The minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare has said the Federal Government is already working on a new business model that would explore the business angle of sports to make it more-rewarding.

He also said, the ministry is already working towards starting Sports Trust Fund to open up more avenues for sports to attract fund from individuals and corporate organisations to better the lot of the sportsmen and women, adding that the era of government funding sports alone is gone.

The Minister made the disclosures during an interaction with journalists at the end of an unscheduled visit to the Obafemi Awolowo (formerly Liberty) Stadium, Oke-Ado, Ibadan on a tour of the facility yesterday.

Giving an assessment of the facility, the minister said he was impressed that the country still had a structure built over 64years still standing but has suffered neglect.

He said “Let me say that this is in continuation of my working visit to various stadia across the country. I place a premium on the ones that are national monuments such as Ahmadu Bello, Kaduna, National Stadium Lagos, Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja and then of course, the first among equals, the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium formerly Liberty Stadium, Ibadan.

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“Like I said, this is a working visit and I am going to return for a more detailed assessment with the Directors from the Ministry, Engineers and other experts to do an exact evaluation of the level of maintenance or deteriorations.

“I am really impressed that we have such a structure built over 64 years, still standing but have suffered neglect due to lack of maintenance. I have said it right from the beginning that our facilities will get my attention in terms of upgrade, maintenance and management.

We have seen here that, efforts have been made in the past few years but, we have seen that the efforts at maintenance, upgrade and management had not been sufficient. “I have seen the indoor sports hall, the main bowl and I have seen the swimming pool, the training

pitches and I think we need to bring this place back to work, we need to inject some funds back into this place. We are going to work on a new model of Public-Private –Partnership, we have an “adopt campaign” going on, that is, adopt a football pitch, adopt a sports centre or an athlete.

“The complete details of that programme will require us going to the private sector to invite them to adopt from all we put before them. On an increment basis, before the end of the year, we will see efforts by the ministry, working with the private people out there to try and bring this stadium back to full use.

“Just remember when the Liberty stadium was running in full swing, we had CAF matches here, we had FIFA matches here, not just football, but many other sporting events took place here. We can bring back the glory.

“As you know, globally, sports is a good business, we are going to look at the new business models built around sports, we want to bring back on the string, Kaduna, Abuja, Lagos, and Ibadan and I think that once we are able to bring  back these facilities, we can have such championships coming back to Ibadan.

“Recall that CAF, FIFA and the rest have standards, so, if they want to bring any game to this place, they will come and check from their checklist, if it does not meet the checklists that they have, they will not come here. So, our job is really cut out.

“I will not deny that there is the paucity of funds, but then we can try some novel way to bring funding back into sports in the interest of the public and the private sector. A couple of initiatives and ideas are on the table, an internal process is going on with the ministry, so, I am at the level of consulting, we have ideas and we are trying to fashion out so that we can implement.

“The era of expecting the government to fully fund sport is completely gone. And I said we can borrow from Europe, from America, from North America and we can see what is been done in sports. Yes, the government has a role in it, but we have seen sport become big business.

“I did say in Morocco that was the first place I announced that there will an Athlete Sustenance Fund, and that is in line with best practices in global sports in the UK, there are athletes grant, in Europe and other places, they have some grants for the athletes. The components of that are been worked out right now because we know that the welfare of our sportsmen and women is important, their health insurance is critical, keeping them on a stipend and some kind of training funds that keeps them training and committed from one championship to another.

“I’m worried that people compete in Morocco, they don’t make any income again, maybe until they compete at the Olympics. And when you look around the world, there is the plan, even at the minimum level, we are thinking at an Athletes Sustainance Fund and at the big level, we are looking for some kind of Trust Fund, like you have the Security Trust Fund, we want to start the Sports Trust Fund. In the past, there were efforts at that we are going to bring that all those efforts, look at why they didn’t work and then pick up from there.”

Source: The Nation Newspaper

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