Multi-Purpose Indoor Sports Facilities Development: The Case for PPPs

Facilities development is a critical component of sport development. For most Southern African countries, investment in sports facilities has taken the form of football and athletics stadia only.

The number, range, availability, accessibility and quality of facilities determine to a large extent whether people participate in sport and physical recreation or not, which activities they engage in, how often they play and generally how they perform and progress.
When one looks at indoor sports such as badminton, basketball, gymnastics, handball, netball, table tennis, squash and volleyball, it is evident that Southern African countries are indeed struggling at World championships, and Commonwealth and Olympic games.
 This is due to the serious shortage or, in some cases, unavailability of facilities for these sport codes.  Coupled with chronic shortage of qualified coaches, development in these sports has been effectively stunted.
To avoid an egg and chicken scenario or the proverbial Catch 22 situation, there is need for diversification of the range of the sports facilities being provided either through public or private funding. Nowadays, there are also possibilities for public-private partnerships (PPPs) for infrastructure development in various economic sectors. If there is a sector that really needs to drive PPPs, it is sport.  
Southern Sport concedes that the provision of sports facilities is an expensive undertaking.
Sports facilities are invariably expensive to build, maintain and operate. Southern African governments by themselves do not have the resources to construct all the critical facilities, especially the much-needed multi-purpose indoor sports halls.
However, for Southern African sport to develop and make its mark on the continent and the world at large there is need for a paradigm shift in how investment in sport facilities is viewed and how it is managed practically.
Provision of sports facilities must also be viewed in business and economic terms just like investment in the economy ‑ roads, clinics and bridges.
 If this is done, then the private sector, central and local governments will enhance their involvement in sport and sport development.
Sport is no longer just fun and games but an industry generating billions of dollars in revenue annually throughout the world.  
There is, therefore, need for governments and sports authorities to undertake thorough research in sports science as well as feasibility studies in order to accurately determine participation trends as well high performance needs of their countries.
Without reliable scientific and statistical data, it will be difficult to ascertain the number and even nature of facilities required.
However, the onus is on the sports authorities and national sports associations to prove the economic viability and return on investment (ROI) in sport facilities development. In addition, one issue that needs to be thoroughly examined is the matter of naming rights for facilities. Naming rights have never been fully exploited in the context of Southern African sport.
There are a lot of commercial banks, mobile telephone companies and other business houses that are closely associated with sport that can be approached with good marketing packages to invest in sports facilities for naming rights, hospitality arrangements and exclusive advertising opportunities.
Good governance in sport is also one matter that investors always look for when making long term commitments such as construction of sports facilities.
Nobody wants to be associated with people or organisations that are renowned for shambolic or shoddy management. In this connection, sport organisations need to put their houses in order and improve their public images.
Without deliberate plans and subsequent project implementation in the construction of multi-purpose indoor sports facilities, the quality of overall sports development in Southern African countries will remain compromised.
 Even the growth and diversity of teams representing the various nations at major games is going to be stunted.
Regardless of initial capital costs as well as on-going maintenance, renovations and refurbishment indoor sports facilities are a necessity and not a luxury for all Southern African countries.
It is a only a question of how they should be provided taking into account the peculiarities of each country’s economy and other related factors. However, there is need to exchange ideas, information and experiences in the development of facilities in the region.
Conferences, seminars and workshops for architects, economists, property developers, facility managers and sports authorities should be convened to facilitate project implementation throughout the region.
In addition, financiers such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), African Development Bank (AfDB) and World Bank should be engaged with a view to get them to support infrastructure development in sport.
Without financial injections by the various central and local governments, private sector as well as other development partners, the construction of multi-purpose indoor sports halls of world class standard will remain a pipe dream for most Southern African countries.
Considering that young people below the age of 25 in Southern Africa comprise approximately 60 percent of the population, there is definitely need for all-round investments for their future, including sport development.
PPPs for the construction of multi-purpose sports halls in various countries is a good start. There is no doubt that this is a big challenge confronting Southern African sport. Whether relevant authorities are going to rise to the occasion or not is a different question.
Even one major multi-purpose sports hall in each capital city of Southern Africa would indeed be a great achievement for sport and youth development. As the old saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first few steps”.

November 2012
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