen to them. What are the things that are giving them apathy towards funding sports through sponsorship? What are their problems? I think they will open to us and give us reasons they do not want to put their money into sponsorship of our events,” Suleiman stated.

He also said that the leadership of the NSC will from now jointly meet with the management of some corporate organisations with the presidents of sports federations, and agree with them on the modalities to raise funds that will aid the activities of these federations and development of sports.

“The leadership of the NSC does not want to have a meeting with these organisations without the presence of the federations. The federations must be there and the sponsors too, so at that point we will agree on the funding strategy. I know that what every sponsor wants to do is to know that if he commits fund into a particular sport or an event, the fund is seen to have gone into the development of that sports.

Many organisations would not want to pay money for a development of a particular sport and the money is being diverted into another use, in a totally different area or field,” he said.

He further said: “We are going to sit down and agree that if we are going to fund a particular sport, this is the strategic development we are going to adopt. For an example, if corporate organisation A is going to provide N100m for the development of tennis, or volleyball, basketball or football, we will agree that this percentage of money should be spent in this area, this one in another area. So we must agree on what we should effectively do to develop sports in Nigeria”

Suleiman also said that the virtue of transparency will be displayed by establishing benchmark for all the federations regarding the funds they are given.

“When funds come, we will establish a benchmark for all the federations. If a federation receives fund, this is the minimum in terms of the implementation of that fund, so that it will not just be that an organisation is funding football with N100m and just throws it away like that without having justification for sponsorship of the game. If a federation receives N100m, we will expect that 60 percent goes to direct football development at that level.

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“We may also decide that 5 percent or 10 percent is used for administrative service charges, another 20 percent for the development of new initiative and talent hunt, and 10 percent on logistics. I just want us to be opened and transparent in the administration of the resources given by these corporate organisations and I am convinced in my heart that when we do that, the fund will surely come.”

According to the former Minister of Transport, transparency is the only sure way that corporate organisations can start funding sports.

“We must be opened and transparent. What these organisations do not like is the situation where a federation receives money and the money is not judiciously spent. For an example, a telecom company decides to fund cricket with N100m, I can insist as the Minister that a sponsorship trust account be opened with the mandate that the telecom firm and cricket manage the fund based on this established agreement so that any amount of money that is going for a particular event is known by the sponsor and the federation.

“Personally, I do not want to know. I can only come to do oversight functions when I receive complaint that the money has been diverted. I believe that if organisations become comfortable with the transparent manner in which federations administer sponsorship funding, they would be forthcoming in supporting sports in this country,” Suleiman said.

Suleiman also noted that other sports can build on football through the corporate sponsorship advantage the round leather game enjoys in the private sector in Nigeria.

“As part of my new strategy for the development of sports in Nigeria, every organisation that wants to fund football activities be it the Nigeria Premier League, Super Eagles or whatever football event, the organisation must first agree to fund another sport in the terms of that sponsorship,” he said.

He said that the passion and mileage that football generates in Nigeria should be used to the advantage of other sports for the benefits of every lover of sports in the country.

“We must use our cooperative advantage in football to promote other sporting activities in Nigeria. If corporate organisations are willing to release N500m or N1billion for the progress of football, they should also be willing to release a certain percent of that fund to other sports before we can accept their corporate sponsorship of football. This is the minimum I am going to establish while I am the Minister of Sports,” he emphasised.

Suleiman further informed that the President of Nigeria Football, NFF, is aware of this noble venture for other sports to ride on high on the sublimity and popularity of football in the country so that history will not judge him in the class of Sports Ministers that concentrated only on football, neglecting other sports.

“I have already discussed with the NFF president before now in my office that any organisation that shows interest in the sponsorship of football must commit some percentage of that sponsorship fund to the activities of other sports. I want to see that all the sports grow in Nigeria. I do not want to be seen as a Minister of Football,” he stated.