On February 16, 2023, the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (Fufa) announced that Uganda would host its upcoming Afcon qualifiers in Egypt and later Cameroon.
The announcement rattled feathers of many football enthusiasts who outragedly called out Fufa for ineptness. The Fufa president Moses Magogo was quick to distance the entity from this, asserting that; “All over the world, football associations do not own football stadiums.
Many have said we should become the first, but building a football stadium is costly. Building a stadium is not building a toilet.”
The Confederation of African Football (Caf) had announced earlier that month that Uganda and its neighbours South Sudan and Kenya were among the 24 countries whose stadiums failed to meet its requirements.
The current lack of first-class sports facilities in the country and the undesirable situation of hosting our continental matches in Egypt and Cameroon got me reminiscing my past voyages to some of football’s greatest showpieces - the World Cup.
I have been to four World Cup tournaments - South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014, Russia 2018 and the most recent one of Qatar in 2022. All the past four World Cup hosts have one common denominator - they are all oil and gas-producing countries that have invested heavily in sports infrastructure.
I may not agree on many fronts with Magogo, but I concur with him when he says construction of sports facilities, especially world-class football stadiums, is quite costly. Qatar, a country of about 2.6 million people pulled off one of the most memorable World Cup experiences.
To pull off this feat, the ‘Oil Sheiks’ invested a whopping $220 billion. The biggest expenses went towards the construction of new stadiums, new infrastructure like hotels, roads and a metro system connecting the different cities.
Russia, an oil and gas producer, spent $14.2 billion to successfully host the 2018 World Cup. According to the Moscow Times, most of the associated costs were directed to transport infrastructure (roads and metro), stadium construction and accommodation facilities.
The 2014 World Cup cost the hosts Brazil $11.6 billion - with most of it going to stadiums and support infrastructure. South Africa beat off fierce competition from continental heavy weights like Libya, Morocco and Egypt (all petroleum producers) to host the 2010 World Cup.
All these countries managed to successfully host these tournaments because of, inter alia, the petroleum revenues earned. Oil revenues, if managed well, can change the destiny of any given society and improve the standards of living.
Uganda’s lack of adequate key infrastructure like stadiums and other major crucial mega projects can only be achieved if the country’s balance of trade payments brings about a surplus budget that can be re-channelled to strategic sectors like sports.
According to the National Development Plan II, Uganda’s target was to increase the paved national roads from 3,795km to 6,000km by 2020. However, this goal was not achieved, registering only a 19 per cent (600km) increment.
The underperformance was largely attributed to lack of adequate funding. Each kilometre of a paved/tarmacked road costs about $1 million, implying that the country would require about $3.2 billion to achieve its target of 6,000km of tarmacked roads.
Relatedly, another mega project, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line estimated to cost about $12.8 billion. Due to a limited resource envelope, little has been achieved in this regard. But all hope is not lost!
The Public Finance Management Act ringfenced petroleum revenues for infrastructure development. Such infrastructure includes sports facilities that can act as a base for sports talent development for the youths.
Equally, the industry has attracted several Fortune 500 companies as explorers or service providers, some of whom like TotalEnergies and Worley Parsons are sponsors of continental football and clubs in European elite leagues. These should be enticed to support local sports.
Unlike in the past, the sports fraternity has amassed a critical mass at key decision-making board tables – right from the current Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka, the current speaker of parliament and her deputy, a select number of members of parliament, Ramathan Ggoobi, the PSST, chief executives of renowned corporate entities, and many others. H.E Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, is a strong sports enthusiast.
I, therefore, rally all sports enthusiasts to support Uganda’s oil and gas project and shun with contempt any saboteurs.
The writer is the director, Legal and Corporate Affairs at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda and a seasoned sports administrator