Akure Township Stadium: A case for sports infrastructural development
Posted : 16 August 2023
Akure the capital of Ondo state has only one stadium which is a 5,000 capacity Akure Township Stadium located almost outskirts of the ancient town.
Akure Township Stadium is one of the smallest in size, mini stadium in Nigeria approved for the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL)as it serves as the home for the Ondo State-owned football clubside, Sunshine Stars of Akure.
Given that the management of NPFL sanctioned Akure Township Stadium for the premier league matches does not means that the stadium literally passed the high test of certification, it would be only a minimum condition met by the stadium.
All over the world, Stadium are seen as part of development agenda of the state and private business ventures.
Across the globe, sporting activities are regarded as a very important component of the socio- economic fabric of any nation, given the diverse ways it contributes to development.
Government across all levels in Nigeria have always played crucial roles in the promotion sports in the country, and till date, Nigeria remains a force to reckon with in the world of sports.
Football stadia in the world have continually evolved and developed while private investment is now taking over the government investment, or rather government now concession more of the state-owned stadium to private investors to manage on its behalf.
The Chinese government for instance have penchant for building gigantic sporting structures to aid the development of sports in the country, while the government of other countries in the European states have done such in the past.
The first 'modern were originated in the United Kingdom in the late 19 th century to reflect the demands of spectators and governing bodies, as well as the increasing profile of sports especially football itself.
Their changing nature and demands for stadium however, has continue to rise in recent times which makes the availability of sporting structures to become acute in the last two decades as economic reasons, coupled with safety and security necessitate the need for more in the face of paucity of funds in the less economic endowed states.
Not looking at the challenges however, the development of more stadium should be seen as a critical need and not an unwarranted necessity.
To this development, various stakeholders, from governing bodies to managers and investors in Africa especially in Nigeria need to brace up and put more emphasis on fundamental issues as it relates to the efficient development of modern sporting facilities that befits the environment.
For the people of Ondo State especially those in the city of Akure, the only township stadium which is just a 5,000 capacity is an underdevelopment in sports.
While there is no specific date when the Akure Township Stadium was constructed, yet, over the years, the stadium has seen just little improvement from what it used to be and what it is today.
The stadium is lacking in many standard, perhaps the only good thing that can be said about the Akure Township Stadium is it's Astro turf facility good enough for the NPFL matches.
Other feature such as dressing rooms, media tribune terraces and state box are below the standard of an international recognized facility.
When Sunshine Stars of Akure qualified for the CAF Confederation Cup in 2011, the match had to be moved away from Akure Township Stadium because the stadium lacked the capacity to hold such a high grade football match, also, in 2012, Sunshine Stars of Akure qualified to play in the prestigious CAF Champions League, Akure Township Stadium failed to pass the test of facilities by the CAF Inspection team, in lieu of this, Sunshine Stars FC had to opted to play their continental fixtures at a far distance in Ijebu Ode, Otunba Dipo Dina Stadium which of course, it's more of a neutral ground than home ground as the club's fan were not able to travel to such a distance to watch their darling club play.
However with the necessity of another stadium to complement a rather to small and underwhelming Akure Township Stadium, successive government has continue to look other way, and neglecting the impressing need to improve the obvious neglected part of making sports a business hub for the state.
Sometimes in 2008, the Ondo State government under the administration of Olusegun Agagu proposed a new 10,000-seater capacity and multipurpose sports complex.
To ensure that the project sees the light of the day, the government mobilized the contractors to work, but sadly, 15 years after the conception of the stadium, the site has now become a frowning abandoned place only fit for criminals who have made the dilapidating structure a haven for unscrupulous activities.
The administration of late Dr Olusegun Agagu had decided to put in place a state-of-the-art, 10,000-seater capacity stadium in the capital city of Ondo State, Akure.
The N5 billion project, which was initiated in 2008 by the Agagu government, however never saw the light of the day, as the project was at its 25 per cent construction stage when the Agagu-led administration lost power in 2009, after the Appeal Court sitting in Benin and declared Dr Olusegun Mimiko as the winner of the 2007 governorship election in the state.
Agagu on the need for a more befitting sports complex had stated that the only stadium in the capital city of Ondo State, Akure, had often failed to meet up with modern standards.
According to the report, although the functional stadium at the time was not a bad one, most of the facilities at the Akure Township Stadium were dilapidated. As such, work was initiated on a new stadium but work ceased at the site of the new project located around Maronu area in Akure, immediately after the exit of the Agagu administration.
According to a resident of Akure the new site of the stadium have now been overrun by weeds, while residents complained that the complex now harbours hoodlums.
The community leaders had in many times raised alarm over the abandoned stadium as criminals had been using the new stadium complex to perpetrate crimes.
The residents have made several appeals to the state Police command and the state government to find a means of protection for the abandoned site that often attract Indian hemp smokers and destitutes who are increasing in number with each passing day.
Because the abandoned complex have an open ground earmarked for playing turf, the open site is now converted to religious and social activities, while some parts have been occupied by scavengers who had taken over the little space around the stadium, operating without hindrance.
The resident also revealed that some shops have sprung up and attached to the fence of the abandoned stadium site, albeit illegally and indiscriminately.
Youths living around the abandoned sports complex also make use of the limited space available inside the stadium to play football, some driving schools also used some part of the compound to teach driving lessons.
To compound the woes of the abandoned sports complex, some of the materials lying around the stadium have been stolen which of course is an economic loss for the state.
Another resident, Mr Ishola Tokunbo, expressed displeasure over the state of the new stadium, accusing successive administrations after the Agagu-led government left power, of abandoning the project deliberately. According to him, “the old stadium contributed to the performance of the state-owned club, Sunshine Football Club, in the Premier league table, seeing as the club had been living on old glory, as the team was once banished to Ijebu-Ode for their home matches, scrambling for survival and fighting and swimming in relegation waters.”
While Tokunbo laid the blame at the doorsteps of the Mimiko’s administration, insisting that there was no reason that called for the abandonment of the project, except for political reasons, former Commissioner for Works in the state, Mr Gboye Adegbenro, explained that the decision of the Olusegun Mimiko-led administration to stop work on the construction of the new stadium initiated by Agagu, was never political.
According to him, N5 billion for the 10,000-seater capacity stadium was ridiculous. He explained that if the first stadium in the whole of South-West region, built in 1959 could boast of around 40,000-seater capacity, it would not really be wise to construct anything lesser. He, however, said the former government planned to redesign and expand the new Akure Stadium, with a pledge to construct other stadia in the state before the end of its tenure, but the dream of constructing a new stadium was not possible.
Speaking on the abandoned stadium project before his death, Agagu, in an interview, had said: “We had a stadium in Akure. It was not a bad stadium, but it was where we held most of our programmes. And when we looked at the purse of the state, we started to build a new stadium which had a completion time of 24 months from June 2008, and we had paid 50 per cent to the contractor, while the balance of 50 per cent was in the bank.
“So, two years from 2008, there would have been an old stadium that was well-maintained and a brand new state-of-the-art stadium. Unfortunately, the old one has been broken into pieces in the name of refurbishment, and the new one has been completely jettisoned.
``That does not make sense to me, and I don’t think it will make sense to anybody else, except for the author of that decision.”
A coach in the employ of the state government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “It is unfortunate that this project is abandoned. We should not allow this to become another waste. This project could be converted to profitable economic assets that could generate income for the state.
``Apart from the potential positive social impact on youths, the stadium, if completed, and put into productive use, would provide jobs for a considerable number of the unemployed because sport attracts many economic activities.”
The coach called on the state government to take quick steps to reactivate the project and flush out the hoodlums and herdsmen who had taken over the stadium complex, saying the stadium was now an unofficial grazing reserve for cattle and serves as shelter for their owners.
He said: “We have good materials in this state, which if exposed to modern and right training processes, would produce the best in this state.”
A former Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development in the state, Honourable Saka Yusuff Ogunleye, had frowned at the state of the abandoned stadium by the past administration, saying it was not in the best interest of the people of the state.
The commissioner, who then visited the site of the project, expressed disappointment over the stage of work at the site, noting that the state government had expended more than N3 billion on the project, saying Mimiko deliberately abandoned the project.
However, Ogunleye assured the people of the state that the present administration would build a befitting Olympic-sized stadium for the state.
He noted that it was unfortunate how things had degenerated, but expressed preparedness to hit the ground running towards restoring life back to the stadium.
“We cannot fold our arms and leave this monument to just waste away. There is no doubt about it that this administration is ready to develop sporting activities. We are taking it to the next level. We will bring back most of our abandoned sporting activities.
``The principal cups, inter-school matches, we are bringing them all back. We are also going to ensure that our youths are adequately engaged.
``We will take our youths off the streets. This administration does not want our youths to be used as thugs,” he stated.
After all said and done, the ancient town of Akure still lack modern day sport complex as the administration of Olusegun Agagu has yet to fulfill it's promise to complete the new Akure Stadium.
As the people of the state, especially the residents of Maronu community, anxiously await government action to wade off criminals from their area, it is expected that the needful would be done and the promise is fulfilled of putting the stadium to good use.