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Reasons Why Government Must Hands Off Sports

The ostentatious life of an average sportsman or woman in recent times world over speaks volumes in a manner that it takes a discerning mind to understand that it is an art which only money simply defines the direction it goes; that it is not a business that is dependent on the availability of government budget.

This implies on the other hand that sports is a business that can only flourish excellently when the funds are available to manage it at every point in time and the players (athletes) will be happy and feeling fulfilled in their chosen career.

Some sportsmen and women in this category as published in Forbes list of world’s highest paid athletes for 2015 (total earnings) include America-Floyd Mayweather (boxing), $300 million; Philippines-Manny Pacquiao (boxing), $160 million; Portugal-Christiano Ronaldo (football), $79.6 million; Argentina-Lionel Messi (football), $73.8million and Switzerland-Roger Federer (tennis), $67 million in the first five.

Also, two women who stood out in the list of 100 highest paid sportsmen and women are Russian-Maria Sharapova (tennis), $29.7 placed 26th and America-Serena Williams (tennis), $24.6 million placed 47th; in all of these, salary/winning and endorsement are inclusive.
However in Nigeria, it is yet to be seen if any athlete can fall into such category of “stupendous rich” going by the singular fact that it sports management and philosophy is 100% in the hands of government.
Its attendant implication and effect is that government dictates the pace of all actions; sets the rules and regulations of the game and the summarily funds everything from its annual budget.
Unfortunately, if the budget delays, it automatically affects the whole programme, a situation that the various sports federations remain redundant until manner falls from heaven.

Nigeria’s present preparations for the coming Rio Olympics is a very good case study; virtually all the federations have been going the Sports Ministry in Abuja with begging bowls for funds to implement their programmes.

The reason of course, is not farfetched from the simple fact that the budget for the year 2016 is still to be assented to by the President, Muhammadu Buhari and Sports Ministry is also yet to get its budget which will in turn be extended to other sports federations.
According to the president, “Some bureaucrats removed what we put in the proposal and replaced it with what they wanted,” Mr. Buhari said. “I have to look at the bill that has been passed by the National Assembly, ministry by ministry; to be sure that what has been brought back for me to sign is in line with our original submission.”

Even before this disheartening development, the budget which ran into troubled waters went through some overhauling as the initial budget for Youth and Sports Development was sieved from N4.660 billion to N3.497 billion;
From the present imbroglio, if takes the president the next two months (June) which is the date for summer Olympics to tidy up the budget, that is also the time each ministries as sports will get its budget too.

In retrospect the former chairman of Gombe State Football Association, Ahmed Shuaibu Gara-Gombe, in a recent interview with LEADERSHIP Sports predicted that Team Nigeria could record another disastrous outing at the Rio Olympics, if the rift between the Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Selcap Dalung and the ousted defunct NSC Director General, Alhassan Yakmut, was anything to go by.

He hinged his pessimism on the no show of preparation that respective sporting federations have been subjected to, due to the cold war between the minister and director general of the defunct National Sports Commission (NSC).

He said the dissolution of the 15-man Nigeria House Project committee for the Rio Olympics and reconstitution of another 7-man committee was not necessary if not for political benefit.
He noted that the Olympics were around the corner, yet the Sports Ministry is yet to get down to serious business.

Most importantly, he disclosed in the interview that while countries that were determined to do well have already concluded their training tours, and were now in closed door camping, same cannot be said of Team Nigeria as there was no budget anywhere that can be traced to Nigeria’s participation for the Rio Olympics.
Hear him: “The major problem with our Olympics preparation is funding. Sports administrators know that every four years we are going for Olympics and they are not prepared for it.

“As I talk to you, there is nowhere you can trace any budget to Olympics in Nigeria. Instead of takes proactive step on how to source for funds first, the minister wants to control the money and that was why he dissolves the earlier committee set up before he came to power and reconstituted a new one.”
Besides, President Buhari had earlier told the world in usual characteristics fight against corruption that unless the ministry accounts for the former Olympics budget he will not even sign the money being budgeted for the Rio Olympics.

The implication of all these messy situations is that Nigeria is mixing politics and personal interests with sports that are a professional affair and that should be handled by technocrats.
Thus, the question is how does the various federations commence their preparations; although it is no news that Nigeria’s preparations for international events has never been smooth, yet the funds has never been this troublesome.

Secondly, under this sort of haphazard arrangement and management, financial crisis every now then, how can a country as Nigeria where people only think of self produce a mega star in sports?
Switzerland for instance is well known for Tennis; America, Jamaica and Britain well known for track and field; Britain, Spain, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Argentina are well known for football.
In Asia, Japan, Korea, China are known for combat sports and table tennis; Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka are known for cricket; Australia, South Africa Britain are known for rugby just mention a few, which is Nigeria’s strength in sports?

At this juncture it becomes axiomatic and imperative that sports development cannot thrive in the hands of government, except an independent body, call it consultancy that is fully sponsored takes charge.

The athletes are professionals and it is only natural and normal that only professional that knows the rudiments of the game can manage them as well.