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Lack of funds hurting sports

Our sports authorities will have to revise their budgets, otherwise things will continue to go south for our country at the international level

Lack of funds hurting sports

It is indeed a hard fact that without government’s support it is not possible for Pakistan’s sports federations to produce world champions.

Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) is responsible for providing funds to the federations and looking after other issues of the athletes. But its budget is too little and the Board cannot cope with the pressing challenges Pakistan’s sports are facing.

The other day during a chat with me, the outgoing Director General of PSB Dr Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera admitted that an enormous increase in the budget of the Board was needed. He said that at least Rs6 billion was needed if “you want to streamline the things.

“If you need medals in Olympics you have to have bigger budget. With Rs1 billion budget nothing could be done properly.

“Because of the financial constraints, national athletes are unable to get ample exposure ahead of any international event.

Pakistan is currently preparing for the Commonwealth Games but there is no plan to provide international exposure to the various teams ahead of the quadrennial event slated to be held in Gold Coast, Australia, from April 4-15.

Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF) has managed a tour of Iran for its grapplers. It has demanded Rs1 million from the Board. The Board has promised to release the amount. The squad reached Tabriz on Thursday and will train there for a month as national grapplers will feature in the Australia event on April 12 and 13.

Pakistan Kabaddi Federation (PKF) secretary Mohammad Sarwar has arranged the tour for national wrestlers. All the expenses are being met by the PWF.

National grapplers failed to feature in an international event in Iran because of financial issues last month.

How can one expect medals from players in international events without preparing them properly?

Even national camps have been started late because of budget deficiency with the Board. The Board has been unable to hire the services of foreign coaches for federations. During the last five years, very few coaches have been hired although the Board had some fund in its kitty for the purpose.

The Board will have to change its policy which it has made for hiring foreign coaches. The PSB gives 2500 dollars to a foreign coach which is too little, keeping in view the value of foreign coaches in international market.

The PSB will have to at least double this amount so that federations could hire reasonably qualified and experienced coaches.

Pakistan direly needs foreign coaches for athletics, table tennis, swimming, judo, wrestling, and weightlifting.

We have seen in the past that the foreign coaches have done a remarkably solid job. Currently, Iranian volleyball coach Hamid Movahedi is working in Pakistan. During the past one year, he has worked well with different age-group teams and taught the players modern volleyball system which was direly needed keeping in view the international challenges.

The Board should also increase the salary of home-grown coaches so that they could wholeheartedly focus on their job.

Last year some increase was made in local coaches’ salary but it was not sufficient.

A highly qualified home-grown coach should at least get Rs70,000 per month. Moreover, the daily allowance of the athletes training in the national camp should be at least Rs1000.

The PSB must also enhance the daily allowance of athletes and team officials during foreign tours. Without increasing incentives, it would be difficult to motivate the players and the officials.

National athletes earning medals in international circuit are not given rewards in time which discourages them.

Because of the budgetary issues, the PSB is unable to meet the preparatory demands of the athletes aiming to prepare for the Olympics which needs a solid four-year plan implementation.

Sometimes a player is backed partially for Olympic preparation but that is not enough. Unless an athlete participates in maximum international events which serve as qualifiers for Olympics, he cannot give a breakthrough.

We have the examples of Japan-based judoka Shah Hussain and Pakistan’s leading karateka Saadi Abbas. Both need more support in their Olympic bids and it is only the PSB which can meet their financial demands.

A few wrestlers, including Mohammad Inam, are aiming to fight for Olympic seats.

Ganjera told me that before retirement it was his desire to enhance the PSB budget manifold. Although Ganjera is now no more at the helm of affairs of the PSB, the federal minister for inter-provincial coordination (IPC) Riaz Pirzada is still there. Before completing his tenure as minister and president of the PSB, he should make a last-ditch effort to convince the government to make a substantial increase in the sports budget and take it to at least Rs5 billion.

I hope the Acting Director General of PSB Amir Ahmed Ali will also make substantial contribution.

It is expected that the PSB will get its new chief in the next couple of months. Under the newly-framed rules, the post of the DG PSB will be advertised and the new DG will be hired on a contract basis for two or three years.

The PSB needs a strong DG who could convert it into an efficient body, capable of meeting the sports challenges. The Board, which is a corporate body, also will have to generate its revenues through marketing. The Board needs restructuring and induction of such individuals who are efficient enough in their respective zones of working. The current clerical system has destroyed the Board.

I hope Pirzada gets my point. I am not satisfied with what the honourable minister has done for sports but it will be a great service if he manages to get a budget increase from the federal government in the last few months of his regime.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at [email protected]

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