How State Govts Underdevelop Football | Independent Newspapers Limited
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How State Govts Underdevelop Football

Posted: Mar 5, 2016 at 6:34 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

Chibuike Chukwu, Lagos

Ownership structure of football clubs in this country has been a sore point for some time now. And the reason is because these clubs have become a tool for dispensing political patronages to cronies by the state governors.

Unlike what obtains in Europe where football clubs are privately owned, the reverse is the case in the country. The ownership structure has denied the clubs the opportunity of raising funds needed to administer the clubs. While football clubs in Europe declare profit or loss at the end of the clubs financial year, Nigerian clubs are tied to the apron string of the governors who dished out what he, the governor, feels the clubs deserve and not what the club needs to remain a business concern.

But by their continued ownership of football clubs, the state governments have only succeeded in further denying the teams of opportunities to earn deserve revenue through a well-defined corporate image.

In England, for example, not even the FA has any veto power over the running of any club, less talk of the government. The football league, made up of the three fully professional divisions below the premier league, is self-governing.
But in Nigeria, the state governments appoint cronies, with little or no managerial experience as heads of these football clubs.
For an experienced football administrator, there are various ways of exploring the business aspect of the game, even within the stadium. For example, what happens to the on-pitch advert panels? Unfortunately, various advertisement platforms inside the stadium are taking over by pictures of governors.

In England and with so much money in the game now, companies are falling over themselves to jump on the bandwagon and advertise their products and services through the game.

For instance, when David Gill, Manchester Unite Chief Executive, announced AIG as the new shirt sponsors of the club in 2006, the sum involved, which was £56.5m, certainly caused a stir. It was a British record shirt sponsorship deal to be paid over four years. That equates to £14.1m a year.
Also, for just naming Arsenal’s ground after Emirates, the football club got a £100 million endorsement deal from the aviation giants.

In Nigeria, the various governors are contended with what comes from the broadcast rights to the various clubs. Incidentally, such broadcast rights fee, after sharing, amounts to around N20m ($74,000) per club and forms a negligible portion of the N250m (about $925,000) of what the League Management Company (LMC) declared is required to fund a club at the very basic level every year.

Now if the club sides in Nigeria are privately-owned with strong intent on exploring the business aspect of the game, there will be a business development executive, who will understand that the names, Sani Abacha, Enyimba, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Liberation, among others, attached to the stadiums, are not bringing anything to the teams’ coffers.

What are the use of the various multi-national companies in Nigeria if, with a promise of tax holidays over a certain period of time, they cannot be approached to endorse these teams? Unfortunately, the various club administrators appointed are busy endorsing the governors at the expense of the players. There is little or no business idea to drive the clubs’ finances.

In 2003, the UK Government gave out tax breaks to local firms and small grassroots clubs, all in a bid to boost developmental sports at that level. Up to 40,000 clubs and firms benefited and were allowed to keep up to £100,000 each in additional revenue.

The opposite is the case in Nigeria. During the time of Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State, he pushed so much money into Enyimba without the requisite variables to reposition club.
All through his time, Enyimba earned little or no revenue from advertisements and endorsement, with the only one being a paltry sum from kit manufacturing firm in Spain, Joma.

The then governor merely had his pictures visibly embossed on the malfunctioning electronic scoreboard at the stadium. The pitch advert panels were replete with what the state government had done. Through these visionless approaches, state governments in Nigeria deny football clubs millions of naira in revenue and other entitlements.

The solution, according to former Home Eagles coach, Erasmus Onu, is for government to hands off the ownership of the clubs.

“The restructuring of Nigeria’s domestic league will remain a futile exercise except government hands-off the clubs and allow the business oriented people to manage the clubs.
“Everybody wants to grab from the free money the various state governments dole out to the clubs. Nobody is interested in developing football in the country.”

Speaking on the same vein, respected coach, Adegboye Onigbinde, said it was only when businessmen come to manage the game that it will thrive in the country.

“I have always said it; our domestic league will not grow if we continue this government thing. Allow the real people to come in and hands off these clubs. Football is not a government thing.”

Coach Joe Erico also toed similar line: “Football is not a government thing; they should hands off, period.”