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Umpires’ welfare, critical to growth, development of tennis, says enthusiast

Tennis racket and balls

By Victor Okoye

Sylvester Uzoama, Chief Executive Officer, Circum Group, says the welfare of umpires is critical to the growth and development of the game of tennis.

Uzoama made the remarks during the unveiling and presentation of new kits to the Nigeria Tennis Umpires Association (NTUA) at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium on Saturday in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the donations of 200 set of kits to NTUA was part of the company’s corporate social responsibilities and the result of a five-year deal signed by both parties in 2000.

The Circum Group boss said his company was focused on the umpires basically because he felt they were the missing link that needed upgrading.

“We started organising international tournaments, but realised the umpires weren’t meeting up, especially in their outlook. So, we felt that this was a very important area to address.

“We came up with this kit arrangement and it is going to be on for a five-year period. We are already approaching the end of the second year.

“We intend to ensure that the standards are maintained, the uniforms are renewed on a periodic basis.

“Asides from that, we also provide some kind of stipends to ensure that they can also meet some of their upkeep needs for these tournaments,” he said.

The tennis enthusiast noted that the umpire’s job was more like a volunteer service, adding that there was therefore a need to provide some support towards their activities.

“Nigeria is beginning to host international tournaments, especially here in the FCT and when a tournament is being organised, it is not just about the players.

“There has to be the right ambiance, the right look. So, I felt that there was a need to make sure that the umpires were also looking representative not just of the country or the tournaments, but even of themselves.

“You look at other international tournaments, you are seeing players wearing some lovely designer uniformed outfits. So, I felt that there was a need to ensure that Nigeria was not left out in that regard,” he said.

He revealed that his company was looking forward to renewing the contract and also considering the possibility of taking it beyond the donation of T-shirts.

“It is also important for their trousers/skirts as well as their footwears to be uniform. They still don’t have caps too and we know how sunny the weather sometimes can be.

“So, definitely we are looking at improving on the package that will come subsequently and also looking at how to step up their monetary package as well.

“It is a continuous programme and I am hopeful that we will definitely be able to impact them better,” he said.

He urged other private organisations and corporate bodies to step forward and embark on one or two little projects, to ensure the growth and development of sports in the country.

“When we do little things in a big way, it starts to look like we are doing extraordinary things.

“It really doesn’t have to be tennis, it could be boxing, archery, or any other sports, but when we have some level of participation and support, it definitely helps to improve sports generally in the country,” he said.

Kehinde Ijaola, the National Chairman of NTUA, appreciated the sponsor for the donations, adding that the gesture meant a lot to the association.

(L-R) Sylvester Uzoama, CEO, Circum Group, Segun Adepoju, Vice National Chairman, Nigeria Tennis Umpires Association (NTUA) and Arinola Isa at the unveiling and presentation of new kits for umpires at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja
(L-R) Sylvester Uzoama, CEO, Circum Group, Segun Adepoju, Vice National Chairman, Nigeria Tennis Umpires Association (NTUA) and Arinola Isa at the unveiling and presentation of new kits for umpires at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja

Ijaola, who was represented by Segun Adepoju, the vice national chairman, explained that the five-year deal also came with other mouth-watering incentives attached to it as well as a token fee of ₦100,000 on an annual basis.

“So far, Circum Group have kept to their part of the bargain as they have been paying us the yearly token.

“We also got the delivery of the first batch of the kits, barely two months after the deal was signed two years ago, and now we are getting another delivery of the second batch,” he said.

Adepoju said the gesture had gone a long way in helping the umpires to perform better and as a result, giving international recognition to several of its members who had been invited to participate in top tournaments around the world.

“As we speak, our chairman is in France and will be part of the officials at the French Open next week, which is a Grand Slam event.

“In addition, about three other umpires have been assigned to travel to London next month to participate in the Wimbledon Open.

“Indeed, if we could be recognised and invited to take part in grand slams, ATP Challengers as well as other WTA tournaments, it shows that we are doing very well as a group,” he said. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

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Edited by Idris Abdulrahman