EPL Earnings, Lessons For NPFL | Independent Newspapers Limited
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EPL Earnings, Lessons For NPFL

Posted: May 21, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chibuike Chukwu

LAGOS – The 2015/16 English Premier League (EPL) season ended last Sunday with Arsenal Football Club dubbed under-achievers by its fans becoming the richest in terms of earnings. Fans of the club showed their disgust for the clubs failure to win the league in over a decade with protests calling for the removal of its manager, Arsene Wenger. But when the season ended last Sunday, while fans are ruing failure to win single silverware, its shareholders are smiling to the bank, and having funds to do business in the coming season. And this is one area Arsenal has maintained consistency all these years. That is earnings accruing from television and commercial rights. In the just-concluded season, Arsenal earned £100 million in total prize money, making it the highest earner in the season.  The amount covered the sum accrued to it from its 27 live matches on television, its second place merit on the table after the 38 rounds of matches, equal share of TV rights, among others. Other clubs shared also but Arsenal, for example, attracted more live matches than others. The same thing applies to all other indices for the sharing. Following Arsenal were Manchester City and Manchester United with total earnings of £96.8 million and £96.3 million respectively. Incidentally, the three clubs failed to win the just-concluded league season, which underlines the fact that the primary reason for running football leagues goes beyond winning titles. Current champion, Leicester City, is placed fifth with £93 million earning. The above scenario revealed that football has gone beyond entertainment. It has a huge business concern running into billions if not trillions of dollars, where financial inflow is expected with good and viable marketing strategy. So many questions beg for answers in this analysis when the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) is mentioned against what obtains in the EPL. For instance, less than 24 hours after the last round of matches of the EPL season ended, the Premier League released the total earning schedule and what was accruable to each team. In the NPFL, the same cannot be said. To average football follower in Nigeria, the marketing aspect of the game (if there is any) is shrouded in secrecy with little or nothing known in this regard. The practice, according to a player of Enyimba Football Club, who declined to be mentioned, reeks of corruption. Reacting to the EPL earnings, the player said: “We are yet not running a league in Nigeria. Even club coaches and general managers are not in the know on the financial situation of clubs. “At least I have played in a couple of clubs in Nigeria and can tell you that coaches and players are the same when knowledge of finance is concerned. “In this regard, tell me how outsiders will know? The whole thing is encouraging corruption in Nigeria football,” he concluded. Kadiri Ikhana, former Shooting Stars of Ibadan coach, said that the country was yet to fully run a professional football league. He blamed the inadequacies in the league on poor approach to the game by the administrators. “We are yet to understand what true professionalism is. So we are not there for now. EPL is a global brand where financial gain comes before even the title, like the case of Arsenal. “But then, have our administrators faced this issue squarely? We have to ask those managing the game in Nigeria what they are doing to reposition it because most of them know what to do and fail to do it,” he said. Few of the Nigerian league matches are on television weekly, but there is a huge gap on the earnings accruable from this area vis-à-vis the minimum requirement for clubs to run. For example, the broadcast rights that was made available in the Nigeria league, after sharing, give every club about N35 million naira (on a current exchange rate), which is far below the N250 million, on the minimum, declared by the LMC as required to fund a club. It was known because that came from a private investor, who wants transparency. As informed by the Enyimba player, the monies from state governments, who own these clubs, are a mystery! Even at that, the clubs still owe players salaries and huge arrears, citing financial inadequacy as their main reason. The case of the English Premier League has shown that winning trophies is not the primary reason for setting up football clubs. That a relegated Newcastle United was able to earn £72.7 million in revenue, even ahead of Sunderland (£71.7 million), Bournemouth (£70.4 million) and Crystal Palace (£72.4 million), who all survived relegation, lends weight to the business aspect of the game, which is lacking in Nigeria. While it will be admittedly agreed that the EPL and the NPFL are two worlds running apart in terms of marketability, TV rights and commercial values, the latter has suffered mismanagement with round pegs always inserted in square holes. For instance, Nigeria football clubs lack good marketing drive and initiative that can sell the teams to prospective investors. According to Mutiu Adepoju, who spoke to Independent, the reason bothers on their ownerships. “The clubs are owned by governments. If they are owned by private individuals, perhaps the persons will look for ways of recouping their monies,” he said. That has been the issue. State governors in Nigeria have turned football clubs to public relations outfits, with mandates to project both seen and perceived projects. For instance, a visit to many stadia in Nigeria will see pictures of governors or ongoing projects visibly embossed on the pitch panel meant for adverts. The question is, how much is that bringing into the coffers of the clubs? Sadly also, the various state governors resort to appointing cronies into various sensitive positions in the clubs, not minding whether the appointee is competent or not. Merit in Nigerian football has been slaughtered on the altar of mediocrity and the result is the steady decline of the league, where players are poorly remunerated, with their futures not guaranteed. The solution, according to Henry Nwosu (MON), former Super Eagles captain, was for various state governments to hands off the running of the game in the country. “Tell me if the British Government knows what happens to the league. The duty of the government is to provide enabling ground and then, private individuals will come in. “Initially, it may be difficult, but with time, the situation will nomalise, so government should return the game to the people,” he said. It should be borne in mind that the appointment of ex-footballers to manage these clubs will add little or nothing if government still has their 100% ownership. A football club will only thrive and generate the required income if it is owned and managed by an investor, who views the game as an entertainment platform, with a very strong intent on exploring and exploiting the business aspect of the game to make money. The absence of this has been the bane of football development in Nigeria.