Covid-19 pushes sports sector into survival mode

By Makhtum Muziransa

The main conclusion from the Uspa-organized online conference dubbed Covid-19 and Sports in Uganda was the sector needs to push for its survival as it gradually emerges from the pandemic.
The lockdown that was imposed on the sector in March left it so crippled that most of the sports disciplines have failed to return to action even after the suspension was lifted in September.

“This period is about survival and we need concerted efforts,” Joe Kigozi, the chief strategy officer of Next Media Services – that hosted the debate on their Sanyuka Television platform yesterday, said.
“For example, there has to be deliberate efforts from federations to put up good products that will attract people to television.

Government too needs to make concessions on what federations can do to get back to action.”
His comments come at a time when federations are negotiating with the government to relax some of the guidelines, like testing athletes and officials every two weeks, given to the sector to resume its activities.

Meet the expenses
Fufa, one of the federations, to resume activities have equally found the cost taxing and have had to put off some of their activities to meet the expenses involved in resumption.
“At the time the pandemic started, we were running development programs to get the game to the next level. 
But now we need to address the effects of the pandemic and how much that costs us. 

Many people look at the costs in this period as only Covid tests but what of when we get positive cases? Federations and clubs have to, among other things, take care of accommodation and treatment of the affected individuals,” Fufa chief executive officer Edgar Watson, shared.
For KCCA vice chairman Aggrey Ashaba, the costs involved in running a club without much money coming in now from gate collections and merchandising, could spell doom for some entities that were already struggling to find funding pre-pandemic.

“Maybe 60% of the clubs in the UPL (Uganda Premier League) right now might not be in existence in the next five years.
Mind-set shift
Clubs and federations need to appreciate the football trinity if we are to build something sustainable.
There is football the game, the business, and then the industry that helps us connect with other sectors.
The economy has benefited a lot from sports just like the tourism and hospitality sectors but we do not get the same financial support. That has to change.
With the sports budget sitting at just Shs17b this financial year, National Council of Sports (NCS) chairman Dr. Donald Rukare promised that they are “pushing for supplementary funding but you must be aware that we are competing with all other 16 sectors including a struggling health sector.”


Rukare also warned that for sports to grow, there has to be a mind-set shift and a growth in the calibre of leadership.
“We need to change the narrative from sports being something that people look at as a by the way to a Shs600bn endeavour. But changing mind-sets takes time.

Our dream is a sector where the Ministry takes the political lead, while NCS, Uganda Olympic Committee, media and development partners come together biannually to agree on what the next 10 years will be,” Rukare said.
The panellists at the inaugural meet also agreed that sports need to put together products that can compete on digital platforms while clubs and federations must deliberately increase online presence.


Increased Viewership: Roy For Sanyuka TV that has televised the UPL in this period, “viewership has gone high,” according to Kigozi even though “Covid has similarly made cost of broadcasting games high” as their two OB vans need the services of over 40 people that must be tested for Covid-19 regularly. Kigozi called on other sports and advertisers to notice this rising viewership and exploit it as income generated.

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