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Cash crunch may force Cross River out of National Sports Festival

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PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI.

The dreams of the athletes listed by Cross River State for the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival to rub shoulders with their counterparts from other states may be dashed given the growing uncertainty over their participation in the fiesta.

The gloomy spell in the camp is attributable to the paltry sum of N10 million released by the state government to the Sports Commission, representing less than five percent of the budget the body submitted in respect of the festival.

Findings revealed that the Sports Commission has forwarded a 260 strong contingent, comprising about 190 athletes drawn from over 25 sports and their officials to the Federal MDAs in accordance with established norms to facilitate logistic arrangements ahead of the Edo 2020 Games.

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Top sources in the Commission said, “Out of the N10 million, about N4 million must be paid by the Commission to the federal regulatory agencies for insurance coverage and other logistics on every athlete captured in the list submitted earlier, whether or not they eventually wear the state’s colours at Edo 2020.

“Failure to comply with the laid down procedure by any state normally attracts severe penalties, including an outright ban from the festival for a specific period.”

The confusion triggered by the financial situation has left the Commission in a quagmire with no visible solution less than a week to the flag off of the festival in the ancient city of Benin, the Edo capital.

Insiders revealed that the Sports Commission is now under pressure to slash the number of sports it would compete for at the Edo 2020, as well as the officials in view of the financial situation.

When The Guardian visited the U.J Esuene Stadium yesterday, coaches and athletes were seen in clusters bemoaning their fate.

A coach, who pleaded anonymity, said it is demoralising for athletes to prepare for over two years for a competition only to be denied participation due to financial constraints at the dying minutes.

He added: “If such calamity is not averted, mass exodus would likely hit the Commission since such athletes discovered and groomed by the Commission must explore greener pastures to avoid killing their career in the state.”

Efforts to contact the Sports Commission Chairman, Emmanuel Elom, to clear the air on the matter were futile as he was said to be busy around town exploring multiple options to tackle the nightmare.

The Commission is expected to ferry the contingent to the festival, cater for their welfare, feeding, allowances, accommodation and other sundry packages likely to crop up at the Games’ village.

Cross River State was a force to be reckoned with at the festival during the administration of Senator Liyel Imoke, with a statutory allocation of a N100 million for the same National Sports Festival.

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