Less than a fortnight ago, the cricket fraternity and National Council of Sports (NCS) were in awe of each other.
The Cricket Cranes had just returned from Malaysia where they won the ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division IV competition while the Lady Cricket Cranes were from Zimbabwe were they won the Women’s T20 Challenge – a preparation tournament ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in Netherlands.
NCS felt the achievements masterminded by Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) were worth a luncheon at Café Javas. But time flies and when the two bodies meet again this afternoon in Lugogo, the discussions and tension in the room will be a far cry from the camaraderie in Kisementi.
Behind the strain is NCS’ recent decision to allow Zoe Fellowship Ministries – of the Pastor Elvis Mbonye fame – rent the cricket oval every Tuesday for the next 24 months for prayer meetings.
“Having such activities on a cricket pitch is completely unacceptable,” UCA chairman Bashir Ansasiira alias Badu, told Daily Monitor.
“The costs of maintaining the pitch are high. But even before we get to the money involved, we have national teams training for future engagements and we do not have the luxury of facilities to allow anyone rent the pitch for that period of time.”
The decision has incensed majority of the cricket fraternity. Majority of the enthusiasts have expressed their disappointment and questioned NCS’s priorities on various social media forums while some have called for open protests.
However, NCS Acting General Secretary Dr. Patrick Bernard Ogwel, believes the move has been engineered by Badu and Acting Chief Executive Officer Martin Ondeko, to blackmail NCS over long-standing but silent feuds between the two bodies.
“First of all, this facility belongs to NCS and UCA are just tenants. But we appreciate the concerns and we know these are very unique grounds for cricket,” Ogwel said before revealing that Zoe have been informed that there will be changes in case of cricket engagements for the facility that they have hired at Shs8m per week (Shs768m over two years). “This facility is listed among NCS’ sources of revenues and since we all know that government does not give us all the money we need for activities as mandated under the 1964 Sports Act and Statutory Instrument 38 (2014 Sports Regulations), we need to hire out these facilities to bridge the financial gap,” said the tough talking Ogwel, who intends to use today’s meeting as a platform to end their feud with UCA.
“People, including UCA that owe us Shs21m for office space, actually hire facilities and these activities are regulated through NCS’s Business and Investment department in close consultation with UCA’s schedules.”
A source close to UCA, however, revealed to Daily Monitor that NCS is supposed to remit at least 12.5% of money (Shs5m of every Shs40m per show) earned from shows to UCA but has not been doing so over the years.
The source that preferred anonymity as it not the official spokesperson for the association explained that it is from this background that UCA have reneged on paying their Shs1.6m per month office dues to NCS.
Meanwhile there have also been scenarios in the past where games like basketball, hockey and volleyball have had to pave way for NCS’ extra activities. Actually Uganda Hockey Association (UHA) will not have their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that allows the astro-turf to lay in Lugogo renewed when it expires in 2019 as NCS look to redevelop the grounds.
“Once in a while we have international shows here and even UCA hold other non-cricket activities like the (John Walker) Jazz Safari Show. Zoe are only here for six hours per week and by 9am the next day, they have cleared the place on their own.
“UCA, who are currently off-season, are being very bad tenants and are overstepping the favours we granted them. I therefore want to use this opportunity to put the issues of UCA to conclusion. If they have warlords, let them put on their gloves to fight,” Ogwel concluded.
Suffice to note that Jazz Safari holds two shows a year at the oval, each one at Shs30m hence a total of Shs60m. NCS are believed to have UCA’s MoU with Jazz Safari on the same. One show sponsors the National Men’s League while the other foots bills for the National Women’s League. This is the last of three years for Jazz Safari three-year renewable deal with UCA.