Good Governance, Sports Marketing and Sponsorship: The Achilles Heel of African Sport

There is money in sport, obscene amounts of it to make individuals and organisations filthy rich.
The global sports industry  is indeed awash with money but very little seems to be trickling to where it is needed the most; where it can make a huge difference in the lives of not only young people but entire nations. For example, the financial resources at the disposal of Manchester United Football Club are greater than the combined GDPs of Gambia, Lesotho, Malawi and Sierra Leone.  
I must confess that I nearly fell off my chair early this week upon learning that top golfer; Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland has signed an agreement with Nike Inc, which is likely to be an unprecedented package in world sport. Industry sources say that the esteemed gentleman from the sport of golf, who is also World Number One, is set to earn close US$ 250 million for the next 10 years, as an ambassador for Nike Golf. Now this is some serious money.
This is indeed amazing for an individual. I do not hold any grudges against nor am I jealous of the affable Rory McIlroy who has indeed taken the world of golf by storm in much the same way that Lionel Messi has done in football. However, the big question that I ask myself is: when are African sports personalities going to earn this kind of money. Surely, something needs to be done in our lifetimes in order to bridge this gap. Where are the African sports lawyers and sports marketing companies? I do not have to do any research to state for a fact that McIlroy deal surpasses, by far, what the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) combined will get from any marketing deals they can come up with for the next 10 years! Here we are talking about organisations that are administering sport for the entire continent of Africa of a billion people! It is evident that African sports organisations, sports lawyers, marketing agents and companies are operating in a backward environment with begging bowls instead of coming up with innovative packaging of African sport in its various facets and presenting it to the global market place for sale to the highest bidder. Like in most aspects of global economic and financial life, Africa finds itself being seriously short-changed again. However, African sport is in a better place to cut fairer deals for its sports persons and organisations thereby not only enriching those people concerned but the continent as well by extension.
Indeed sport has the potential to transform the face of Africa only if it is run well for the benefit of athletes, the various organisations and countries and more importantly the continent itself. Africa has the most important pre-requisite, which is an abundance of sporting talent, which can be developed for world-class performances. Without the performers you have no product! As Africa shifts its focus to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations that will be held in South Africa, how many of us care about how CAF is run? Very few indeed! The CAF Congress recently passed a very stupid law, which bars anyone who is not a voting member of its Executive Committee to stand for election as president of the organisation. What really surprises me is that no football administrator even from the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA), representing our beloved region, stood up to speak against this gross miscarriage of justice and blatant abuse of power in a continental sports organisation.
President Issa Hayatou has been in power for more than 20 years. What miracles do COSAFA members expect from him that he has failed to deliver in the past? There is no use of appealing through the legal and disciplinary structures of CAF, as the next elections are scheduled for March 2013.
Even the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) has failed Africans dismally, as it has dismissed the brave appeal by Liberia against the recently adopted CAF statute amendment, which is meant to preserve the power of Issa Hayatou and his cronies who are at the helm of the African football. African sport, therefore, needs a new generation of high calibre, business-minded managers who have a solid professional approach to the running of sport. It does not need continuation of a Mafia-like cabals who are only interested in perpetuating their stay in power at the expense of African sports people. African sport needs to be liberated from predatory cliques that have their grip on organisations and structures, and utilise the linguistic and regional differences to maintain their stranglehold on power. No one but the member states themselves can change this unpalatable situation where African sport is continuously in the doldrums. Despite the riches available to African sport on the continent and globally, even the most popular sport on the continent is in tatters. Compared to equivalent competitions in Europe, Asia and South America, participants in the CAF competitions are really playing for peanuts and good governance of CAF are the primary reasons for this sad state of affairs. This is not unique to CAF but to a good number of continental sports organisations. Member associations just blindly go through the motions in most of the congresses of these organisations. The leaders do not expect to be asked any tough questions. If you do that, you are ostracised and marginalised. For those who question the status quo, machinations are put in place to ensure that they are not elected or appointed to the Executive Committee or any sub-committee of sub-structure of the continental sports organisations.
Elections are always rigged. Scholars and ordinary people accuse and criticise mainstream governments and politicians of Africa for electoral fraud and manipulation. The situation is worse in the continental sports organisations. The only difference is that there is no violence, blood-letting or loss of life, just a massive and embarrassing loss of opportunities for African sports people to develop to their fullest potential, to be duly rewarded for their efforts like Lionel Messi, Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, Cristiano Ronaldo and of course, Rory McIlroy!
Where in African are sports lawyers and sports marketers? New [office bearers] are sorely needed to sweep the continental sports boardrooms clean and bring urgency as well as business direction to the management of African sport.
The Sudanese businessperson and philanthropist, Mohammed Ibrahim, has rightly stated that “Nothing, simply nothing, is more important for Africa than good governance”. The Southern Times Sport Forum agrees with Mo Ibrahim’s assertion, as it applies not just to conventional politics and macro-economics but also more to the sport and recreation industry of Africa as well.

January 2013
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