Governance: The Key to Sport Transformation in Africa


African sport in general is faced with a serious crisis of leadership. Most executive committees at national, regional, and continental are invariably accused of corruption, maladministration, embezzlement and misappropriation of funds. There are a very few organisations that could be referred to as model organisations for accountability, good governance and sport development. The fact that high-profile organisations such as FIFA have also been similarly tainted does not help matters.

However, looking at Africa, and particularly our beloved Southern African region, sport has a big potential to transform the lives of ordinary citizens. Sport is no longer fun and games. 

It is a big multi-billion-dollar business capable of transforming Southern Africa, creating jobs and wealth for the people. This can happen if only sport is properly administered at club, district, provincial, national and regional levels.  

There is need for proper structures and systems to ensure accountability and good governance in the sport, recreation, and leisure and fitness industry. Good leadership is central to the administration and development of sport. 

It is high time that organisations such as Transparency International (TI) started focusing on governance in sport organisations at national, regional, continental and international organisations.

Where can these good leaders be found? Nowadays, it seems as even the mainstream political and business systems of various countries are also having the same problems as in sport. 

However, it is my considered opinion that in sport, things are made worse because, in most cases, mainstream criminal law does not apply to the sport and recreation systems. 

There are instances where issues of sport are deemed to be outside the criminal justice system and sports leaders cannot face the full wrath of the law because they are mostly “volunteers” leading “independent” and voluntary organisations. 

Due to the loopholes and blurred convergence between mainstream law and the sports system, sport leaders, in most instances, and especially at the regional and continental levels can get away with anything, short of murder. 

This is the reason why some sports leaders have created little empires for themselves, plundering the resources of these sports organisations and literally bribing their way into office every time when elections are held. 

There are the “untouchables” of African sport governance and are a law unto themselves.  What they say goes in these organisations.

 If you are an outsider and come into these organisations suggesting positive changes for the betterment of sport, you are viewed with extreme disdain and suspicion. In no time, you are simply marginalised, hounded and voted out of the system. 

If you are out, you no longer have influence and things return to business as usual in the sports organisations.

It is sad to note that African sports organisations have simply stopped innovating. Most of them have no succession plan for attracting and retaining good leaders who can assist such organisations to make quantum leaps forward in terms of governance and actual sport development. 

When it comes to competing with the rest of the world, there is always the perfect excuse “lack of funds”. This is a worn-out excuse.  

Mediocrity is celebrated in these organisations, restricting office holders and staff to doing just the bare minimum for survival. 

There is absolutely no energy and no enthusiasm to do what is right for the underprivileged children and youth for whom sport can be a difference between life and death, between poverty and wealth. 

Leaders are busy gallivanting and flying all over the world, lining their pockets with kick-backs whenever they can. 

Even if sometimes, they are fortunate to be representing the Southern African region or Africa on the continental or world stages, they have very little value to add.

These are leaders who continue to be voted back into office every four or so years, although in most cases, they have got absolutely nothing to show their electorates, with regard to achievements during their previous tenures in office. 

The fact that this self-perpetuating descent into oblivion and rot is being allowed to continue is a serious cause for concern for genuine sport lovers. 

There are people out there who like to see Southern African and continental sport organisations being professionally administered in the interest of the people who are supposed to be represented or who are the target beneficiaries and participants in the sport. 

These are the people who can arrest these negative developments in the various sport systems and organisations.

 Sports people must fully exercise their democratic rights and demand accountability as well as good governance from their leaders.  Leaders must contribute to the transformation and development of their clubs, national associations, regional and continental federations. 

Sports people must make it a habit of attracting and retaining good leaders in their various organisations. 

Sports people must desist from voting people into office simply because they are their friends, or come from the same tribe or region or speak the same language as them. People must be voted into power because of their track record and potential to achieve much more for the organisation. 

If, for various reasons, they fail to deliver, they must be removed at the next elections. Any alliances that are not based on the developmental interests of any sport organisation are simply counter-productive and take Southern Africa and Africa back in time when the rest of the world is moving forward.

Elections in national, regional, and continental sports organisations should present opportunities for the electorates to drive the organisations forward and not slide them back into the Stone Ages which is what is currently happening now. Instead of examining good leaders, all what you see are battles between, Arab, French and English –speaking blocs. This is pathetic.  

Instead of democratising organisations, people are finding ways and means, as exemplified by not only the Confederation of African Football (CAF) but many other regional and continental organisations, of entrenching themselves in power as cliques through electoral fraud and other devious machinations. 

This can never be good for transformation or commercialisation of sport for the benefit of African children and youth. 

In actual fact, people are beginning to realise that sport politics is becoming increasingly vicious, controversial and diabolical in nature. 

What is currently differentiating sport from mainstream African politics is the absence of murder, assassinations, genocide but the other variables are exactly the same. 

This paints a gloomy picture for the future of African sport but genuine sport lovers should continue to work and attract business-like, focused, visionary and transformational leaders regardless of gender, religion, ethnic and cultural background. 

 The African Union (AU) and National Governments can also play an important role through scrutinising the activities of some of these regional and continental federations and calling them to account.  

This is not “interference” as FIFA would have it but simply ensuring that African sports institutions serve the interests of their people, not individuals! It is our divine right to do so. 

They have been out of the radar of governments for too long!  The message to national, regional and continental sports organisations is very simple: Innovate or stagnate!

April 2014
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