Where are sporting federations going wrong?

Boxing is one of the least active sports in Rwanda. / Courtesy.

Recently, I had a chat with the head of one sporting federation at an event, which was the first they had organised in a long time. 

The purpose was to find out why his federation had not been active in over a year.


I left the discussion with mixed feelings, but mostly disappointed that some of our sports officials lack an appreciation of what can be achieved with the sport they are elected to lead.


Much as he was ambitious, on the side of it, he was rather shortsighted as it is the case with most of his colleagues – in other sports – on what it takes to achieve their goals.


Of the over 30 sporting federations registered in Rwanda, (maybe) about half are active while the rest are nowhere to be found in the industry. As always, most of them argue that the main challenge they are confronted with to implement their plans is lack of financial resources.

Well, sponsorship oils the wheels that lead to success. What these federations tend to ignore is the importance of having multiple alternatives to fix this perceived challenge. And, to always have Plan B for backup. 

The global sports industry is today one of the fastest evolving industries, but it looks as though some of our national sports federations are yet to receive the memo.

Federations need to know and understand fans of their sports, and cater to their demands. Any sports fanatic is willing and able to pay for a well-presented sport event. But, most fans say they hardly see value for their money in sports.

While most follow football, cycling and basketball, some fans also have interests in other disciplines such as cricket, volleyball and martial arts. Also, it would not be surprising if some did not know there is rugby or golf in Rwanda.

For federations to overcome financial and sponsorship gaps, they should have an insight of who their fan is, where and how to connect and engage with them.

The issue of non-availability of funds has and will continue to be an outstanding hurdle for as long as the most important partner – the fan – is not taken into consideration.

Sports federations and their administrators need to have business acumen, and be strategic enough on how to achieve or surpass set targets. Their responsibility goes way beyond scheduling fixtures and managing referee committees. 

The Tour of Rwanda, whose 12th edition starts on Sunday, is a testament. Its consistency, sustainable planning, and ability to attract millions of spectators make it attractive as a brand for sponsors to associate with.

Cycling in Rwanda ticks all the right boxes for event presentation; attendance, entertainment, high competition level and TV audience. The organization has become an appeal to fans which in turn has influenced investment decisions for sponsors. 

Collection and use of data is another thing other federations could learn from the local cycling governing body (Ferwacy) and the organisers of Tour du Rwanda. 

The availability of accurate data constitutes a market strategy for any sporting body to unlock opportunities through public-private partnerships.

But, it all starts with a strategic plan of what they want to achieve.


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