By Bhekinkosi Ngubeni
So, the Olympics have come and gone. I for one, on a patriotic note, couldn’t wait for the closing ceremony for obvious reasons. The national return on our sporting investment, in this case, yielded no medals. Notwithstanding our failures, the nation congratulates our athletes for a job well done.
Better luck next time.
However I am pretty much sure I don’t operate in isolation when I say I am fed up with supporting the next best team and hogging other nation’s lime lights seeing as our team is never in contention. Zambia’s AFCON victory springs to mind. In hindsight, we suffocated their celebrations and unashamedly jumped on their wave.
Against this background and recent disappointments in the Olympics, there is a realisation that we are poorly placed to compete on the world stage. Over the last decade, by all accounts, facts and arguments across the sporting divide dispose anyone to believe or more appropriate conjecture and confirm the painful apparentness of how the mighty have fallen.
Economic downturns, illicit human industry and Government policy unkind to the business of sport are just but some of the combinatorial forces attributing to our decline. I am therefore compelled to gain a deeper understanding on why we fail and what needs to be done to get us back to standard
The political economy has added to the despair with sport unhelpfully employed as a tool in everyday politicking. Cricket is effectively in repose, football bosses with political connections are at centre of alleged match fixing allegations.
Secondly, globalisation of sport has prompted athlete immigration with richer nations “tapping up” players and coaches alike from less developed countries such as us. Chisora fights under the GB banner, similarly, the beast Tendai Mtawarira plays for the South African rugby team. This sports version of free trade has certainly had a lasting negative impact on sport development and progression in Zimbabwe.
Thirdly and perhaps crucially, is the continued diminution of sport funding over the years owing to budget cuts. The commercial position of the country meant the state was and is still hard pressed to adequately finance a superfluity such as sport.
The graphical illustration below shows just how underfunded sport is, in the past and in coming years.
Government should perhaps start to take sport more seriously if we are to develop to the highest levels of performance. Just over a million dollars was spent on sport promotion from 2010 to present date. In sharp contrast, a single sporting institute in Kenya receives on average of US$500 000 annually and there is a good few of them dotted all over their country.
Admittedly Kenya is more populous, one would expect higher expenditure on their part. However the rate per capita, not the total amount invested is still far more superior to Zimbabwe’s. As it were, in 2011 alone,18 cents per head was in effectively allocated to the whole population as compared to 40 cents per head in Kenya.
In all fairness, Government efficacy is limited and we have to look to the private sector to help revitalise the sector.
Private Sector Involvement.
In order to meet challenges across the sporting divide, equity is key in comprehensively addressing the bulk of secondary issues we face such as professionalism,sustainability,production and management education, event planning and design, growth and diversification and social responsibility provisions. Evidently this is over and above the Government’s capabilities hitherto.
Private operators can offer additional quality and services that tend,incusively,the top-end of the market of sport. This includes a vast range of commercial and non commercial organisations which encourage participation such as health clubs and leisure centers.
Sport retailers could chip with equipment, clothing and footwear. Players and spectators can equally play their.Benjani has set a good example in establishing a football academy in Bulawayo. Such initiatives will go a long way in conversion of sporting activity which displays characteristics of formal sport buy do not adhere to formal rules and regulation such as kick about areas.
Perhaps convenience is the key to future growth in sports participation. I.e. ease of access – this can be physical or geographical access, financial access or social or organisational access. Attending such issues can translate into future sporting success owing to growth in mass sport participation.
Sponsorship packages do exist but in the current climate very few firms have the sort of financial discretion for use in sport. The Private Sector has a role in the demand and supply of professional sport. Tendering some if not most of the responsibility to the private sector to run and manage sport represents our best chance of short term improvement.
There exists almost intangible factors’ contributing to our average performances in sport. The market is dominated by ‘occasional’ rather than regular participation. It is likely that the key to overcoming this barrier lies in greater group participation, where commitments to fellow team member or training partners will mean participants feel a greater responsibility to play regularly.
The majority of the sports I viewed were female competitions. I have to admit they were equally engaging as their male counterparts so natural selection took over. Which brings me to my point, despite the best efforts of sport governing bodies, Zimbabwean women still lag a long way behind men when it comes to sports participation.
Part of this may come from a lack of media coverage of women’s sport, which means that it remains low profile and does not create the general interest needed to kick-start greater participation. What can be done to encourage more females into sport??
Drop-out rates for participation are high especially after formal education.
While structures are very good within primary school age groups, they struggle to appeal to more independent older youths. Some structures themselves are off-putting to older children, being too regimented for teenagers who want to express themselves independently. Maybe we should stop enforcing cross country participation on a kid whose talent lies in say basketball.
A word from the Ministry
David Coltart,the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture mentioned in his recent London address admitted there was still work to be done and challenged the Diaspora community to assist in anyway possible. He pledged for the formation a non partisan inclusive committee. I agree with his sentiments and delegative approach.
The government should not control sport, but should facilitate and provide opportunity for all. I am convinced that in the short run we are likely to see a significant improvement in our sporting endeavours. I have initiated contact with the UK committee founding members on how best foreign direct investors can be convinced to participate in economic growth and development through the business of sport.
You too can contribute by emailing Josh at [email protected] or call him on 07897105884
Bhekinkosi Ngubeni is a keen development economist, contact him on email :[email protected]