AFCON 2015: Event Management Crisis in Africa


Event management in competitive sport lies at the heart of promotion and development of any sport organisation. Apart from helping to generate revenue for owners or rights holders, events provide mileage or return on investment to corporate sponsors and other strategic partners. Events are, therefore, the lifeblood of sports organisations. For events to be successful, there is need for meticulous planning as well as execution of operations. 

This is true, especially for regional and continental events as they bring together various national teams and fans in single or multi-sport events. Various auxiliary issues such as public health, safety and security of events are as critical as the content or technical issues of facilities, competition format,  broadcasting rights  and others, too numerous to mention here.

There are also issues of insurance for major events to mitigate against unforeseen and unexpected events. Sometimes even the very best of planning and preparation will not guarantee that an event will take place as expected. In our contemporary world, challenges deliberately caused by other human beings such as terrorism, physical sabotage, cyber-crime and ticket fraud can adversely affect the convention of a sporting event. 

Furthermore, natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes and epidemics can also result in the cancellation of events, despite best intentions of the hosts, sponsors, rights holders and owners of such events.

Event management is therefore a very important issue in the continued development of African sport. Apart from adopting and implementing international best practices and standards in event management, continental federations and organisations should also invest in the training of sports administrators and leaders to ensure continuous improvement in this area. 

The reason why certain countries such Australia , Germany and the United Kingdom excel in hosting exciting and memorable major international  events is that they have invested a lot in capacity building, both in the theoretical study  and practical application of concepts in event management. Over time, these countries have accumulated vast experiences in not just bidding for events but in the meticulous management of every detail pertaining to the organisation of events. 

This has arisen out of the fact that you cannot just throw money to solve organisational challenges. You need thorough preparation for major events.

Just like it was forecasted in recently by the Southern Times Sports Forum, the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic has been a rude awakening, not only for public health authorities but for sports authorities as well. Some West African governments are, by their own admission, failing to cope with the epidemic.

 There is actually a serious risk of the disease spreading to other parts of the continent if there is no strict control and monitoring of the affected countries and regions. There is no doubt that without assistance from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Red Cross and other development partners, the situation could actually be worse.

Sports organisations, at national, regional and continental levels, have a role to play by not aggravating the situation. 

They should not be organising events which bring together large gatherings of people, especially those from affected areas and regions. 

Some countries in the affected West African region will definitely qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. It is very likely that in some instances, some individuals from countries that are affected but have not qualified would still like to travel to this event.

This means that there will be need for huge investments in personnel and equipment to undertake massive screening of potential visitors to any country at points of entry, given the dangers posed by the Ebola epidemic.  

Even with most stringent of testing and screening of visitors, bordering maybe on human rights violations, there is no guarantee that, with such large influxes of people expected before and during a popular event such as the Africa Cup of Nations, individuals infected with Ebola cannot enter any country. 

This is the reason why Morocco has wisely opted to forfeit the rights to host the 2015 AFCON.   South Africa, one of the most viable potential hosts, have since ruled themselves out of consideration. 

The country has rescued the Confederation of African Football (CAF) more than once before.

It is public knowledge that Morocco’s economy depends largely on tourism from developed Western countries. Any outbreak of the Ebola epidemic could be the nail on the coffin for the country’s tourism industry and the economy. It is a risk that Morocco cannot take. 

This is quite understandable. What is not quite understandable is the insistence by CAF that the tournament must go on, despite obvious warnings that the spread of the Ebola virus is yet to be contained or controlled by the health authorities. 

In terms of event management, the head honchos at CAF should have expected the unexpected. They should have had a Plan A, B, or even C and D. 

That is how things are done in modern event management.   

You do not just put all your eggs in one basket as the wise elders would say.

The 2015 AFCON Tournament is, according to tradition, scheduled for January/February next year. The Southern Times Sports Forum is not sure whether there is an African country that can host the event given a month’s notice. 

Hopefully, the CAF bosses have learnt quite a lot from these unfortunate developments. 

The AFCON is the jewel in the CAF’s crown and must be accorded the respect it deserves through meticulous planning and preparation. By doing so, CAF can only improve by adding greater value to this premier event on the African football calendar.

November 2014
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