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Sinking under its own weight

The Pakistan Sports Board was formed to help boost sports in the country. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons it has failed to do its job

Sinking under its own weight

Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) is the strongest governing body of sports in the country but it has failed to deliver the way it should have. And the basic reason behind this is that it has failed to develop a skilled team. If we analyse its staff we will find that barring its Director General Dr Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera, who has a vast experience in sports administration and a few other directors and coaches who are competent, the rest of the staff members are the most inefficient despite drawing handsome salaries and other benefits.

I have come to know through highly reliable sources that some of its officials from Grade-17 to 19 in various departments in the Board don’t have even relevant qualification and this has badly dented the efficiency of the Board.

Most of these appointments are political. There are a few top officials of the Board who have strong backing in the political and military set-up of the state. And that is why their positions in the Board are safe.

The performance of the female staff within the body is also not satisfactory. In the provincial headquarters, I have seen that the PSB directors are just wasting time. It seems that they have nothing to do.

We have also seen that some former players have also served in the capacity of directors of the PSB Coaching Centres in the provinces but they have proved to be the most ineffective administrators.

All of this should change.

In order to improve working of the PSB, its team should be skilled and strong enough to cope with the pressing challenges.

The PSB Director General is considered king of the Board. Many of us will feel that he is the most powerful man. But unfortunately, this is not the case. On paper the PSB boss enjoys full administrative and financial powers but in reality most of his working is obstructed and influenced by the Ministry of IPC and other high-ups who relate to the sector directly or indirectly.

Unless the PSB Director General is given freedom in handling the Board’s affairs as per constitution, positive results would not be produced. It would be much better if he forms his own team. And if still he fails to deliver then he should be made accountable.

There should be certain working parameters in the entire board and every department should contain efficient man-power, qualified enough to produce desired results.

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The Board is responsible to assist the national sports federations in terms of state funding, infrastructure, facilitation of training camps, hiring of foreign coaches, athletes’ nutrition, equipment provision, sending contingents for international spectacles, sending athletes for foreign training and so many other areas of sports development.

But so far, PSB has been unable to meet the requirements of the national athletes because of very less budget.

Currently, the PSB budget for the financial year 2017-18 is around Rs997 million which is not enough.  And of this, major chunk is spent on salaries and other matters and a very small amount is left for spending on athletes’ development.

A few days ago the IPC Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada also raised this issue in the parliamentary committee meeting. He told senators that the PSB budget is too meagre to meet demands of national sports.

It is important to raise the Board’s budget to Rs5000 million. The Board needs to boost its infrastructure and raise the standard of accommodation for the athletes. Our athletes are stunned when they are put up at a luxurious residence during their participation in any major continental or global competitions.

It would be of cardinal importance if the PSB’s hostels at its headquarters in Islamabad and federating units are transformed into a seven-star facility. This will leave a very good impression on the performance of the athletes. It will also serve as a motivating factor for the rest of the youth who will turn towards sports.

Currently, the Board’s accommodation facility, particularly, in its provincial set-ups is very much disgusting. We should learn from Turkmenistan, a nation of only over 60 million population, which has established such a splendid infrastructure in its capital Ashgabat which has bewildered the international sports experts during the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games last September.

The Board also needs to have hefty fund for meeting the equipment requirement of the players. There are several precedents when our athletes have failed to deliver in international circuit because of the poor quality of equipment they use.

The equipment is so expensive that it is not within the reach of every athlete to purchase.

When national boxers were preparing for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, they were punching in the air in the federal capital because of lack of punching bags.

Most of the national federations are in dire need of foreign coaches and foreign training for their athletes but because of less budget with the PSB very few are often fully or partly backed which is not good for the health of the country’s sports.

Foreign tours are very important ahead of any international meet. But in Pakistan, the same practice is not followed. Next year, Pakistan will participate in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games but there are no any such ambitious plans seen from the federations regarding sending their athletes abroad or inviting foreign teams to Pakistan for joint training because of financial constraints.

And the real issue is that without state funding, hardly a few federations may be able to field their brigades in international events. Sponsors in Pakistan are least interested in any sport other than cricket.

Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) also does not consider itself responsible for financing national teams and so it is only the PSB which can play a leading role in the sports development of the country provided it is properly ‘restructured’ and made efficient by injecting technocrats into it.

After Ganjera’s retirement early next year, it would be interesting to see who will be appointed by the federal government to head the Board which direly needs reforms. Appointing PSB’s DG is the sole prerogative of the prime minister who also serves as patron of the Board. Before leaving the ministry, IPC minister Riaz Pirzada should play a key role in bringing in a capable person to run the Board in the most effective way.

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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