Sylvester Uzoama, managing director of Circum Group, says the welfare of referees is essential to the growth and development of the game of tennis.
Uzoama made the remarks while unveiling and presenting new kits to the Nigeria Tennis Umpires Association (NTUA) at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium on Saturday in Abuja.
Donations of 200 sets of kits to NTUA were part of the company’s social responsibilities and were the result of a five-year agreement signed by the two parties in 2000, News Agency of Nigeria reports.
The Circum Group boss said his company focused on referees mainly because he felt they were the missing link that needed improvement.
“We started to organize international tournaments, but we realized that the referees did not meet, especially in their perspectives. So we felt this was a very important area to address.
“We came up with this kit arrangement and it will last for five years. We are already approaching the end of the second year.
“We intend to ensure that the standards are maintained, the uniforms are renewed periodically.
“On top of that, we’re also providing some sort of stipend to make sure they can meet some of their maintenance needs for those tournaments as well,” he said.
The tennis lover noted that the referee’s job is more like voluntary service, adding that it is therefore necessary to provide some support for their activities.
“Nigeria is starting to host international tournaments especially here at the FCT and when a tournament is held it is not just about the players.
“There has to be the right atmosphere, the right look. So, I felt it was necessary to make sure the referees also looked representative not just of the country or the tournaments, but even of themselves.
“You look at other international tournaments, you see players wearing nice outfits in designer uniforms, so I felt it was necessary to ensure that Nigeria was not left out in this respect,” did he declare.
He revealed that his company was eager to renew the contract and was also considering the possibility of extending it beyond the donation of T-shirts.
“It is also important that their shoes and shoes are uniform. They still don’t have caps either and we know how sunny the weather can be sometimes.
“So we are certainly looking to improve the package that will come next and we are also looking to strengthen their monetary package as well.
“It’s an ongoing program and I hope we can certainly influence them better,” he said.
He urged other private organizations and legal persons to come forward and embark on one or two small projects, to ensure the growth and development of the sport in the country.
“When we do small things big, it starts to feel like we are doing extraordinary things.
“It doesn’t have to be tennis, it can be boxing, archery or any other sport, but when we have a certain level of participation and support it certainly helps to make sports better. in general in the country,” he said.
Kehinde Ijaola, the national president of NTUA, appreciated the sponsor for the donations, adding that the gesture meant a lot to the association.
Ijaola, who was represented by Segun Adepoju, the National Vice President, explained that the five-year deal also comes with other enticing incentives, along with a token fee of ₦100,000 on an annual basis.
“So far, Circum Group has lived up to its end of the bargain because it paid us the annual token.
“We also received delivery of the first batch of kits, just two months after signing the agreement two years ago, and now we are receiving another delivery of the second batch,” he said.
Adepoju said the gesture had gone a long way in helping referees perform better and, therefore, in giving international recognition to several of its members who had been invited to participate in high-level tournaments around the world.
“As we speak, our president is in France and will be part of the officials at the French Open next week, which is a Grand Slam event.
“In addition, approximately three other referees have been assigned to travel to London next month to compete in the Wimbledon Open.
“Indeed, if we could be recognized and invited to participate in Grand Slam tournaments, ATP Challengers as well as other WTA tournaments, it shows that we are doing very well as a group”, a- he declared.