Exclusive: How Dangote, Adenuga, other local investors shun, kill NPFL clubs for European clubs
Dangote! Dangote! Hey! I’m not here for a sonic touch, but sincerely the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) is still searching for money ( funds), endorsement and proper package like the biggest leagues in Europe and elsewhere.
Shamefully, the local investors are not helping the situation on ground.
Three years ago, Africa’s richest man (69th richest man in the world, according to Forbes), Alhaji Aliko Dangote, revealed that one of his interests is to purchase English Premier League side, Arsenal Football Club.
This is a killer utterance on the NPFL.
Dangote’s speech could mean well for some Nigerians, who support the English side but a total dearth of the popular statement “buy made in Nigeria to grow Naira” which gathered momentum and essence at the time when the country is swimming in economic recession.
The Kano-born businessman, whose networth is $10.6billion and has been supporting the Gunners before the premier league started in 1992, said, “Someone will give them [Arsenal FC] an offer that will make them seriously consider walking away.”
“And when we finish the refinery, I think we will be in a position to do that. It’s a great team, well-run. It could be run better, so I will be there. I will wait. Even if things change I will take it,” he added.
He further revealed that he would consider kicking out the former club manager, Arsene Wenger, due to lack of competitiveness for trophies.
“The first thing I would change is the coach. He has done a good job, but someone else should also try his luck,” he said.
The main message of the “buy Made in Nigeria, to grow Naira” is to improve the relevance of Naira against the US Dollars, and to stabilize the economic growth of the nation when locally-made goods and items are purchased.
Dangote’s refinery is almost ready, but there is a new manager at Emirates in person of Unai Emery and Stan Koerenke isn’t ready to sell his stake.
Globacom Nigeria Limited, an indigenous telecommunication company, was for so many years the major sponsor of the NPFL, even when there was no much attention being paid to the league and in recent years, there has been an upturn in the fortune of the now widely accepted league in Africa.
However, the contractual agreement between the League Management Company (LMC, the body regulating the NPFL) and Globacom ended at the close of 2014/2015 season with no sign of a renewal between the two parties.
In order to have a befitting NPFL there is need for a major Sponsor.
Check all around the European major leagues, they are all sponsored by the biggest brands in the world. For instance, the EPL is sponsored by Barclays, La Liga by BBVA and the Italian Serie A by TIM.
Recent reports have it that the League Management Company, Shehu Dikko-led team secured a major sponsorship deal with STAR Nigeria Plc.
However, I expect to see more big brands in Nigeria jostle for NPFL sponsorship deals.
Chi Home (brand manufacturers of Chivita Drinks, went out of Naija, Africa to sponsor Manchester United Football Club of England. Being an ardent follower of the English Premier League, I’m yet to see any advert placard in favour of the soft drink producing company at Old Trafford during match days. This is quite pathetic, if we don’t believe in our league, “who will?”. There are several brands in Nigeria that can sponsor the NPFL.
The South African League can’t be compared to the NPFL in terms of the quality of players, but they are far-ahead in terms of sponsorship deals for the league and the football clubs at large.
The Football clubs in ABSA Premier League have good stadia, better logistics, world class training facilities and mouthwatering shirt sponsorship deals.
Now, back to the football clubs in the NPFL, some are yet to even secure a sponsorship deal. Except for Enyimba FC that is being sponsored by Dubic, Ikorodu United is also sponsored by GoTv to name a few. If there is circulation and cash flow in the NPFL, the league will get the right awareness and credibility that we desire.
Vast majority of football clubs in the NPFL are owned by state government, except the likes of Ifeanyi Ubah Football Club, Mountain of Fire Ministries Football Club (MFM FC) and Abubakar Bukola Saraki Football Club (ABS FC).
Football is hugely appealing to the community; as a business, it is also hugely appealing to investors.
“Football has become big business and in its current business climate, the sustainability of a football club is determined not only by success on the field, but also by success off the field. Sporting success could be eroded by financial failure (e.g. Portsmouth FC of England and Rangers FC of Scotland)” – excirsed from the LMC Proposal for Community Ownership of Clubs.
Just imagine the Nigeria Professional Football League with private ownership of clubs. For instance, If Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola and some few other wealthy individuals in Nigeria purchase football clubs in the NPFL and invest heavily, there would be an upturn in the economic growth of the nation. The likes of defunct Julius Berger and Stationary Stores are all up for grabs.
Take the EPL for example, a lot of football clubs are owned and controlled by private investors, and not the state governments. No one can underestimate the huge influence of Roman Abramovich’s take over at Chelsea in 2003, the team has gone from been a relegation battler to UEFA Champions League conquerors. You can call this Return on Investment (ROI), but it is largely based on the financial influence and intelligence of the Russian billionaire.
The Glazers family from America followed suit by securing the ownership of Manchester United in 2005, and they have been able to make the club the biggest in the world both on and off the pitch. No football club in the world can boast of the revenue Manchester United have. The ten years Adidas sponsorship kit deal(the biggest in the world) will do them major yield for years.
Why State government should have less influence in the administration of football clubs in Nigeria?
I will use the relegated Taraba Football Club as a case study. At the close of the 2014/2015 NPFL season, it wasn’t rosy for the FC Taraba officials and the players who all suffered the nonpayment of outstanding salaries. To some extent, these players were sleeping outside the Taraba State government office, in a peaceful demonstration to show the government officials that they are not happy.
There is need for major sponsorship deals and private ownership in the NPFL. All things being equal, the Nigerian Professional Football League will shape itself in the realm of the English Premier League – the biggest league in the world.
A ‘Made in Nigeria’ football owned by Nigerians, sponsored by Nigerians and followed by over 170 million football enthusiasts will put the nation on the world map, and with an upward surge in the growth of the nation’s economy, reduction of unemployment status and less criminal activities.
Then, we can sing Burna Boy’s Dangote, watch our local teams play and still make money, legally.
Business and Lifestyle Editor at Wheel NG