Sports Underfunding is a Deliberate Lack of Good Will to Develop Sports in Uganda

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Phillip Munaabi

Over the last two months, news of Uganda’s national sports teams risking missing out on major international sports events has taken the same space as that of Karamajong’s missing iron roofing sheets only that sports news takes the back pages. “Uganda Risk Disqualification from World Cup”, reported Kawalya Brian of Sports Nation around 6th February, 2023.

This was followed by a national plea from the UNF head Babirye until a few days ago when the team “was bailed out” by the Hon. Minister of Education and Sports and the Hon. State Minister for Sports Hon. Peter Ogwang. In several social media channel UBF president Muhangi has indicated that the National Boxing team Bombers is likely to miss the 2023 World Boxing Men & Women Championships events, Basketball’s FUBA has already communicated that the Silverbacks will miss their Journey to the World Cup Qualifiers in Angola and the National Lacrosse Team has sent out an SOS to help them participate in the 2023 World Lacrosse Championships in San Diego. All this is a result of sports underfunding.

A few years ago, Uganda Boxing Federation president Moses Muhangi raised his voice on the need to have clear guidelines, criteria or a national sports funds distribution policy that would cater for disbursement of funds to all recognized sports federations, the response he got was “Muhangi rants about everything!” to this day, his rants have become a national debate to the extent of recently constituting a Parliamentary committee to inquire into the affairs of NCS which committee reports am sure may only remain a Hansard item.

Various explanations and reasons have been given, you choose which one satisfies you at the time of asking yourself as to whether such apportioning serves for the progress of sports as a whole or selective development at the expense of so much sports talent at the grassroots to national and professional ranks, I would personally find this an act of sabotage sports sabotage.

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Sabotage is a deliberate act to destroy, damage or obstruct the growth, in this case of sports in Uganda, the stronger sports species one sports discipline may grow and so many minors could be destroyed in the process.

The question of sports growth is another thing to ponder upon is it the owning of the biggest and fanciest headquarters or the achievements in terms of national medals and results from international competitions? Athletics seems to have the most medals for Uganda but with no known offices yet Football seems to be the most empowered but with no commendable international stage results past qualifier stage which is also okay as one can justify it, its grassroott development is visible through the various leagues from schools, to regional competitions like FUFA DRUM, sports inclusivity which has seen very competitive female football participation and FUFA sports infrastructure development. Such work is commendable!

Around June 2022, The Parliament of Uganda seemed to convince itself and the Ugandan sports fraternity that a huge increment of the sports budget from 17Bn to 47 Bn had been reached for the year 2022/2023. It was hooray for the all and more so Athletics, Boxing, and Netball who now had “ringfenced” their Hyena share of about 9Bn after the Football Federation bagging its lion share of 18Bn.

But time moves so fast and the rants have continued, more disappointing is the recent National Council of Sports published funds allocation list (Appendix) wherein the lion continued to bite 8Bn out of 13Bn for the July 2021 to July 2022 period to date, the hopes of increased sports finding only continue to shrink as what was a ringfenced 9Bn could turn out to have been “byoya bya nswa”.

On deep analysis given NCS’s annual budget allocations, sports like Body Building, Swimming, Boxing among others could soon be on road to extinction in this jungle for reasons that to organize a single Boxing or Swimming event can cost well over 150Mn shillings therefore to allocate them anything below 200Mn annually which includes its administrative costs is just sabotage, as for Body Building’s 1Mn allocation either build your bodies on sand bags or disappear! It is no wonder that the President Museveni is on record to have said that sports is emizaano “playing” and not work.

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This is wrong and surprisingly, the current minister of sports also seemed to either confuse the sports fraternity by playing tongue twister or himself is not being alive to the fact that such a statement portrays the grand scheme of national sports sabotage. Is President Museveni aware that the sports sector is a fast growing revenue base.

Tax blood hounds (URA) have already sniffed through and issued a directive of Taxation of Public events including sports events where a good UGX 7,627,118.6/= off every 50,000,000/= collected from ticket sales will have to go to the URA pockets failure of which attracts several penalties. The good farmer from Rwakitura wants to milk a cow he does not give grass ‘ebinyaasi’!

Underfunding sports federations, activities and infrastucture has created a continuing lack of capacity by sports federations to have their national sports teams participate in qualifier. This should not be taken lightly, its ripple effect goes to the root as sports clubs and athletes will consequently be demoralized, talent will be shifted to other productive areas to the detriment of the national sports arena and international sports stage participation that Uganda has boast of to the extent of giving BBC Sports commentator Rob Walker a presidential national tour of Uganda.

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Sports administrators and key stakeholders need to take immediate action, revisit their sports development strategy and re-direct their focus, Sports Federation heads should start having solid investments prospects to attract external financing and attract private and foreign investors into the sports sector more so to support their national teams until the said teams are handed over to the ministers for Commonwealth Games and Olympic flag off kodak moments.

Hon. Hashim Moses Magogo is on record to say that the sports sector is a
‘Multi-Million-dollar’ industry and indeed it is. He however did not only say so while he was still a full-time visionary sports administrator even now that he is in Parliament, he has already moved a Bill that keenly looks into buildings this sector through building a commercial arm the National Sports Bill that is under discussion but does it cure the acts of sabotage, may be no, may be yes! Is the sports media fraternity doing its best to redirect national focus on sports investment? National audio-visual media guru, Next Media has set the platform for what may eventually result into the biggest local content broadcasting deal through NBS Sport channel, Sports Journalism body USPA has recently re-energized its stakeholder engagement efforts through MOUs, awards and online thematic discussions on sports development but are the local sports federations set for this space or they will still look out for government funding? Be that as it may, increased sports funding from both public and private players is needed as soon as practicable!

The writer is an Advocate, Vice Chairperson East African Law Society Sports Law Committee.

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