Commercialise sport, says Mhiribidi

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Russell Mhiribidi

Chipo Sabeta
Sporting stakeholders must work towards running the sport not only professionally, but also as a business in line with global trends, a sports leadership personality has said
Sports Leaders Institute of Zimbabwe (SLIZ) founding president, Russell Mhiribidi, says sport has shifted from being merely a source of entertainment to become a huge revenue earner.
“Sport is a big business and big businesses are heavily involved in sport. Today it seems there is hardly any level of sports participation, which does not have sponsorship or some variety of commercial venture.
“Sporting events, teams and even individual players wear logos on uniforms and appear in television advertising.
“This rise in commercialisation has almost become part of the modern game, but it is important to remember it has positive and negative effects on the sport, players and fans,” said Mr Mhiribidi.
Mr Mhiribidi, who is also the head of African Sports Management Association (ASAMA) Southern Region chapter, admitted there is need for more investments in grassroots, coaching and managerial aspects of sport to encourage participation.
He added that while more sports are turning professional with athletes living off the money generated by sponsorship, endorsements, contracts and prize money, there was still a need for proper management structures from grassroots level to the national teams.
Mr Mhiribidi explained that modern sport has become an industry and sports people are now being paid more than entertainment stars.
“Modern sport society has evolved. Commercialisation has changed the face of sport in every way possible to take advantage of the phenomenon that was once just known as leisure time.
“For that reason, sport mustn’t be managed at national level only.
“Athletes are now paid to train while sports management such as directors are now instrumental in running sport.
“The dissemination of sport professionalism has heralded a new era of strategies that are now put in place to exploit the consumer and maximise profit,” said Mr Mhiribidi, a former national basketball player and coach.
Experts believe local sport leaders are failing to grasp global trends where games are now professionalised.
Athletes are now marketing commodities, while broadcast rights cost huge amounts of money and sponsors are fighting it out for exclusive rights broadcast events.
This has allowed various sporting disciplines to rise from amateur to professional every year.
But Mr Mhiribidi says that international flavour and desire to professionalise still eludes local sport managers.
In March this year, SLIZ partnered with the West Virginia University in a deal that saw sporting courses being held.
An exchange programme where sports leaders would go to the United States to get more knowledge was also arranges.
A fortnight ago, SLIZ hosted its fifth two-day winter camp in Victoria Falls.
Professor Gonzalo Bravo from West Virginia University in US lectured on practical management of sport and physical education in the 21st century.
Last week, Mr Mhiribidi was one of the key Speakers at the National Recreation and Wellness Conference organised by the Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC) in Harare.
In November, SLIZ will hold its fifth sport management winter camp workshop in Nyanga aimed at empowering local sport administrators and coaches with necessary administrative skills.
SLIZ is a local non-Governmental organisation whose vision is to develop professional and knowledgeable sports leaders whose skills will enable them to fit into the international sports market.
Mr Mhiribidi is a holder of a Bachelor of Science Physical Education and Sports from the Zimbabwe Open University.
He also has a Sports Science degree from Concordia University in Canada and a Masters in Business Leadership from the same university.

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