Building sustainable sport institutions

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What is an institution?

According to Wikipedia institutions are defined as “stable, valued, recurring patterns of behaviour”. As structures or mechanisms of social order, they govern the behaviour of a set of individuals within a given community. Institutions shape societies and their existence, so if institutions are weak or are built on weak foundations they are unlikely to sustain themselves or operate on a long-term basis.

Namibian sports institutions
We are all fully aware that the Namibian sports institutions (clubs) are not sustainable, as their foundations are shaped by the discriminatory history of our beloved land of the brave. Many sport clubs have their foundations based on race, tribe (notably ownership and management), or are formed by an individual or group unable to secure its long-term sustainability.

Without putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of history or anyone in this regard, we know many of these sport institutions (clubs) do not have support bases that can sustain themselves or even convince significant investors (sponsors) to come on board, to be associated with them and in return be properly reciprocated for investment (ROI).

As it stands, no sober-minded person, let alone corporate businesses, would invest in anything that is not sustainable and pour money into institutions (clubs) that will never in their lifetime be able to stand on their own feet.
Here I am not saying the current institutions (clubs) should be dismantled, but alas, in this ever-changing environment every institution should adapt to its surrounding environment and in this case, sport clubs should find themselves a community to serve if they are to be able to become sustainable.

In other countries, sport institutions are linked to communities, local municipalities, schools, sponsors (investors) and usually build their support base and confidence with sponsors so that everyone in the particular area would want to be associated with them.

As a result of the history of our nation, the fabric of racism, tribalism, regionalism and sexism is still prevalent and sport institutions (clubs) are best placed to forge unity, tolerance, discipline while providing opportunities to eradicate poverty.

Namibia Premier League
The current football situation should direct us to creativity and to think differently. NPL clubs have been used to getting handouts from MTC on a monthly basis, even to the extent that some clubs won’t bother to give MTC any mileage at all.

These handouts use the Solomon rule, whereby all clubs receive the same amount, even when some clubs provide MTC with advertising mileage opportunities, while others offer nothing. So, when the handout stops everything else stops as well, because 95% of the clubs cannot sustain themselves for one single month.

The FIFA club licencing requires clubs to own assets, including a sustainable business model, as to when the league funding stops, allowing football to continue on its own for a certain period of time.

The role of local government
This can be done by linking all urban (cities and towns) and rural centres (villages) to one single sport institution (club) that accommodates all sports codes, like football, netball, rugby etc. to garner support from that particular community and all other institutions, whether governmental or private.

This means a model for this initiative has to be developed and implemented with corporate governance policies and trained human resources. In Pietermaritzburg, the local municipality provides access to sport facilities and erects multiple billboards that benefit sport clubs directly, while convincing local business people to support their own ratepayers and communities.

The role of central government
National government has the biggest role to play by putting progressive policies in place that will accelerate and sustain sports in the country. This can be done by introducing the corporate social responsibility policies aimed at compelling corporate entities that make their riches here to invest in sport and the communities that enrich them.
Many retail multinationals sponsor the very teams in their countries Namibia is competing against in football, rugby ect. The options are taxes and levies on all sport-related goods, like sport shoes, shorts, vest, tracksuits, caps and sports equipment, as well as taxes and levies on sports betting, sugar products, cigarettes and alcohol to redress the social harm it causes to the Namibian society.

Other countries have tax incentives for sport investment, but only if it meets the sports equity and transformation policy requirements. In Angola that country’s political leadership directed each of the big parastatals and multinationals to take and support one sport institutions (club) that accommodates a football, basketball, handball, athletics and volleyball team. This concept is also working effectively.

The capacity of the sports leadership
The biggest challenges our country face relates to the capacity to lead and transform the sport sector into a formidable self-sustaining sector. The sport leadership (government and non-government) have not presented a case for sport that is quantifiable and attractive for government and corporate Namibia to invest in.

Furthermore, the current sports leadership lacks transparency and maturity to gain the trust of any investor wanting to partner with them. It is therefore important to source the much-needed skills and expertise elsewhere so as to lay the groundwork for professional sport that can activate broadcasting and investment.

In this case, government has to engineer leadership to transform the ailing sector to be a proud unifier of the nation.
* The views above are those of the author and are expressed in his personal capacity.

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