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Rumbles over Super Eagles World Cup fund raising

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The Super Eagles celebrating a goal against Argentina in a recent friendly match in Russia. Nigeria will meet Poland in another tune up game…in March, 2018. PHOTO: AFP.


Why would the Sports Ministry campaign for funds for Nigeria’s participation in the forthcoming Russia 2018 World Cup when the world football governing body, FIFA, has already paid for Super Eagles’ qualification, preparation and participation in the competition scheduled to hold from June 14 to July 16, 2018? Is the sports ministry justified to seek for additional funds from the Federal Government and the Nigerian public when the business of managing the senior national team has been bestowed on the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), which is the only organ recognized by FIFA? These are some of the questions some stakeholders in Nigerian football want answered since the Sports Ministry embarked in the search for additional funding for the country’s participation at the World Cup.

The Sports Ministry at the weekend launched a campaign to raise additional funds for the country’s participation in the Russia 2018 World Cup in Abuja. At the end of the exercise, the ministry realized N80 million on the spot aside so many other undisclosed pledges.According to the ministry, the launch was the beginning of its quest to raise N3 billion, which the country would need to participate effectively at the competition. Out of the N3 billion, N1.5 billion was expected from Government, while the balance of N1.5 billion would be generated through fund-raising efforts.

Nigeria is drawn in Group D of the World Cup, which will hold from June 14 to July 15, alongside Argentina, Croatia and Iceland. Speaking at the launch, Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung reiterated the Federal Government’s mission to mobilise ‘non- state resources’ for the country’s participation at the World Cup, noting that preparation and participation of national teams in regional and international sports competitions had sometimes been marred by funds constraints. “We are prepared to change this unsatisfactory outcome with presidential support and guidance, as well as stakeholders’ engagement and buy-in.“Knowing very well that government alone cannot shoulder all sports expenses, we have decided to strengthen our collaborations with the private sector to mobilize non-state resources.

 
“We are equally focused on ensuring that funds mobilized are judiciously used to facilitate and boost the participation of the Super Eagles in the tournament. We are determined to operate in line with our change agenda and Mr. President’s anti-corruption posture.”But stakeholders in Nigerian football are not sold on the reason given by Dalung for the campaign to raise the additional N3 billion. Their argument is hinged on the fact that world football governing body, FIFA, which owns the World Cup, has already taken care of every qualified team’s preparation and participation in the World Cup.

Their argument is that FIFA will pay each of the 32 teams at the World Cup $9.5 million for qualifying for the competition.This will come from the $791 million to be shared by the teams. The minimum prize money for teams eliminated at the group stage will amount to $8 million each.In addition, each qualified team will receive $1.5 million to cover preparation costs, which will be paid ahead of the competition. This means all teams are guaranteed at least $9.5 million each for their participation in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

However, apart from the $1.5 million for preparation, all other monies will come after the competition.Speaking on what he termed huge corruption in the Federal Ministry of Sports and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), former Gombe State Football Association chairman, Shuaibu Ahmed Gara Gombe said there is multi-institutional conspiracy against the people of Nigeria by the Presidency, the legislature and major financial institutions that are responsible for budgeting and disbursing of funds for the government agencies.

Gombe alleged that the Sports Ministry and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) usually use the World Cup and the African Cup of Nations, among other competitions, to spend public funds knowing that nobody would ask them to account for the money.

“The FIFA World Cup finals in Russia; is around the corner and the ministry, as usual, is depending on the government for funding. It is a known fact that every four years, there will be a World Cup. If we are a serious people and manage our sports funds in line with the world’s best practices, we should not be looking for money every four years. Rather, sponsors would be begging to give us money for the World Cup. Because there is no accountability and transparency in dispensing money, no genuine organisation would want to come forward to sponsor our participation in World Cup.

“For a long time, Nigeria has been paying for services in the World Cup that she is not suppose to pay. And that money goes into private pockets.“The host nation bears the cost of all domestic travel for each team’s delegation, and Nigeria is not exempted from this largesse. This hospitality is for 50 people per participating member association including their equipment.

“FIFA/host FA is also responsible for lodging of 50 people starting from five nights to each team’s first match and ending two nights after the exit of the team. The minister is aware of this. Most of the expenditures in major sporting activities are frivolous. The sports minister handled the Brazil Olympics and to date, he is yet to give the financial report,” Gara Gombe said.

Noting that match bonus is the only area that gulps huge amount of money, Gara Gombe said there was always crisis about money every World Cup year in the country; a development he ascribed to the national team players playing for money and not honour for their country.“Since the players realised that there has been huge budgetary allocation for the World Cup, their attitude suddenly changed. They started agitating for higher match bonuses, and it has grown to the level of dog eat dog between the players and NFF officials.

“Both the ministry and NFF take the advantage of the World Cup and other sporting activities to include government officials that are not knowledgeable in sports on foreign trips where some of the government delegates collect full estacode and spend three days and return to the country. “Some don’t even embark on the trip and collect their full estacode.There are some classes of elite both the ministry and NFF have wooed to ensure soft landing when it is time to retire whatever expenditure they present.

“I say it without any apology that the most corrupt sector in our economy is our sports sector. Forget the unprintable names our Police, Customs and other government agency officials are called, our sports industry is the worst, and I have document to back my claims.“It is in this country that during an international event someone claimed that he spent N5 million to open a Facebook account for the Nigerian team, and I have seen an expenditure where someone claimed he spent N60 million to obtain entry visa for 300 athletes to go to Korea on training tour where there was no Nigerian camp. The list of frivolous claims is endless.”

He pointed out that apart from FIFA, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has introduced a similar grant, $5 million, to African teams that qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals to encourage them.Also reacting to the ministry’s planned dinner to source for funds, U.S.-based former national team star, Francis Monidafe called on those planning the N1.2 billion fund-raising for Super Eagles’ campaign at Russia 2018 World Cup to drop the idea.

“I don’t see any reason why some group of Nigerians will be planning to raise such huge amount of money for the Super Eagles’ World Cup campaign, when FIFA had already told the whole world that it has the money to take care of all the participating teams,” Monidafe told The Guardian.According to him, those making such moves have ulterior motives: “It is either they want to raise such money to take care of themselves and family members or for a jamboree trip to Russia. And such jamboree trips by our ‘big men’ always caused problem for the players in their camp.

“I don’t know why Nigerians will always want to do things differently. Of the 32 teams going for the World Cup in Russia, it is only in Nigeria that we are hearing of fund raising. It should not be so.“If these people should have their way, by the time they arrive in Russia and start displaying their wealth, a majority of the players will be very uncomfortable in their camp. They will be too many distractions from the people because they will use the money to bulldoze their way into the camp. They will break FIFA’s rule and do all sorts of things, which may work against the progress of the Super Eagles in the World Cup.

“I think, what such people should do for the nation is to channel their energy in assisting the NFF in raising funds for grassroots development instead of trying to put water into a cup that is already filled up. Once a country qualifies for the World Cup, all financial responsibility is on the shoulder of FIFA. I don’t know why Nigeria’s case should be different. I think the presidency should act fast and stop this ‘nonsense,” he stated.

Responding to the criticism that has trailed the ministry’s recent moves, Senior Special Assistant to the Sports Minister (Media), Mrs. Nneka Ikem Anibeze said the condemnation was either borne out of mischief or ignorance.According to Mrs. Anibeze, the World Cup is much more than the football people watch on television because it gives every participating country the opportunity to mix with the larger international community.

“The World Cup is not just about the NFF or the football on the field. The NFF needs money for the international matches, bonuses and other sundry expenses.“The sports sector is the least funded of all the sectors and the minister has been trying to get the National Assembly to appropriate more funds for sports. There is the Commonwealth Games around the corner, which needs money outside what is budgeted for the ministry.

“When we go to the World Cup, we take along people from different walks of life because we want to sell the country. Politicians, businesses and even journalists are incorporated in the contingent because they have different roles to play during the World Cup.“The NFF is planning its own dinner, just as the Culture Department is doing its own. We are planning to take many fans to Russia for them to have a feel of the event.“Remember, apart from the training grant, the other Fifa money doesn’t come until after the World Cup. Will you now tell the players to wait until after the World Cup before you pay their bonuses. That will be calling for trouble because they may embarrass the country they way they did in Brazil four years ago.”

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Both the ministry and NFF take the advantage of the World Cup and other sporting activities to include government officials that are not knowledgeable in sports on foreign trips where some of the government delegates collect full estacode and spend three days and return to the country. Some don’t even embark on the trip and collect their full estacode. There are some classes of elites both the ministry and NFF have wooed to ensure soft landing when it is time to retire whatever expenditure they present.


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