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• President, Oceania National Olympic Committee,
• President FASANOC,
• Executive Chairman, Fiji National Sports Commission & Chairman Fiji Sports Council.
• Executive and members of Fiji’s National Sports Organisations.
• Ladies and Gentlemen.

Since the Fiji First Government established the Fiji National Sports Commission in 2013, I am pleased to learn that this is the 7th Annual National Sports Organisation Conference that the Commission has hosted.

It clearly shows the importance placed in sports and its development in Fiji. 

The benefits are obvious to all. And these benefits were basis for vision and reason for the establishment of the Fiji Sports Commission. It was established as per the principle of its founding documents; “to guide and enhance the delivery of sports programmes in Fiji through a coordinated approach at all levels.”

The annual NSO Conference clearly shows that with the support and goodwill of everyone present here we have a coordinated approach in sports.

Sports has always been an important and integral part of our life in Fiji. In the past decade or so, the challenge has been for Government working through the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the National Sports Commission and all Fiji’s national sports organisations, to take it the next level.

As outlined in the current five National Development Plan and its long-term vision over the next 20 years, sports is an integral part of national planning. Sports brings with it key issues and players on a wider nation building path, than traditional pathways for sports as leisure.

Ladies and gentlemen, this widened and diversified pathways include some of the following:

- We are tackling the NCD health issues through sports and physical activity through Nationwide rural and urban wellness and fitness leader programs.
- Ladies and gentlemen, this is an area of challenges and opportunity and Our work here is never done.
- We will continue to deliver programs to combat NCD’s.
- We have established sports clubs and associations throughout Fiji.
- This is to empower our youths through sports offering them pathways to achievements and employment,
- Last year funding was provided for the establishment of Sports Development units in our urban areas. This is a proactive measure to occupy our youth who have come from various parts of Fiji, as part of the demographic shift under urbanization.
- My Ministry sees this as a key area and that we can mitigate against some of the negatives of the large urban drift of our youth through sports. For example, working with our community police units to reduce youth crime statistics.
- The coordinated approach between NSO’s and the Commission in training our sports people to not just strive to be athletes but also to learn the skills of being trained coaches, technical officials, umpires and referees is showing benefits and providing income streams for those trained and unrealised before.
- When the Sports Commission commenced Outreach programs in our rural areas in 2013, they focused on people with disabilities and special needs in activity programs.
The importance of an inclusive approach was quickly established. It is pleasing to note now, that a large number of NSO’s have included inclusive sports.

I encourage all NSO’s to have an inclusive approach, as per the rights enshrined in our constitution.

As His Excellency the President Jioji Konrote, farewelled our Special Olympics team last Thursday, to the World Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi he described them all as “people with determination”. Let’s not forget the achievements made by Iliesa Delana, a “determined” member, and former Assistant Sports Minister, who came home with our First Gold medal from the London Paralympics.
- And as a small island nation we have indeed come far in achieving our highest sporting objective of winning Gold at Olympic level.
- And may I say that I am extremely proud of FNSC’s role in our Gold medal win that our Sevens team achieved, in Rio 2016.

All of this has been made possible through – the Fiji First Government and its many initiatives for Youth and Sports. Perhaps none more so than the establishment of the Fiji National Sports Commission – to spearhead a coordinated approach along with our national sporting bodies.

The NSO conference this year with the theme “the Business of Sports” clearly shows how sports has developed. The Fiji First Governance principle is on ensuring that all our deliverables and approaches are on par with international benchmarks and standards.
The theme impresses on NSO’s to bring their respective organisations into the 21st Century, where sports is business. And we know that decades ago, our regional neighbours like Australia and New Zealand adopted this approach to become world sporting powers.

Fiji has to come on board with this business approach to ensure that we have realistic programs in order to achieve aims of regional and international success.
Gone are the days of running NSO’s from the back of the secretary’s car.
Gone are the days of sports for the sake of sports.

The hard reality is that Sport being run as a business is here to stay.

Globally, sports are estimated as a $700 billion plus industry. Each year the growth rate of sports as business, outperforms global GDP growth within each regional area of this world.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to throw in these statistics, as I know that many of the speakers and debates to follow on the business of sports, will have these global figures as context.

And it will serve us well in Fiji, to begin to see the business of sports, seriously, and to be able to contextualize it, globally.

I would also urge that our corporates and their executives, play a larger and possibly lead role in this shift towards business in sports. In many other countries, their business skills and vision, have served sports well.

Once again to use a regional example, Australia, has forged ahead in the past decade, with an influx of corporates heading or advising major sporting codes.

This has been a game changer with major deals struck that has pushed up the bottom line for sports.

The major takeaway from the Australian example, is that business and business people have taught a lot to sport to take their codes to the next level.

This has included major strides in management practices, sponsorship deals, infrastructure development, and ensuring continuity through expanded and growing grassroots programs for children and youth.

And the promotion and export of quality sportspeople across the globe. An area where Fiji has done remarkable well and continues to have the potential to do even better.

In Fiji, the major impact in recent years from a business or economic point of view, is that our sports people are making through remittances.

It is estimated at nearly a third of all annual remittances received and growing. This is a major boost to Fiji, and for the Fiji First Government to innovate and invest in Fiji’s sporting business.

One of the key areas is our commitment to ensuring Fiji has the best and accessible sports facilities. Including our commitment to new indoor arenas in Lautoka, Nasinu and in Suva, to the new 50 metre and 25metre pools and the international running track in Lautoka. Smaller and often neglected sports will also be targeted, and among programs for them include a boxing gym soon to be established in Suva.

Fiji has been the Hub of the Pacific for sports, since our administrators initiated the idea of the first South Pacific Games in the late 1950s, and which we proudly hosted in 1963.

The government and the Commission are currently working with various sports to establish their regional and Oceania training centres in the country.

We are working and planning for the establishment of a National Sports Academy and land has been identified for this to proceed.

I encourage all NSO’s here today to please show their support for these projects. We can only achieve them through working together and with everyone’s input.

Through NSO’s hosting of international tournaments and events in Fiji there is an economic return to our whole community.

Government has seen these benefits and continues to support all sports, providing they meet the grant criteria, in bringing international events to Fiji.

That is the business of sports, from bringing direct economic benefits to the country, to showcasing our beautiful islands.

That’s why the Government has been supporting Sports Tourism and the large professional sports events such as the Fiji Professional Golf Open, and the annual Super Rugby event.

Because they are in fact great exemplars of the business of sports.

I note that among your speakers and panellists, and it is good to see so many familiar faces, are a wide range of experts and practitioners, and we look forward to their contributions to this conference.

I also note the inclusion of some business leaders, and I hope that you will take a lead role in taking Fiji to the next level in the business of sports.

I wish you well and look forward to the outcomes of this conference.

Thank you, Vinaka Vakalevu, Dhanyavaad

© 2018 Ministry of Communications