An Iraqi club turns to private funding as government support wanes

The submerged Diwaniyah club decided, and with the reduction of government support for sports clubs in Iraq, to ​​knock on the door of private investors, in light of the successive economic crises in the country.

After years in Europe and the United States, the young businessman Hussein al-Ankoushi, 33, returned to his city of Diwaniyah in the south of the country in 2019. The club president advocates a policy that is considered radical in Iraq: relying on private sector investment to offset government support for sports clubs.

"Football is one of the best investments in the world. When we think of Spain, Germany or England, we think of football clubs there, all of which are owned by businessmen. We want to develop our infrastructure to benefit from this kind of financial income," Ankouchi told AFP.

"How is it possible to play football in these difficult times?" He asks from the demolished Al-Diwaniyah stadium, stripped of floodlights.

He intends to renovate the stadium, buy new equipment and buses to transport players.

To do so, he devised a plan inspired by Western clubs: more marketing for television broadcasting, special sponsorship and transfer revenue.

He plans to start a personal investment of $ 5 million, from the revenues of the Family Holding Company and about twenty fuel stations he owns in Iraq.

And he continues, "Perhaps there are those who consider the experience of sports investment as an adventure, but the matter differs if there are commercial and investment plans available for the benefit of the team, so we made an official protocol with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, allowing my private money to be invested in this local club for the city to which I belong."

Al-Ankushi hopes that his strategy will contribute to overcoming bureaucracy and corruption in Iraq. "Our fans will see different things. Instead of standing outside the offices of government officials begging for money, we will support ourselves," he said.

In the new millennium, Iraqi football reached its peak when it achieved a surprise and won the 2007 AFC Asian Cup title. Twenty clubs are participating in the first division, 14 of which are owned by ministries and government institutions, and their budgets reach 1.7 million dollars.

As for the six eligibility clubs, they are owned by the governorates, and receive annual subsidies of only $ 9,000 from the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

It uses the revenue from ticket sales and the meager profits from player transfers to cover the remainder of its expenses.

But this year, state revenues have reached very low levels, due to the decline in oil prices and the repercussions of the new Corona virus.

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