There is no doubt that sports in the modern age is a viable business that not only benefits the athletes or people directly involved but also a big contributor to the economy. Whereas the sports sub-sector in Uganda still faces a number of challenges that range from inadequate funding, legislation and infrastructures/facilities among others, it is good to note that elsewhere sports has moved from just being a recreation activity to business.
To achieve the business bit, you must look at commercialisation. And it is upon this basis that Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) organized an online conference (via zoom) on Friday evening for different sports federation/association heads to foster ways on how this can be achieved both during the COVID-19 lockdown and the future.
The topical discussion was centred around the theme “Commercialization of Sport, Friend or Foe, What is the way forward during and post COVID-19” with five keynote speakers addressing over 80 participants.
The speakers included FUFA President Eng. Moses Magogo, Uganda Table Tennis Association President Robert Jjagwe, Zakia Maseruka from Betway and the Uganda Rugby Union, Remmy Kisakye the head of Brand and Marketing Airtel and Duncan Nsubuga, the Assistant Secretary General of Uganda Olympic Committee.
In his opening remarks, UOC President, William Blick cautioned sports about the challenges they are likely to face in the post COVID-19 era thus calling them to brace for the tough times ahead.
“Definitely, the future is uncertain and with cancellation of the major sporting events, revenue has been lost. For instance, over $580M will be lost due to the cancelling of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. This has a knock-on effect to the federations who could have been beneficiaries. Therefore, we need to look at how we position ourselves to remain afloat.”
Maseruka indicated it is high time sports looked at developing the fan base because to attract sponsors, you ought to have numbers.
“You cannot commercialize when you don’t have numbers. Federations/teams must look at avenues on how to increase their fan bases. In the corporate world, companies are looking at sponsoring someone who makes business sense. I give you money, you give me visibility in return,” stated Maseruka.
She also added that sports as a sub sector needs to move from assuming to reality if they are to achieve commercialisation.
“Right now, everything seems like we depend on assumptions. But if we need to make business sense in sports, then we must address the real issues.”
FUFA President Magogo indicated that the biggest challenge in commercialisation of sports in Uganda is the wide disparity in understanding amateur and professionalism.
“We seem lost between amateur and professionalism. Whereas amateur sport is about mass involvement, professionalism means business. Therefore, as a country, we need to shift our mindset. From the government, sports administrators, athletes and fans. We must have corporate governance, proper legislation that suits the professional world and also embrace new trends like technology where there is a lot of money.”
He called for unity from all the federations/associations to have one voice in order to present themselves as a viable entity.
“It is absurd that we are still working in isolation as federations. We need synergy for government to listen to us. The other time when the President was making an address, he regarded sports as recreation. But it’s our onus to explain that the sports sector is business, provides employment to the youth and brings pride to the country.”
Jjagwe preached self-sustainability. He thinks sports must be able to make its own money by teams or federations working on their brand value to suit the demands of those that can invest the money.
Remmy Kisakye, on the other hand, put emphasis on how sports/teams or federations can become better brands.
Donald Rukare, the chairman of the National Council of Sports (NCS) who chaired the meeting lauded the sports federation heads that took part in the meeting and believes this is a huge step in the development of sports in the country.
“I’m delighted with the ideas presented here and the fact that we all want to see sports develop in Uganda. Definitely this is a good basis for us to come up with a paper that we can present to several stakeholders especially government. I hope we have more engagements to discuss such brilliant ideas.”