Reviving Pakistan sports

May 26, 2024

The country’s sports community eagerly waits for the early implementation of well thought recommendations submitted to IPC ministry during the recent sports conference

Reviving Pakistan sports

Anational conference on revival of sports was organised by the Ministry of Interprovincial Coordination (IPC) and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) in Islamabad on 17th May 2024.

The daylong conference was enthusiastically attended by a large number of sportspersons, stakeholders from provincial Olympic associations, President POA Syed Abid Qadir Gillani, Mr Tariq Mustafa President Pakistan Paralympic Association, Mr Zahoor Ahmed Addl Secretary MOIPC/ DG PSB, and secretary of POA, representatives of national sports federations (NSFs), Brig Mujtaba Haider Director Army Sports Directorate, Aisam Ul Haq President Pakistan Tennis Federation, Khawaja Junaid, and a number of Olympians.

The credit of organising the conference and bringing all stakeholders under one umbrella to discuss national sports issues and propose workable solutions for revival of sports goes to Federal Minister for IPC & Planning Commission Mr Ahsan Iqbal, who has now handed over the charge of IPC ministry to Rana Sana Ullah and, Federal Secretary for IPC and Vice President PSB Nadeem Arshad Kayani.

Speaking on the occasion, Ahsan Iqbal declared 2025 as the year of sports revival in Pakistan. He said: “We have to start preparing for the 2028 Olympics from this day onward and mobilise all possible resources to restore normalcy in our sports culture.”

He stressed the revival of sports in the departments and rightly criticised the poor decision of eliminating departmental sports without any alternative strategy, that not only brought financial miseries for the poor sportsmen, but also played a pivotal role in collapse of the entire sports edifice of the country.

The federal minister stressed the importance of good corporate governance and the importance of transparency in financial matters of NSFs and announced that the much needed endowment fund for the welfare of sportsmen will be established very soon.

Nadeem Arshad Kayani said that sports holds the key for nation building and developing cognitive strength for our children, who need positive and constructive activities. He admitted that Pakistan Sports Board has capacity issues, and the ministry is trying its best to overcome these managerial and functional issues to make PSB an excellent support organisation for athletes and all NSFs. He highlighted the importance of data management and role of IT in developing sustainable and predictable pathways for athletes and federations alike.

Zahoor Ahmad rightly pointed out the importance of an economic model for sports organisations and announced that National Games for the year 2024 will be held in Karachi in December which will be inter-departmental and inter-provincial in nature.

President PTF Aisam ul Haq emphasised the importance of school games and suggested that every NSF have its marketing department. He was also of the opinion that leading sportsmen of the country should visit education institutions and share their success stories with students. He also said that he will retire from professional tennis after participating in the 14th SAF Games to be held in Lahore.

The discussion was carried out in 5 different groups which meticulously discussed the reasons for the decline of sports in Pakistan over the decades. A group was dedicated to discuss the role of departmental sports and its future prospects which was hugely impacted due to myopic policy decisions by the leadership of the PTI government.

Gohar Zaman, an ex-International football player and national football coach, Noman Ibrahim, Shahzad Anwar, Khuram Shahzad, and Malika Noor proposed various steps for development of football in line with the best international practices.

Dr Nabeel Ahmad, a nutrition and anti-doping expert, dwelt on the much ignored aspect of nutrition and sports specific diet for players competing at international level. The nutrition expert was of the opinion that there is a strong need to develop a nutrition lab in PSB where high energy food plans can be developed.

I was given the responsibility to steer the group responsible to look into the reasons for the decline of hockey and to propose a way forward for promotion and development of hockey on modern lines.

Khawaja Junaid the Olympian, Mr Sohail Janjua the FIH Umpire, and a number of international players were in the group who gave valuable input on the subject.

Everyone in the group agreed that Pakistan hockey went through a phase of decline because we couldn’t cope up with the pressing demands of modern hockey and our evolution was marred by petty politics and lack of capacity to adopt the modern style of hockey.

The experts agreed that hockey has become a very expensive sport and the common man cannot afford the game without adequate financial support.

The game lost its luster because of weak management and inadequate marketing strategies, and there was no planning to promote hockey in education institutions.

The biggest blow to hockey came when departmental sports were banned and the already struggling hockey players were forced to discontinue the game due to a financial crunch.

The experts agreed on the complete overhaul of hockey constitution and the upgradation of hockey federation status to an autonomous board like PCB. The group of experts also suggested that the President of PHF should be a paid appointment, and a gentleman of high stature from the corporate world or bureaucracy with loads of management experience, enjoying goodwill in the international hockey fraternity.

Khawaja Junaid came up with an excellent idea of establishing various High Performance Centers (HPCs) in districts of Pakistan where hockey is popular. Under 17, under 19 and under 21 players be admitted and trained by expert coaches there. Six-a-side hockey be promoted in education institutions.

The subject of installation of astro turfs across the country also came under discussion. It was proposed that astro turfs should only be installed after proper need assessment and not as a political favour.

Provision of jobs to hockey players, job security in departments, insurance plans for all sportsmen, medical cover, transparency in financial matters of NSFs and out of court settlements through alternate dispute resolution (ADR) for the legal matters faced by the sportsperson and federations were discussed in all groups.

Abu Zafar Sadiq, President Alpine Club of Pakistan, was of the opinion that the vision, strategy and goals adopted by NSFs holds the key for NSFs to embark upon the right direction of development in accordance with higher objectives of the apex bodies. He was of the opinion that besides internal check and balance, monitoring by PSB and POA to some extent over NSFs is necessary so that the electoral process and role of office bearers remain transparent.

Abu Zafar also highlighted the much needed best practice of documentation by respective NSFs in regards to the profiling of athletes and the necessity of transparency in financial matters of NSFs which should be handled by independent committees and supervised by strong professional internal and external auditors.

All the sports experts agreed that sports cannot be developed without proper financial support from the government; however, keeping in view the dismal financial situation, expectation of any large amount for sports development from the government at this stage will be quite unrealistic. Therefore, resource mobilisation, and fund raising through endorsements, media rights, sponsorships and CSR are very important.

The subject experts also noted with concern that though the representative of HEC was present in the conference, there was no representation from the Inter Board Control Committee (IBCC) which is responsible for organising sports at the level of secondary and higher secondary school/ college level. The absence of such an important stakeholder from this conference reflects the lack of understanding of the subject.

The experts also agreed that most of the Presidents in NSFs are not performing their primary task of raising funds for and are totally dependent on government grants. It is imperative that sports bodies carry out financial and performance audits of all NSFs and their grants be linked with their output.

In a nutshell, excellent proposals were submitted by all working groups to Misaq Ahmed Rizvi, who later compiled a comprehensive report and forwarded it to the Ministry of IPC.

While the stakeholders were enthusiastic about the development of sports and were foreseeing the establishment of a think tank to take these recommendations a step ahead towards sustainable actions, Ahsan Iqbal was relieved and Rana Sana Ullah was appointed as Minister IPC.

This change of guards at the ministerial level, the 18th amendment, and the major issue of lack of capacity among sports stakeholders throws a major challenge to the implementation of these recommendations.

The well-wishers of Pakistan sports eagerly wait for the early implementation of well thought recommendations submitted to the ministry during the sports conference.

Reviving Pakistan sports