It’s Frustrating Getting Private Sponsors For Nigerian Athletes- Saidu Musa

The government is not taking advantage of the opportunities sports can offer the economy, Saidu Musa, Bronze Badge Chair Umpire of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said in an exclusive interview.

Musa who was the Director of the recently concluded ITF World Tennis Tour J5 in Abuja said that sports could be better in the country if things are done differently.

He said, “It has not been easy gathering the private sector to key into sports generally in Nigeria, but tennis has been lucky because there are some ex-tennis players and lovers of the game that are trying to put back their money where they got the money from.

“Sponsorship has not been easy because it is not everybody that wants to put their money in. Businessmen want to put money where they can get it back immediately.

“Sports is about putting in especially in Nigeria where you can’t even charge gate fees in tennis, not even football that we assume is the number one sport. “

The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development in January 2020 rolled out its 2020-2030 sports industry reform, repositioning and development agenda.

Alongside with the think tank group, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare said sports will be institutionalized as a private sector led industry to develop youth-based vibrant sectors to drive the Nigerian economy.

But , Musa said that while football is the most popular sport in the country and gets most of the budget, the return on investment has been marginal.

He said, “In the case of Nigeria, football gets close to 100 per cent budget and other sports gets almost nothing, that disparity is so big. Even in football if you put a team and say people should come and pay money, half of the people that go in don’t even pay. They go inside for free as they (scheme) their way.

“So, if it is difficult to watch football through paying, it will be more difficult to see people watch tennis with money. But we can get to that level because if we have big players, players in the top 100 and we begin to have ATP tournaments in Nigeria, then definitely they will have no choice than to pay. At this level now, it is very difficult.”

On the role of the sports ministry, the Bronze badge Umpire said the ministry needed to put more effort into transforming Nigerian sports.

He said, “As far as I’m concerned, the sports ministry is not doing enough in terms of sports development in Nigeria and in terms of tennis, I can’t remember; I don’t know if they contribute to it behind closed doors.

“Let them create an enabling environment. In most developed economies, government involvement in sports is not much, it is mostly private sector driven. But then, you must also create an enabling environment for the private sector to bring in their money.”

According to him, investors need a safe haven for their investments before making decisions to invest in the country’s sports industry.

He said, “Investors must have a rebate on tax when they sponsor any team. I don’t know if that is operational in Nigeria. I don’t see them doing much when it comes to sports development in Nigeria.

“We have lots of multinational companies in Nigeria. There is nothing wrong with the government saying every company that does business and makes so much money in Nigeria should key into a particular sport for them to develop.”

As part of Corporate Social Responsibility, he urged companies to roll out a four to eight years plan to develop a sport of their choice in the country.

Musa said, “It should be like a four or eight years plan as part of their corporate social responsibility. It is not just about building hospitals and schools.

“Sports is big business and one of the greatest things that is helping us mop the youths out of vices in the society.”

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