Lo and behold! Treasury has delivered yet another deadly blow to the country’s sports fraternity after the line ministry announced crumbs amounting to N$38.6 million for all 50 sport codes affiliated to the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC).
The shoestring budget allocated to the financially handicapped NSC clearly demonstrates that our leaders are yet to understand the importance of sport to any nation – both in social and economic terms.
Treasury has cut a significant chunk from the requested amount of N$179 million, instead allocating a meager N$38.6 million to the NSC, which is an umbrella body to 50 sport codes. Unsurprisingly, portfolio minister Jerry Ekandjo has – and rightly so – described the budget allocation to sports as a drop in the ocean.
All sport codes are in dire need of administrative fees, traveling expenses, participation grants, daily allowances for athletes and a horde of other expenses – let alone the hosting of august events. It appears in terms of sport Namibia is caught between the devil and the deep sea.
The country faces a Herculean task to establish itself as a formidable sporting nation, and this is not how we are going to reach that goal.
Is it not perhaps time for those controlling the purse strings to be wary of avoiding falling into the “endowment effect”, which is when we consider things to be more valuable when we own them, but disregard them when we pass them on?
The dominant view is that many in the top echelons of decision-making have become emotionally attached to their misplaced perception on recreational funding and thus are systematically underestimating the real value of sports and the ultimate pitfalls of underfunding.
To probe this, one is obliged to combine logic and critical thinking by making comparisons with the astronomical amount of money local telecommunications providers MTC avail to a single sporting discipline annually.
The country’s elite league, the Namibia Football Premier League (NPL) is the chief beneficiary of a fairly handsome figure of N$40 million in sponsorship monies over three years – more than the combined paltry budget allocation of N$38.6 million for all the sport codes. It doesn’t make sense, does it?
Football alone sits with a total of seven national teams to cater for and one is left wondering how Namibia is expected to compete vigorously against nations whose sports budgets dwarf ours – a scenario that amounts to playing field that is not level.
There is an urgent need to have the playing field leveled and one would humbly like to urge government to revisit its priorities with regard to core social responsibilities.
Sport is a vital tool and possesses the unequivocal potential to be fully utilised as the most essential vehicle of nation building, including the discouragement of racial and tribal tensions so prevalent amongst our fragile communities.
Football received an annual budget of N$80 000 for administration, in addition to the N$8 million in participation grant. To many of our leaders, N$80 000 is equal to their basic monthly income.
Authorities need to introduce hard and fast rules that would oblige corporate business to start pumping more money into sports and not only for the few selected codes, whose membership derives from the elite clique.
In countries like football-mad Ghana and many other African nations, their respective annual budgets for football alone amount to more than triple the pittance allocated to the entire Namibia sport fraternity annually.