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Yes, athletics can draw huge crowds

By James Bakama

Added 19th February 2018 09:48 AM

It is simply unacceptable to go to a national trial and all you get are athletes, team officials and officiating personnel.

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It is simply unacceptable to go to a national trial and all you get are athletes, team officials and officiating personnel.

My column last week centered on the fact that athletics body UAF was not doing enough to attract crowds to its events.

I got quite a bashing especially from federation officials who felt I was judging them too harshly. Some UAF officials have even branded me as being anti athletics.

I however, maintain my stand that very little has been done to endear one of the most popular sports to Ugandans.

It is simply unacceptable to go to a national trial and all you get are athletes, team officials and officiating personnel.

Crowds motivate performance. Like I said last week, I have witnessed records being broken largely as a result of crowd support.

Sports fans have the power to boost athletes’ psyche thereby enhancing concentration and ultimately performance.

It is commonly accepted that cheering positively also influences a team performance.

This is why the “home court advantage” is so coveted; when playing in their home city, teams receive much more support from the crowd in attendance.

It is for this reason that UAF should have a deliberate effort at crowd attraction. After all, benefits would not only be in athletic excellence, but also economic returns.

Ugandan football, whose rating on the international scene is nowhere close to UAF, today commands hefty amounts of money in sponsorships because of the crowds it commands.

I usually like using music as a point of comparison with Ugandan sport.

Comparatively our musicians just like our footballers are nowhere close to our runners. But interestingly, they command a bigger local following.

This has a lot to do with the effort that musicians invest prior to their events. For starters, they are all over the media.

Then there are the drive by efforts to endear them to particularly the public in localities close to venues of their performances.

Their steadily growing popularity has in the process also attracted huge corporate entities. These have taken over publicity budgets. The rest is history.

A look at for instance Namboole where most of UAF’s trials are staged reveals a huge unexploited resource. Kireka, Kinawataka and Bweyogerere jointly have over 50 schools.

When you talk of Kira and the numbers of schools are even much bigger. What easier area to mobilise crowds than such organized entities?

UAF is even privileged to have telecommunication giant MTN as its main sponsor.

You’ve certainly not forgotten the wonders that mobilization tools like for instance match caller notifications did in boosting football crowds.

Then also why isn’t UAF using its stars to promote its stars? For instance Stephen Kiprotich at his height  in 2012/13 if properly used to market UAF would have filled Namboole.

UAF however hasn’t cashed in on this goldmine. This is in sharp contrast to the athletes’ international managers who have milked this opportunity on the global circuit.

I again insist that UAF seems unaware of the huge resource in its midst.

 

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