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Accountability, hard work panacea for Nigerian football’s ills, says Dare

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Sports Minister, Sunday Dare. Photo: TWITTER/SUNDAYDARESD

Sports Minister, Sunday Dare has challenged the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to rejig its operations and work towards getting the country’s game to the expected height.

The minister, who acknowledged that the country has abundant raw materials to dominate the world in football, said the NFF should organise the business of football as it is done in order climes to achieve the same success.

Speaking in Benin during the NFF’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), Dare told the federation that to achieve the desired goal, it must work hard and be ready to navigate the bumpy stretches, twist and turns that lie ahead.

Expressing his disapproval of the recent turn of events in Nigerian football, Dare said, “We have 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.

“I will be shying away from the truth if I say everything is right with our football. Previous Annual General Meetings (AGM) have been too ordinary by simply accepting what the federation thinks it has achieved. But, like a cancerous wound, the problems that the board should have solved, keep festering so much so that our football is in a coma.

“Some have even taken the less optimistic stance of declaring that Nigeria’s football is dead. So, let us forget some of the pyrrhic feats we have achieved, especially when they have not translated into growth.”

He expressed his confidence in the ability of the federation to turn things around, but he also charged the board to restructure its operations and set timelines for its activities.

“No country’s football can grow without a predictable and credible football calendar that is binding on everyone. The essence of having a football calendar is to ensure that the corporate world can plan with it. 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. Do not forget that firms have to account for investors’ money they use for business. Such firms will only do business with organizations that are accountable; not the ones that are bogged down in controversies. If we must tell ourselves the truth, accountability is the soul of any business concern.

“The bad image at all levels of our football, including the organizers 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. I have had a cause in the past to speak on how perception is everything and the perception around the NFF is not one that will court new partners and sponsors for the Federation.

“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.”

Dare reminded the board members that the institutions saddled with the responsibility of vetting the activities of public institutions were still looking into the affairs of the NFF, adding, however, that nobody or group could stampede the bodies into taking rash actions.

“The institutions of the 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. Nigeria cannot change them simply because some people are in a hurry to get justice and by any means possible.

“We have seen how painstaking, thorough and sometimes how long investigations in international sporting bodies have taken. Some are still ongoing.”

He urged the NFF to always be transparent in its activities, saying it is the first step towards reducing corruption. He added: “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.”

On youth football development, the minister advised the federation to restructure its nurseries to check quackery and “spare our budding talents of the pain of doing business with shylock agents who trade them into slavish deals and inevitably ruin their careers.”

He added: “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.”

On the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL), Dare urged the NFF and the League Management Company (LMC) to behave like their international counterparts by yearly telling the world how much the country’s football was worth. How much is the domestic league worth, dear LMC chieftains?

According to Dare, when the NFF and the LMC begin to state how much they got from players’ transfers and make the figures available to interested parties, corporate sponsors would become confident in their activities and begin to look for ways to key into it.

He disclosed that his ministry has spent about four months working with experts and the organized private sector to turn Nigerian sports into a business, adding, “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 disclosed that the Federal Government is ready to introduce policies that would enhance football development and build investors’ confidence in Nigerian football, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to bringing back to life some of the country’s dilapidated and dead sporting facilities across the country through direct intervention and concession arrangement.

He added: “In January 2020, a flurry of deliberate and key activities will take place around our football. The Ministry will hold a public stakeholder forum on the 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.

“There will also be the engagement of select critical stakeholders to discuss with the organized private sector as we finalize a new National Sports Industry Policy (NSIP) draft.”


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