PPPs – Revisited: The Challenge of Sports Facilities Provision
One obvious reason why sport in Africa continues to lag behind other regions of the world is the issue of shortage of sports facilities. It is very expensive to design and construct sports facilities of world class standards.
Shortage of sports facilities is compounded by low prioritization of sport on the national development agendas of various African countries, including those in Southern Africa. It is understandable that colossal amounts of money are required for infrastructure development in agriculture, education, energy, health and transport sectors in basically all developing countries.
These urgent “bread and butter” requirements always gobble up big chunks of resources mobilized for the national budget expenditures.
With all the afore-mentioned challenges, it does not mean that sports leaders should just give up and let other sectors decide how much is going to be allocated to the sport sector for facilities development.
Rather, they should be innovative and explore other possibilities of mobilizing resources for design and construction of sports facilities in basically every neighbourhood, especially the hitherto disadvantaged or underprivileged areas. We should not also forget that construction of sports facilities is one thing but maintenance of the same facilities is an on-going issue which needs substantial resources, human and financial.
African countries must avoid “whiteelephant” scenarios whereby sports facilities are constructed at great cost to the tax-payer but after mega-events are rarely utilized. They soon deteriorate and degenerate into dilapidated conditions which need further funding again for renovations in order for them to be usable.
In mobilizing resources for sports facilities construction, Governments have for far too long carried the burden at national, provincial, district and even local levels. This over-dependence on governments for provision of sports facilities is very much unhealthy, especially in this day and age of adverse national and global economic environments. Governments are continuously required to reduce expenditure.
Sports leaders, especially those that are in charge of national sports authorities , ministries of sport , councils , commissions, National Olympic Committees(NOCs) and national sports federations must wean themselves off the “old school” mentality of waiting for governments to do everything in terms of development of sport. Development of sport hinges on facilities. It follows that without sports facilities, there is very little progress of development that can be recorded.
It is incumbent upon sports leaders to work with the private sector to mobilize funds for facilities development. Sport is generally a highly marketable product which corporate sponsors are willing to associate with. However, they will not just come to the rescue of sports leaders without being convinced of the ultimate benefits to their companies. In this connection, there is need to build strong business cases for involvement of corporate sponsors.
These business cases can be presented to individual companies or a conference set-up can be organized to appeal to a number of corporate sponsors. Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are the only way through which national sports authorities can accelerate sports development by constructing sports facilities for the people.
It is rare even in developed countries to see governments investing in construction and maintenance of golf courses, bowling greens, swimming pools and cricket ovals. This means that private companies and clubs are the only ones who can develop such facilities. However, they also need assistance in terms of preferential allocation of plots of land, sometimes at subsidized prices as an incentive for them to develop and maintain the sports facilities.
The other issue whose potential has not been fully exploited even here in Southern Africa is the issue of naming rights for sports facilities. Naming rights with the associated activities of advertising, branding and marketing of facilities are a big source of revenue for sports organizations in other regions of the world.
All these options need to be fully assessed and evaluated with a view of increasing the number and diversity of sport facilities available especially for the young people of each country. Without readily available sports facilities, young people, especially in disadvantaged and underprivileged areas will gravitate towards alcohol-based entertainment and drug abuse. This causes other social ills such as promiscuity, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. The young people of today are really an endangered species.
When on looks at the demographics of most Southern African countries, the populations are usually made up of at least 60% young people below the age of 30 years.
These are the future drivers of economic development, growth and prosperity, provided they are well looked after. Due to abundant leisure time, energy and youthful exuberance, young people all over the world have a propensity towards self-destruction. Sport is one way of looking after them to ensure that they make rational use of their free time by engaging in sport and physical recreation.
Ultimately, promotion of active and healthy lifestyles for people is a cheaper option than spending vast amounts of money on the health budget trying to mitigate the impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiac complications, diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
There is no need to undertake research to determine that NCDs are increasingly becoming the cause of mortality in both developed and developing countries. One only needs to visit the clinics and hospitals to see for themselves.
Sports facilities are important. They are the cornerstone of sport development and transformation. However, as the wise elders said, “There are many ways of killing a cat.” Southern African sports leaders must be on the forefront of innovation and development with regard to sports facilities provision. Otherwise, comprehensive sports development in most Southern African countries is doomed!