Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, has emphasised accountability as the only panacea for the corruption tag on the nation’s football authorities and the spate of crises rocking the countries’ sports firmament.
The remark was contained in his address at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in Benin, Edo State capital, recently.
“…We’ve gone from a football-loving nation to a nation that needlessly squabbles over football. We now showcase more of our disagreements and discordant tunes in football than the talents and skills that should be displayed in this game. Nigerians and the world have taken note, and tough questions that require urgent answers are being asked. There is no better place to provide these answers than here in this assembly, this morning,” he said.
The minister noted that previous AGMs had been too ordinary “by simply accepting what the federation thinks it has achieved. Some have even taken the less optimistic stance of declaring that Nigeria’s football is dead.
“I’m confident that this is achievable because this board has brought great initiatives to football administration; sponsorships, a robust domestic league and a promising football atmosphere. But these have not been sustained even though they are sustainable. What are the reasons? They are not far-fetched.”
Dare said no country’s football can grow without a predictable and credible football calendar that is binding on everyone.
“No blue-chip firm operates based on hunches. Everything is planned with dates and milestones. No company will wait for NFF to wake up from its slumber to include them in their plans. Such firms will only do business with organisations that are accountable; not the ones that are bogged down in controversies.
“Accountability is the soul of any business concern. The bad image at all levels of our football, including the organisers of the domestic league cannot attract sponsorship, which is the biggest hub of business. In the eyes of the Nigerian public, the perception that NFF and Nigerian football is corrupt is rife.
“Even though many of the allegations have not been proven, the atmosphere around football is polluted on account of the negative perception of corruption and we must move quickly to sanitize this. Agreed, the stigma of corruption in NFF predates this board, hence, the need for proper accountability and transparency going forward because we must move quickly to change this toxic perception.”
The minister insisted that the institutions of law charged with fighting corruption and funds misapplication must be allowed to perform their functions.
“Anarchy reigns where the rule of law is jettisoned or where a few decide to take the laws into their hands. The wheel of justice turns slowly at times, but it surely turns. Orchestrated and deliberate attempts to stampede the government or input without proof, actions or inactions are not in the best interest of sports development. There are global standards to investigate allegations.
“As minister of youth and sports development, I lead the new dispensation of a transparent and accountable sports administration at all levels within the ministry and the federations. I will not be distracted by unfounded allegations, insinuations, brazen blackmail and the putrid smear campaign that have now become a cancer in our sports administration.
I speak only for myself. But I want to see things done differently. It will take time and patience laced with some tenacity, to insist on things being done correctly.
“The first step towards reducing corruption is for all transactions in football to be transparent; and it starts now. Transparency should be new watchword if the NFF and its affiliates want to do the business of football to rake in millions, as is the case in other climes. Transparency can only be attained when the activities of the federation are subjected to routine checks, while those found culpable are made to face the wrath of the law, no matter whose ox is gored.
“Establishing credible nurseries inadvertently addresses the issue of identifying good coaches, training and retraining them to learn the new tricks of the game. Coaches must be routinely trained. Those who are averse to such routine training should be eased out, because learning, like they say, is a continuum.”
The minister urged NFF and the League Management Company (LMC) to behave like their international counterparts by yearly telling the world how much the country’s football is worth. “How much is the domestic league worth, dear LMC chieftains? It would enhance the federation’s desire for corporate sponsorship, if LMC can yearly state how much it got from inter and intra club transfers. At the click of the button on any electronic system, including our mobile phones, we can know how much such transactions fetched other football federations.
“The ministry of youth and sports development has spent the last four months working with experts and the organised private sector to turn sports into a business. To develop a business model that will metamorphose sports into viable businesses creating jobs and generating revenue. “We have bench marked and some of the things and practices I have mentioned above must be in the DNA of our football before we can have a successful league and football development.”
Dare assured that the Federal Government is well disposed to introducing policies that will enhance football development and build investors’ confidence in our football.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to bringing back to life some of our dilapidated and dead sporting facilities across the country through direct intervention and concession arrangement.
In January 2020, a flurry of deliberate and key activities will take place around our football. The ministry will hold a public stakeholders forum on Nigeria business of football. We need the input of Nigerians into the bold and corrective steps we plan to bring into football development and general sports administration.
“A brighter future is possible for our football development in Nigeria. The journey starts now, not tomorrow. I am ready. I ask you all, stakeholders, to join me.”