Six Things That May Put ‘Our House’ In Order
Punch Newspapers’ ‘so Nigerian League finally ends’ carried on Nov. 19, 2011 pg. 59 and our football performance this year (as well as over the years) had me thinking. Every sporting nation strives for four things: (i) Excellent play on the field of play (ii) Winning (iii) Prize money/ appearance fees (iv) Financial endorsement from companies for youth developmental programmes and payment of wages; economic and advancement. (ii) & (iii) are important but it has been noticed that (i) & (iv) are the most important. That doesn’t seem to be the thinking with Nigeria.
Pius Ayinor ‘is’ right in his article and in my own view there are six specific things (they may be more) that will put our house (Nigerian football) in order in the near future.
1. THE FOI BILL: If the editorial by the Sun Newspaper (June 14, 2011 p.18) is anything to go by, then I expect transparent NGOs et al picking up the baton from the press and demanding ‘the NFF’, ‘NPL’ or any other ‘public sport property’ today to publish how money given them was utilized. Ayinor has led the way for sports by challenging; ‘someone’ needs to make it an official enquiry using the FOI bill provision which can be used to draw the EFCC (or the courts) into action. The FOI Act 2011 has already been given a historical effect to the provision of section 1(3) and 20 of the Act by Honourable Justice Idowu of the High Court of Lagos State in the case between the Incorporated Trustees of the Citizens Assistance Center vs. Hon. S. Adeyemi Ikuforigi (Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly and the Lagos State House of Assembly) on Nov. 22, 2011. Source: the Guardian Nov.29, 2011.p84
THE BASKETBALL (B-ball) OUT FLANK MARKETING DRIVE: Soccer ‘‘purists’ know what flanking is. Well, so do ‘Bball’ and marketing communicators. ‘Bball’ which almost shares the same ‘demographics’ with a lesser population with soccer is out to take ‘market share’ of soccer as it want to grow financially (and regain its 1997/98 number one sport in Nigeria status) it is doing so via:
a. The DSTV MALE/ ZENITH FEMALE NBBF LEAGUES: To think the NBBF has two not even one leagues, it’s male in its 3rd/4th year with a title sponsor and was able to finish its TV season on time. Our NPL was not able to conduct its own in one year and it’s without a (title) sponsor. Indeed, that’s for the Guinness record books.
b. DEEP WATER OIL AND GAS: The money (in millions) being spent on its team can’t be found in any of our football teams of late. It is unprecedented for a non football team. And yet this b-ball market is just re emerging compared to the established ‘NPL’. The only issues noticed with this philanthropy is the team’s brand communication and parent company‘s PR. It should use MTN Foundation as its model. Its financial involvement will raise the bar which will translate in fan demand at the detriment of the NPL/NFF. Think of the now relegated international boxing industry and how it got itself into that mess.
c. NBA Africa: Like its sister company NBA China (worth $2.3bn before going public), it seeks to create wealth and cheaper player products for its league and parent owners the NBA. In a market saturated by an unorganized football sector, to succeed, it would attempt to cut into the demographic market share of the ‘NPL’/ Super Eagles et al eyeballs/ wallet source. It has the financial muscle.
d. Sprite Triple Slam: Hip hop culture (Dressing/Music/Dance) and Sport. Do I need to say anymore about what the youth (age 8- 30) love. Soccer has not evolved by doing it but (Sprite) Bball has.
2. VISION 20:2020/ Okonjo Iweala: 25 million jobs to eradicate unemployment? 14% annual economic growth to achieve top 20 economies by 2020? Sports to the rescue. Okonjo wants to succeed.
This means she (and even CBN’s Sanusi) will soon start questioning funds going to football without developmental and economic returns e.g. Money ($200) made by LOC 1984 Olympics went to the youth sports association programmes, we see the economic & socio inputs. Where is all the profits made by NFF/LOC Nigeria 2009 etc /NPL going? When we put sport as an economic means in our V2020 economic blueprint, the NPL/NFF et al will be forced to create a business plan. Once the devil/ competitive law/ profit tax making are in the detail, things will work.
3. NBA/NBAPA LOCKOUT: This concerns reward for labour. It is a very necessary part of running a successful league (to attract investors; be they human or financial) as the NBA players have shown of recent. When our NPL et al players, ref, coaches do the right thing- unionize; form ‘a’ (marketing) association and have a lawyer- administrator run it (like a business) so that they can negotiate and position their future with the NPL owners, they will get their money always. Unfortunately, I see the ‘bball’ players starting it not football as that has been the case, in Nigeria. In addition we now have the Insurance Commission (NAICOM) doing its job. The ball is already in the players ‘court’.
4. The MLS International: it has not started yet, but with the other big US sports soaking up all the eyeballs/ wallets and even going international, plus the economic tide in the US, the MLS has no choice (please note, unknown to me as at the time of putting together this article, the M.L.S 2.0 had opened a team in Montreal Canada, which is to debut this season) . Mark it, in another seven years, the M.L.S 3.0 will be looking at new markets especially in developing countries with talent like Nigeria as it would do what NBA Africa is doing. Its international friendly games are no joke but business marketing strategies to go global. It is using the same branding strategies and principles companies like Nike, Apple, and Microsoft have used to run over other bricks and mortal companies. Any seasoned brand strategist will testify to this. The MLS which started about 14 years ago due to an agreement between FIFA & the U.S has moved from creating a business plan to having a league using other sport stadiums to its own dedicated stadiums to luring David Beckham et al to come play to attracting huge sponsorship from the likes of Adidas ($150mill 10 year deal) and ESPN/NBS … to now making profits in just 14 years, yet, we have been in this football game longer. It will equally attempt to control the League scene either to our expense or not that’s for us to decide. ‘A question’ to Maigari and the CEO of NPL’ do they see football as business; if so where is their business plans?
5. Other Sports: golf/ polo have many top CEOs behind them. Rugby, tennis… are following the path followed by Nollywood taking Nigerians (who need to account for their commercial time) in bits along from football. There’s the Nigerian Breweries international class event, Emzor wellness race, Toyota Wuraola Ojo Memorial Golf Tournament, Ibom Golf Resort Event, UACN sponsored Quadrangular games at Ikoyi club, UAC Yachting Trophy Race etc. With fragmenting media in great need of (sport) content, it is just a matter of time; we will have to choose between the commercial/emotional feeling of watching the Super Eagles/ NPL football league or other sports. European football/ government patronage of football/FIFA events are the only main thing keeping the interest in soccer alive. After all it’s our hard earned money.
Adieu Sunday Bada, thanks for the memories.
Ohio Okhai Elakhe (08062912816/) is a Sports, Entertainment, Art, Tourism & Communications enthusiast. He lives in Lagos.