Mystery of the absent fans (2)

: July 5, 2013 12:25 am : Features

By Segun Agbede.

Segun Agbede

Segun Agbede

In the Nigerian football fraternity, we sometimes suffer from what I’d term as ‘their own is much better than our own’ mentality. Everything foreign is good, most things Nigerian are bad. On the various social networking forums, people pontificate on the ills bedevilling Nigerian football, while waxing lyrical about the virtues of the European football. It is so sad that we don’t realise that the Nigeria Professional Football League is a veritable goldmine. Yes, it maybe an uncharted terrain but we have the human resources to make the NPFL one of the best in the world.

No doubt, the NPFL has fundamental issues which have been detrimental to its growth. There are those involved at every level of the game, trying to subvert the inevitable rationalisation process. These individuals thrive on chaos and ignorance. They profit from the imbalances in an imperfect system. It is in their interest to see the NPFL locked in a vicious cycle, where minimal investment in the league is producing a sub-standard product which in turn is unable to attract the requisite investment.

These parasites are too myopic to see that if our football is allowed to develop the way it should, much more money will be made rather than the crumbs they currently scramble for. In an era of mass unemployment, the sports sector has the capacity to provide gainful employment for thousands of Nigerians.
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Mystery of the absent fans

: June 22, 2013 10:48 am : Features

By Segun Agbede.

Segun Agbede

Segun Agbede

Where are the  football supporters that used to troop out in their thousands into match venues across the nation in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s?The biggest conundrum facing the Nigeria Professional Football League today is the dearth of fans in the stadiums. From Liberation Stadium in Port Harcourt to Ilorin Township Stadium, the story remains the same, empty stands.

A lot of people have ascribed our virtually empty stadiums to the strong pull of the European leagues, especially the fanatic devotion of the average Nigerian football fan to the English Premier League. However, I think that is a rather simplistic point of view. I have been to quite a few NPFL games since the end of the EPL, and it is still the same story – attendance is still very low. more »

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LMC Strikes Back

: June 16, 2013 9:17 am : Features, Nigeria Professional League

By Segun Agbede.

Segun Agbede

Segun Agbede

As a witness to the events that took place in Uyo Township Stadium on Wednesday June 5, I would like to state my categorical 100 per cent backing for the League Management Committee’s decision to award three points and three goals to the away side in the week 17 NPFL fixture between Akwa United and Warri Wolves. The match which was going out live to the whole of Africa on SuperSport was abandoned at half-time amid disgraceful scenes brought about by an assault on the referee by thugs and touts masquerading as fans.

In acting so promptly and decisively, the Nduka Irabor-led LMC has struck a blow for both common sense and sanity in the Nigeria Professional Football League as well its eventual sanitisation. I thank the LMC for having the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing by taking a hard line stance on this issue. Must there be a loss of life before people realise that there is absolutely no place for violence in football? After all said and done, football is just a game, a form of entertainment. It is not a matter of life and death no matter what the great Bill Shankly so famously quipped. more »

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A hunger to win, and the great new Nigeria

: May 3, 2013 5:43 am : Features

“My hunger is always there!”

-  Usain Bolt


ON Sunday, February 10, 2013, Nigeria played in the finals of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and won the Cup!

Nigeria has had a long wait of 13 years to qualify for the finals of the AFCON. And an even much longer wait to lift the trophy to glory! The year 1994 was the last time the Super Eagles lifted the trophy. What could be responsible for the victory of the Super Eagles at the just concluded AFCON? What did they bring to bear that gave them the edge over other African teams?  What did they do right?

How can you explain that a Super Eagles team with quite a number of unknown names and faces won the cup? How can you explain that a team that wasn’t given a chance in this year’s tournament ended up lifting the coveted AFCON trophy? What was the secret of their victory?

To enable us answer the above questions let’s take a quick look at the Ghana versus Burkina Faso semi final match. I believe we will find the clue in that match. Anybody that watched that match will definitely appreciate the following observations.

What was amazing about the Ghana versus Burkina Faso semi final match was that everything that could go wrong for Burkina Faso started going wrong right after the starting whistle was blown with the controversial penalty given to Ghana by the referee. Burkina Faso soon realised that they were playing their semi final match against “12 men” instead of the regular 11 men. They knew that with the odds stacked against them it would almost be impossible to win the match against Ghana.

Ghana was one of the tournament’s favourite teams. Ghana also seemed to be the referee’s favourite team. Ghana was probably one of the organisers and sponsors favourite team — a team that they would have loved to see in the finals of the competition.

Burkina Faso came out on that pitch to play and win the game. They were more determined to win the game than Ghana was. They played hard to win the game! They played their hearts out passionately to the very end even into extra time. And they won their semi final match against Ghana in spite of it all!

Why were they able to win with the odds stacked against them? What kept them going in spite of the 12th player in the other team? What propelled them to keep going even after a goal was disallowed in the dying second of the first half of extra time? Why were they not discouraged? Why were they not disenchanted when one of their players Jonathan, Pitroipa, got sent off and they were left with 10 men playing against “12 men”? Why did they have staying power? Why did they have more staying power than the Ghanians had? What did they have that the Ghanaian did not quite have in the same measure or degree?
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Nigeria: Identifying Enemies of Nigeria Football League

: April 30, 2013 5:52 am : Features



Change is a guaranteed constant that is naturally bound to be consistently resisted by the ever present forces comfortable with the status quo. Nigerian clubs returned from continental campaigns last week soiled by humiliating defeats arising from the crisis that has bedeviled the domestic league since May last year when powers higher than Chief Victor Baribote decreed he must leave the office of the now defunct Nigeria Premier League (NPL) Board Chairman.

The crisis actually began with the reluctant exit of Chief Oyuki Obaseki, the pioneer Chairman of the NPL Board but came to a head when the Sports Minister, Alhaji Bolaji Abdullahi insisted that the 2012-13 season must not kick-off with Baribote as Chairman. The Board got kicked out and the Minister drew a master stroke by setting up a Management team that even his hardest critics acknowledged to be first rate.

Expectedly, there have been forces campaigning underground to scuttle the fresh breath of administration that has shown excellent signs of delivering the needed reforms to the league administration. Using all manner of subterfuge including induced media harangues, these forces which have held the league down for years are rallying to truncate the objectives of the proposed reforms.

It is very evident from the advertorial recently placed by the Chairman of the League Management Company (LMC), Mr. Nduka Irabor that the reform is positioned to inject a transparent process that will confer integrity to the league.

But it appears that we are either not listening sufficiently or have deliberately refused to understand and accept the new direction. A number of irritant questions keep popping up despite repeated clarifications from the LMC. At a recent Media Roundtable with members of the Lagos State Chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Irabor endured the stress of sounding like a broken record over the same issues.

What is emerging now is that some tendencies often referred to as Club Owners have become jittery over the business plans of LMC which is not in tandem with the way they are used to doing business. They are still living in a world where decision affecting the league business is discussed at a Congress and not at an Annual General Meeting (AGM).

It may still come down to mean same thing but the fact is that Congresses are held in football by Federations, Confederations and the world governing body, FIFA. In the operating manuals of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and as is well known in commercial enterprises which the League is situated, it is the AGM that approves policy directions.

Here are men, majority of who are political appointees liable to sack at the whims of state governors parading as owners of football clubs and instigating rebellion against moves to properly dimension football as a profitable business. They know that the moment football is placed on the right commercial pedestal, their subterfuge for collecting scarce government resources to run the clubs will be exposed. Rather than work towards making the clubs less dependent on government funding, they team up to frustrate every effort aimed at organizing football the global way.

It would have made sense if these folks have withdrawn their teams from the league to drive home whatever point they are making. But they will not do that because it will equally mean their government subvention will be put on hold as it was done since May 2012 to last month.

It is only Baribote and Senator Bukola Saraki that can truly lay claim to the sobriquet, Club Owner and are the only ones who know what it takes to finance a club. The rest are caretakers and agents of government who treat club business the same way government property tend to be treated. But the LMC is even saying they want to encourage a more enduring club ownership that will move away from government or one-man ownership to public ownership through investments by interested businessmen and fans.

Despite the grumblings and misrepresentations that the company is working to deny existing clubs of places in the reformed league, the position as explained at the roundtable in Lagos is that a new threshold is being created which in the next two to three seasons will become operational.

The plan is that only clubs that meet the minimum requirements will enroll to be part of the league and such minimum requirements include evidence of financial capacity to meet obligations, existence of standard youth teams, contract templates for recruitment of players and coaches and guarantees to protect rights of league sponsors.

It is just like the Central Bank’s policy on licensing of banks which requires them to meet certain conditions to operate. As a regulator, the LMC is within rights to insist on certain guarantees especially in a country where club managers have shown a predilection to maltreat players and coaches.

The LMC is also saying that there has to be a reform in sponsorship processes to allow more inflow of fund to the league and clubs. Over the years, we have had sponsorship models that shut out big brands from club deals simply because their competitor has been signed on by the league body.

With the new regime, clubs can sign on with any brand though the number of such will be limited in order not to dilute the equity of the major sponsor. This is already working in Ghana and has been practiced in Europe and with this direction, we can now have a vibrant financial environment to the benefit of brands and the clubs.

The Broadcast right is also being reviewed to conform to international standards and ensure that clubs are adequately remunerated unlike what obtained in the defunct NPL where an agency collects over N750m and remits a mere N150m to the league.

It is easy to understand why there is a fight to stop the LMC and Nigerians must rise to resist these leeches so our players and coaches can enjoy their labour.

Written by Harry Iwuala and originally published in Vanguard Newspaper


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