West Nile soccer team Onduparaka has taken the Uganda soccer scene by storm. A few weeks ago they achieved promotion to Uganda’s premier league. And then as if to prove that it was no a fluke they qualified for the Uganda Cup final, putting Entebbe to the sword with a 4-0 aggregate victory over two rounds in the semi-finals.
By the time you read this the Uganda Cup final would have been decided and you know whether the Onduparaka fairy tale will have run its course or has grown even bigger.
In Europe summer is sliding in and with it the seasonal flurry of sporting activity.
The European Football Championships are in full flow, cyclists are about to start the tortuous Tour de France, the grass court tennis season is looking to peak at the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon and the British Golf open will tee off in the west of Scotland in the middle of July.
One cannot help but marvel at the incredible facilities in which the sportsmen compete, the thousands of the paying public who turn up to witness these contests and the amounts the sportsmen win for the effort – the Wimbledon winner will pocket £2m (sh9.5b).
"If you go beyond your-jaw-hitting-the-floor and examine what it has taken to raise sport to such a lucrative endeavour, that sportsmen have found it fit to acquire the bare minimum of education before going off to travel the world and make a living, maybe teams like Ondurapaka will have a sustainable future...
Essentially the growth of sports in Europe went in parallel with the growth in those economies. The sports facilities started off as a deployment of surpluses drawn from those economies. These surpluses date back to the agrarian revolution, swelled into the industrial age and have literally exploded in the information and now, the conceptual age.
Of course sports have their place in the management of society. The more cynical will say sports is a useful distraction for the masses away from the more pressing issues. Sports of course has health benefits, necessary because our lives are more sedentary we are not out half the day chase our food around the savannah.
So clearly attaining national sporting excellence requires a robust economy sustained over years even decades.
In addition there have to be patrons willing to back these teams. The history of Europe’s top soccer teams is littered with rich businessmen supporting the clubs and setting a strong foundation for their eventual glory years.
We have had our share of sporting patrons but their initiatives have died with them or floundered with the patrons falling fortunes.
"What the European teams have been able to do, to varying levels of success, which our teams have failed to do, is build a corporate structure that can not only support the teams but ensure they outlive the original patrons...
In short our teams have to become businesses in order to sustain themselves.
Using Onduparaka as an example, while it has no stadium from which it can collect revenues, it has a passionate following that contribute to its finances.
There is the usual company structure that can be employed, with shareholders and a management that oversees the club’s running or they can adopt a cooperative structure like Barcelona FC’s , where the club belongs to the fans who contribute to its up keep regularly and may enjoy a return on their “investment” every so often, depending on the surplus the club can generate.
With either structure egos will have to be set aside and strict corporate discipline adopted.
This template, which can be used for any other sports team and association is not rocket science but it will not be smooth sailing as well as differences in opinion between the owners, management and fans will inevitably rock the ship occasionally. This will test the credibility of the club’s or association’s vision and mission and depending on how deeply ingrained these are will make the difference between success and failure.
"The point is, developing a viable sporting infrastructure like you find in Europe is not impossible but we will have to break our way from the self-destructive ways of our current business owners, harness our existing assets and embrace a long term view going years, decades even centuries into the future...
It can be done. The question is have the right conditions of growing economy, savvy business promoters and sporting challenge come together yet to make it happen?
Only time will tell.