Giving voice to sports inside government and businesses

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By George Aluo

There is a positive outlook to sports in the horizon as government leaders and private sector drivers seem to have begun casting attention on the sector and its potentials as an economic driver. The development represents a shift from long standing tendency that relegated to the back burner, or perhaps, absolutely ignored sports in national economic discuss.

Pointers to this began last week when the National Economic Management Team (EMT) led by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, granted audience to the football sector of sports comprising the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the League Management Company (LMC). The EMT, the very influential economic policy making team in government is chaired by the VP and has as members, the Ministers of Finance, Minister of Industry and Investment, Minister of Budget and Planning, Minister of State for Petroleum, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Information and Culture, Director General of the Debt Management Office, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the President’s Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff.

The 23rd NES will hold at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja from October 10-12 and Dikko has been listed as one of the discussants. NESG is a group of private sector leaders representing key economic sectors which through the Nigeria Economic Summit (NES) brings together private sector leaders and senior public sector officials to discuss and dialogue on the future of the economy. Over the years, it has emerged as the most important platform for public-private dialogue in Nigeria.

It is the first time that the Sports industry sector is being discussed at the NES as a key economic driver. In the latest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculations by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) sports was not listed as a stand-alone sector of the economy or an ancillary contributor to other sectors like Broadcast (about 0.008%) and Tourism. Compare this omission to South Africa where in 2013, sports was credited to have provided upwards of $3 billion to the South Africa economy/GDP. It will not ambitious for Nigeria to seek to surpass or at least match South Africa’s.

On this year’s Independence holiday at a speaking engagement in Lagos, The Platform sponsored by a religious organisation, The Covenant Christian Center, Chief Segun Odegbami, a former national football captain was invited to speak on how Sports can contribute to economic development.

This is coming at a time the conversation to exploit the commercial potentials of sports is expanding and closer attention is increasingly being paid to how government through regulatory policies and the private sector through deliberate investment strategy in the sports industry can trigger the sports industry to emerge as a major economic driver and a major non-oil revenue stream.

It represents a wholesome shift from hitherto stereotype consideration of sports more as a social cohesion tool and entertainment but not as a commercial enterprise with huge value chain that contributes to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and thriving commerce that spans across medicine, law, manufacturing, tourism and real estate etc.

As Odegbami did point out in his presentation, football is beyond the 90 minutes action on the pitch but more of the months put in planning, the years put into preparing a team, the process of organising the match. It also involves the entire mix of marketing, communicating the values and promoting the inherent benefits before and after the match. Indeed, football means more.

Towards building a stronger football economy for the country, there should be recognition of sports as a national asset that will attract special privileges, concessions, regulatory framework and investment to drive its growth and development and open its potentials to become a key driver of the economy across all sectors.

It is understood that this is a thrust of the presentation made by the football industry leaders to the EMT during the recent meeting chaired by Professor Osinbajo in Aso Rock.

Aluo is a sports analyst

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