With so many sporting tournaments cancelled in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Egypt is set to restart its hosting of international sporting events and tournaments in the coming few months. The country is due to host the World Men’s Handball Championship in January 2021, with preparations well underway to ensure the tournament’s success and smooth running.
Egypt’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Ashraf Sobhy, sat down with Daily News Egypt to review the achievements that have been made since July 2018. Sobhy also discussed his ministry’s future plans to maximise its revenues and upgrade Egypt’s sports infrastructure.
What are your ministry’s allocations under its investment plan in fiscal year (FY) 2020/21?
There is constant keenness from the ministry to increase and develop the infrastructure to serve Egypt’s youth, and work to provide facilities to develop their talents and exploit their creativity. The idea of integrated centres is always part of the ministry’s plans. About EGP 900m has been allocated for the investment plan in youth facilities. The figure will be higher for sports facilities.
What are the major tournaments that Egypt will host in the coming period?
Egypt has witnessed a major boom in the recent period in terms of hosting major tournaments, which is largely due to the renaissance of the country’s infrastructure. It helps achieve popularity with tourists, and creates a good mental image with the outside world.
During the next two years, Egypt will host 30 major international championships, foremost of which is the World Men’s Handball Championship [in January 2021], that will feature 32 teams for the first time. The last tournament, in which 24 teams participated, was held in Germany and Denmark.
Egypt will also host the Cycling World Cup, the Fencing World Cup, and the Gymnastics World Cup, as well as the Military World Cup for football. The estimated budget for the Handball World Cup is EGP 3.7bn, including EGP 3.5bn for the development and construction of halls which will accommodate a total of 34,700 seats for spectators. We are also preparing to host the Cycling World Championship, and we have already completed 90% of the required infrastructure at a cost of EGP 275m.
What about the plans to develop the Cairo Stadium?
There are plans that are being made to allow the community use of the Cairo Stadium after rehabilitating, modernising and raising its efficiency. This includes the development of unused vacant spaces for investment as an economic and community body. A branch of the Al-Nady Club may be established, along with an equestrian club, a hotel, a commercial building, a cultural centre, a youth library, a training centre, and a medical centre. There are three developers who are undertaking studies, and will submit proposals to the Ministry of Youth and Sports who will then choose the best among them.
What about stadium development in Egypt?
The national project for the development of stadiums, which is implemented in cooperation with the Estadat for sports facility management, yields 16.5 times more returns for the ministry than what it used to be. The long-term investments in the project amount to EGP 3.907bn, which are investments that the ministry would have borne, but will now be implemented in cooperation with one of the sovereign authorities. There are 24 stadiums in Egypt, of which 19 will be developed, at low cost but high quality, to benefit citizens.
The ministry succeeded in attracting the private sector by taking advantage of the usufruct system, which achieved returns of EGP 1.213bn in the investment offering in youth centres. These are being implemented in all governorates, along with the latest major leap in the level of infrastructure, development, and operation of youth centre facilities. Revenues from partnerships with the private sector reached EGP 1.896bn.
To indicate the extent of development that has occurred in the infrastructure, from 1990 to 2018, a total of 40 swimming pools were built, including 36 in the last two years.
Some investors in youth centres want an increase in the usufruct period for youth centre investment placement projects. What is your view on this?
I agree to that, and I am working to present their demands to the Council of Ministers to obtain approval for them, to encourage investors and give them confidence to continue cooperation with the ministry.
How is Al-Nady Club project going?
So far, the membership numbers at the 6th of October branch has reached 500, including 200 old memberships. But you should also bear in mind the impact of the coronavirus and the complete closure that came with it. The membership value in the 6th of October branch is EGP 80,000, which rises to EGP 92,000 after including VAT for cash payment, and a little more than EGP 100,000 in case of instalments.
Work is being carried out on the Sheraton branch that will be set up at the Sports Development Centre. The project is in full swing to ensure its implementation is completed, with investments in the project standing at EGP 80m. The cost of membership at the club’s branch in Sheraton is expected to reach EGP 100,000, and the door for members will be opened to both Egyptians and foreigners.
There are work plans in place to establish two other branches, one at Cairo Stadium, and the other in the New Administrative Capital (NAC).
The Ministry of Youth and Sports established the company to work in the field of management, maintenance, operation, and cleaning of youth and sports facilities. The company has an issued up capital of EGP 50m, and paid capital of EGP 10m. The company is now developing businesses worth EGP 75m, and is contracting other businesses worth EGP 271m, to bring the total business size to EGP 346m.
Can you tell us more about the performance of an artificial grass factory affiliated to your ministry?
There is an artificial grass factory affiliated to the Egyptian Company for the Industry of Sports Supplies and Tools (Captex), an Egyptian joint stock company affiliated to the National Fund for Youth and Sports Care of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. It also has ties to the Ministry of State for Military Production and the Al-Maqasas Sports Company.
The company is located in the Hikestep area of the Heliopolis Company for Chemical Industries, a company affiliated to the Ministry of Military Production. It was established by the Military Production Company for Projects, Engineering Consultations and General Supplies, in accordance with the contract concluded in April 2016.
There was a major problem in the contract for importing raw materials, making the price of the product greater than what is available in the market. Steps had to be taken to correct the conditions of the contract, and a cooperation protocol was signed to develop the factory’s performance with the German side.
The factory is an important project, which will have a noticeable role on the Egyptian economy during the coming period. There is interest from those in charge of the project in promoting work mechanisms and correcting the path, to achieve the desired goals of the project. It is the only one in Egypt and the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region that relies on German raw materials of high quality at competitive prices. It also makes use of new and advanced production systems in cooperation and coordination with the German side.
How was the factory saved from closure?
According to the protocol, the final product price will be reduced to make the prices competitive. Competitive raw materials at high quality, commensurate with German standards, were approved by the official authorities, which will allow for new markets to be opened across the MEA region.
The company will serve as the nucleus of a large sports industries complex that will transform, in the future, into a city of specialised sports industries. We have also taken steps to reform the administrative apparatus of the factory to improve the work environment, increasing the production capacity of synthetic grass from 500 metres to 7,500 metres per day. The factory’s sales are also set to increase from more than 1m sqm in the past six months, to 2.1m sqm annually. The value of the capital has not been raised from EGP 100m, while production value has been increased to EGP 210m.
On more than one occasion, you have spoken about Egypt’s hosting the 2030 FIFA World Cup. How do you envisage that?
Egypt can host the 2030 FIFA World Cup, provided we coordinate with other countries with which we can apply under a common file. Egypt already has the infrastructure and stadiums qualified for that level of competition, but it is all up to the political leadership, and also to the Egyptian Football Association (EFA).
We are certainly qualified for that, and we can host this event. We have developed six stadiums in Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailia, Suez, and Salam City, as well as the Air Defense Stadium. There are also 12 annex stadiums, which have hosted the African Nations Cup matches for adults and the Under-23s youth teams, which were undertaken at a cost of EGP 1.4bn.
There are economic entities and investments that have been created through the initiative, to encourage the practice of sport, including the initiative “Your bike is your health”. The beginning was by working to transform sport into a lifestyle through cycling. After studying the market and prices, the idea came into being to offer a number of bicycles to those wishing to purchase them. We are providing a subsidy of EGP 500 per bike, with other support from different places to offer 2,400 bicycles. We were surprised by the large numbers of people that wanted to obtain bicycles.
What about the ministry’s latest projects?
The youth city in the Asmarat district of Cairo is the ministry’s latest project, covering an area of 11.5 feddans and coming in at a total cost of EGP 230.750m. It includes a stadium, four football fields, two playgrounds, a duel games arena that includes 12 playgrounds for individual and combat games, a children’s play area, a social centre, a swimming pool complex, an open air theatre, and an area for shops and banks. It serves Cairo’s Asmarat and Maadi neighbourhoods.
The open playgrounds development plan, which began in 2014, has now reached 3,432 playgrounds, at a financial cost of EGP 2.403bn.
Can we say that sport in Egypt has become a source of national income?
We have addressed Hala El-Said, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, to consider sports as one of the sources of national income. Her ministry has succeeded in supporting sports resources in the last two years, providing about EGP 1.6bn for the youth and sports sectors, after covering the costs, service and investment works.
Egypt has 10,025 sports units, including 1,248 sports clubs, 4,330 youth centres, 3,354 playgrounds, 13 hotels, 25 gymnasiums, and various other facilities. The Ministry of Youth and Sports is working on auditing all investments and inputs from the sports sector, both government and private, which has amounted so far to EGP 26.466bn. Of this amount, EGP 9.270bn are government sector investments, and EGP 17.196bn are private sector investments in the sports field. A total of EGP 2.082bn in private sector investments reflects the capital of companies practicing sports services, with EGP 7.134bn investments in health clubs that benefit one million subscribers. These figures are according to a report by the International Association of Health and Clubs in Egypt 2020.
The ministry is working to survey the sports sector, to determine the contributions of sport to the national economy, such as player contracts, sponsorship rights, sports supplies and services companies.