On 10th December 2020, Sports Federations and Associations of Uganda made history by morphing themselves into a united group called the Union of Uganda Sports Federations and Associations (UUSFA). This marked the very first time that Ugandan Sports Federation leaders decided to come together for a united effort to develop Ugandan sports. With UUSFA, each federation will no longer have to lobby on its own for resources. With the exception of FUFA (football) most of the other federations have been very weak when they lobby individually from various potential sponsorship partners.
The weakness of our federations can be seen in nearly all of them not having powerful sponsors availing huge resources. For instance whereas FUFA can pull up to 10 billion shillings from Airtel and another 10 billion from Startimes TV, no other Federation can even attract 1% of this amount of funding from any potential sponsor. Not even the other seemingly financially well-off federations like Athletics, Netball, Boxing, Basketball and Rugby can attract this kind of funding. Surprisingly even our own mother body, National Council of Sports (NCS) with an entire marketing department cannot attract this kind of funding. This just goes to highlight the importance of a united effort by all stake holders in the sports sector in lobbying sponsorship partners because apparently none of us can do it alone.
The Sports federations therefore correctly need a united front that gives them some advantages that are vital to sponsors, most especially bigger numbers. When a sponsor knows that their product can be marketed by 50 federations working together, then they will be more easily attracted to sponsorship proposals from such a united group. The group also gives the sponsor bigger numbers of both potential buyers and brand ambassadors for their products. One of the key areas of focus for UUSFA will therefore be the joint promotional agreements with potential sponsors. There may be no company willing to say no to a group of federations that have agreed to, for instance, give it exclusive rights to sale its products at all federation events for an entire year.
For a long time, many people have blamed Federation leaders for continuing to only complain about what they lack instead of engaging practical steps to get more resources to help themselves. Many federations have usually put the blame on other organisations, especially the NCS for failure to avail much needed resources. However this time, the Federations decided to try resolving their deficiencies by themselves and not to blame anyone else all the time. The interim Executive Committee of UUSFA therefore decided to adopt a slogan that reads “Speaking for Ourselves by Ourselves.”
There has indeed been a tendency for the federations to sit back and let other people speak and handle their business for them, especially NCS, Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) and the Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC). This tendency has proved very unsatisfactory giving rise to many complaints from the federations in regards to failure by the above bodies to handle certain aspects the way the federations want. Little did the federations know that each of these bodies has its limitations; some of which are statutory in nature. These limitations make it somehow unfair for these bodies to be blamed much.
A very good example is NCS that has lobbied unsuccessfully for about 3 years now for the sports budget to be increased to 197 billion Ugx. The problem is that NCS is lobbying from the ministry of finance which is made of what can best be described as bosses (or employers) of NCS officials. There is a limit as to how much pressure and insistence any employee can put on their employer; unless of course they have decided that they can as well lose their job and they no longer care. Anything other than this and such an employee will always coil and walk away whenever they are told that there is no money to effect the increment they are asking for.
The UOC has a totally different mandate in Uganda mainly centered around the international competitions such as the Olympic Games, commonwealth games, All Africa Games, etc. The UOC therefore has very limited or nearly no capacity (statutorily) to push government to increase the sports budget allocation. This leaves us with our friends at the MOES who unfortunately share the same limitations with those at the NCS. Both are government employees that cannot insist relentlessly on any push for a budget increment for sports once their bosses in Finance have made it clear there is no money for such an increment.
In comes UUSFA, a body made up of politically elected or appointed individuals who are expected to oversee the development of their sports federations. None of the UUSFA members can be held back by any limitation applicable to NCS, MOES or UOC. In actual sense, failure by sports federation leaders to develop their federations automatically leads to massive headache for them from within their federations. Their electorate (or call them their employers) are not government. They are the citizens of the republic of Uganda morphed into various sports clubs within the Federations.
That electorate votes Federation leaders into power to develop those respective games. Any failure on this front can easily lead to calls for replacement of such federation leaders. This then gives these leaders added incentive to push government to help the federations better without the fear that NCS or MOES officials would have. When I was on next radio last week I used a rather inaccurate but clear analogy. I said and I quote *“if NCS officials walked into Salim Saleh’s office, they cannot kick any tables but for us we can kick.”* Well, of course we are too disciplined to kick tables but the whole point was that as sports leaders we can push beyond the limits that NCS cannot.
It is this fundamental difference that makes UUSFA a magic bullet for the Ugandan Sports Sector. Nearly all Ugandans agree that government has been under funding the sports sector. But government also cannot be blamed much because it has so many priorities and the funding is just not enough. In such a situation, only the best lobbyists can move government to award them more funding. To be honest and sincere, thus far, sport has not packaged its importance to the nation very well. Up to now the country looks at sports mainly as a leisure, fun and purely recreational activity. The other benefits such as employment, health, unity and reduction in crime are still majorly unappreciated contributions.
The above is a glimpse into the key engagements that UUSFA is going to undertake very dedicatedly in 2021. UUSFA was mainly formed to hunt down development resources for sports and therefore most of our engagements will be in this direction. The interim board will soon embark on agreement on a series of activities that we need to undertake to achieve the main objective for which UUSFA was formed. The ability of UUSFA to rise above the limitations of NCS and MOES officials makes UUSFA the magic bullet that everyone in these bodies should embrace and utilize because the most important gap that has existed in Ugandan sports has been lack of a body like UUSFA that can aggressively say and push for the things that other bodies cannot.
UUSFA gives the other bodies an extra weapon to utilize in their quest for more development resources for Ugandan Sports. Now that the Federation leaders have started speaking for themselves, the synergy of efforts will indeed yield the desired outcome. We shall also need to appreciate that government is more interested in the real benefits of sports to this country and this cannot be just trips abroad, medals or records. More importantly the country has serious problems like unemployment, wealth creation, youth idleness and crime. If we can crystalize our message and pathway to address these problems, government will definitely allocate more resources to sports.
The above is something that the federations have been saying for a very long time but for some reason our sister sports bodies NCS, MOES and UOC have taken long to change their message so that it rhymes with the above real benefits to the country. From many angles, we are all going to have to accept that the message of trips, medals and trophies has kept us underfunded and therefore we must now try a new message of promoting employment, peace and national development. Well, at least we all know that we cannot keep doing the same things again and again but expect different results.
Perhaps as mentioned above, our sister bodies have always had limitations that prevent them from adopting the new message. UUSFA will therefore become the magic bullet that can speak this message. The best part will also be that the sports federation leaders are now speaking for themselves and by themselves. It was of course terribly wrong to let other people keep crying on our behalf. Naturally no one takes you serious if you really cannot come out to say what you need yourself. It is actually laughable that you can have serious needs but you prefer to stay in your bed as others speak those needs on your behalf.
From all angles therefore the Sports Federations have made the best choice to come out to speak for themselves and to supplement the efforts thus far in place by NCS, MOES and UOC. From now onwards it is a four (4) pronged approach that is definitely going to yield positive outcomes. UUSFA has already written to all the other 3 mother bodies seeking for meetings so that all efforts can be harmonized. The hunt for development resources should henceforth take center stage ahead of nearly all other hunts and the other 3 mother bodies will do well to load their guns with the UUSFA magic bullet and fire better than ever before.
The Writer is the UUSFA Interim Secretary General & President of the Uganda Table Tennis Association (UTTA)