A great development that has helped spur development of sports in the country is for parliament to do the sports funds allocation or appropriation to each National Sports Federation (NF) in Uganda.
This had become a major point of disagreement in the sports sector. Following several failed pleas to have the sports funds appropriation criteria finalised, Parliament stepped in to sort out this matter which in many ways it has the right to do so anyway NFs have greatly applauded parliament for the above development and we are indeed now starting to see the resolution of key stumbling blocks to genuine - impactful sports development in the country such as funding for NF offices and secretariats, adequate allocation of funds to local sports development, etc.
In the past, almost all sports funds were directed towards foreign travels and competitions, creating a huge vacuum in as far as local sports development was concerned. This is now in fact a very big problem for all NFs because the new Sports Act wants these NFs to have appreciable local presence in no less than 70 districts of Uganda.
Having sorted out the NFs funding problem, which I still insist was a very good development from parliament, there now exists three main problems with this funding issue. The first is that some NFs are getting abnormally low amounts of funding to the tune of only Shs 10 million the whole year, which ideally cannot do much for these NFs.
The second problem is that netball and boxing were downgraded from Shs 3 billion to only Shs 320 million. Then others like motorsport were
upgraded from Shs 1.2 billion to Shs 3 billion. While NFs like Motorsport may jubilate, they must remember that this was all done without any known or openly shared criteria and so was the downgrade of boxing and netball.
This then means that next financial year, any NF can be upgraded or downgraded without any clear criteria and given this current year’s precedence on the same, no NF will be expected to complain should they fall in the downgraded category.
I have told some of my fellow NF leaders that what has happened to boxing and netball can happen to any other NF next year. As such, we need to push for proper and known criteria that are used to both appropriate the sports funds as well as demarcating clearly and transparently which NF qualifies for which funding amount.
The third problem that I wish to focus on mainly today is the lack of funding allocation to the National Council of Sports (NCS) to help NFs that may need more than their allocation and those that may fall into urgent financial needs for whatever reason. I am of course happy that my very own table tennis (TT) was allocated Shs 320 million this year because this had never happened ever since I became president of TT (since October 2014) and indeed it had never happened at all in the entire history of our sport (since 1952).
However, what happens to NCS today can happen to TT tomorrow if we do not stream ine this very contentious issue of the funds appropriation
Secondly, NCS will always be our mother sports body in Uganda. To leave NCS with no funding to help NFs is a very serious mistake. For instance, TT had an incident last year when our para TT team travelled to Argentina and while returning to Uganda, one of the players tested positive for Covid and then the whole team had to remain in Argentina.
They did not board their return flight which then meant that their return air tickets got wasted. It was NCS that stepped in to resolve this financial nightmare.
Allow me also share the recent incident where the Uganda baseball president knelt down before the sports minister, Peter Ogwang, in our last Sports Forum and literally shed tears pleading for funds to take the National Ladies’ Baseball team to Japan for a championship they had qualified for through a very hectic struggle.
Unfortunately, the minister could not do anything because NCS simply does not have any funding to salvage such situations. Not only were the baseball players’ dreams shattered but also the Uganda Baseball Federation now faces huge fines for not participating in the Japan championship.
Another very disturbing matter I can share here is the new Sports Act which requires all NFs to be in no less than 50% of all the 135 districts of Uganda by September 2024 or else they are de-registered. Our NFs require funding to fulfill this requirement of the new law. For some like swimming where a pool costs no less than Shs 100 million to construct, one swimming pool in each of the 70 districts means they require Shs 7 billion to fulfill this requirement.
Such funds do not exist anywhere in the sports budget allocation and could have been resident at NCS. I want to make a plea to parliament to try and remedy this situation. NCS remains our mother, and children will always run to mummy when in need or distress. An incapacitated mummy, unable to help her children can be a very dangerous situation for the entire family.
The writer is president of Uganda Table Tennis Association and secretary general of the Union of Uganda Sports Federations and Associations