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Why I support stadium deal with Coca Cola

WEIRD NEWS
By | April 8th 2012

By OMULO OKOTH

I have been to many stadiums around the world. From Beijing’s iconic Olympic Stadium, The Bird’s Nest, the magnificent Stade De France in Paris, London’s historic landmark Wembley and, closer home, Soccer City, and Ellis Park in South Africa.

Apart from competitions that are staged those stadiums, which is their predominant role, there are many interesting things that go on in the side lines.

Stadiums have become favourite joints for researchers, open air concerts, music extravaganza, entertainers, educators, businesspeople, the youth and the elderly all rolled in one.

They also showcase a country’s cultural heritage, architectural finesse and financial muscle, not to mention sporting prowess.

Here in Kenya, Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, stands out as the best, yet it it is far from what a modern stadium ought to look like.

Nyayo National Stadium, which is the second best on our land, trails Kasarani in capacity and viability.

Outside Nairobi, there is nothing much to write home about. In any case, many stadiums would easily pass as cattle dens or derelict structures.

Which is a shame because Kenya is one of the world’s most popular sporting destinations, thanks to her world-beating distance athletes.

However, Kasarani is getting better these days, thanks to the Sh1 billion Chinese renovation, which is about to end. And the stadium is not just about playing football, volleyball, swimming and basketball. It is a veritable going concern for the owners – Sports Stadiums Management Board. It hosts wedding parties, church functions, honeymooners, fun seekers on an outing, name it.

Because Governments cannot effectively maintain these stadiums, the corporate world has come in handy to pump in money and enjoy commercial benefits that go with such deals.

Coca Cola Company took over Ellis Park Stadium in the heart of Johannesburg and turned it around to become one of the world’s notable sports edifices. It was renamed Coca Cola Park.

Our own Nyayo National Stadium, donated to athletics by Sir Derek Erskine, who started the Kenya AAA in 1951, has reinstated its deal with Coca Cola Company, after the fiasco that led to the cancellation of the annual Sh100 million deal to cede naming rights to the company in exchange of major refurbishment of the stadium. This is good news.

Nyayo Stadium requires proper renovation to bring it up to scale with the other stadiums in the region. Despite being a (economic) younger brother, Dar es Salaam’s two stadiums are better than Nairobi’s Kasarani and Nyayo.

And this time there should be no politics of the type introduced by former Sports Minister Prof Hellen Sambili, who rejected the deal because of the weird demand to have the name Nyayo retained.

Of what help would retaining the name give if the stadium remains in its current state?

Corporate sponsor know their rights. Sportsbusiness.com reported last year that Brazilian oil company Petrobras offered naming rights for English Premier League side Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge. The latter tried to sneak in an amendment to rename it Petrobras Stamford Bridge, which was rejected by the former.

Companies need to reap optimum benefits for their hard-earned money and I think Coca Cola will raise the bar and bring Nyayo Stadium to international standards.

We need a Press Gallery there, underground exits, proper perimeter fence, full proof turnstiles where fans cannot smuggle in bottles and other dangerous objects, etc.

Outside the stadium, there should be merchandise shops selling sports goods and clubs’ replica jerseys, balls, and everything that goes along with sports, a sports bar selling non-alcoholic beverages, gymnasium, library, video hall showing past matches, especially key matches, grand slam finals, Formula One races, Olympic Games, name it. There is a huge potential around such a simple sponsorship like the one of Nyayo and Coca Cola.

Then other companies should target stadiums like Nairobi City Stadium, whose external part is a like a village market and other stadiums in the provinces.

— The writer is The Standard Sports Editor

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