On 19 October 2016, the Twitter handle of the Nigerian Senate published a series of tweets that revealed that plans were afoot to sponsor a bill that would ensure that the FG stopped sponsoring football in the country.
Majority of football fans around the country as well as the NFF panicked at the news. Some keen observers of the domestic game even suggested that subterranean moves in the form of lobby groups were made in order to stop what, if it pulled through, would amount to a catastrophic situation.
Questions were thrown up by stakeholders especially the pro-government spending camp as to how on earth would the country’s participation in international competitions would be funded, how would the coaches of the various national teams be remunerated, especially the men’s senior national team that very often hires foreign hands. These and sundry questions other questions were on the minds and lips of those who felt that if the bill was eventually passed into law, it could spell doom for Nigerian football as we know it.
But wait! Would that really signal the end of Nigerian football? Certainly not. As a matter of fact, it may signal and herald a golden dawn in the country’s football.
At this juncture, a certain bit of statistic would suffice to change the course of this narrative. The English FA announced a profit of £261m in its 2014 fiscal report which it made public. As impressive as that figure is, it is dwarfed when placed side by side with the mammoth £5.1bn sponsorship deal that the English Premier League signed with Sky Sports. These would not have been possible if the domestic game had not been weaned from the laps of government breastfeeding.
In contrast, the Federal Government’s involvement in sports in general and soccer in particular borders on the patriotic/nationalistic. They have not adopted an income-/revenue-generating mindset towards sports.
What semblance of efforts in this regard have been half-hearted, regularly stultified by bureaucratic red tape as well as corruption, that hydra-headed monster that has stunted and halted the nation’s growth, in all sectors, especially sports.
So whatever investment the government makes in sports is usually considered frittered away as there is usually no accountability as to how it was used, or was spent. When the government made posturings to demand for accountability in the way football is run in the country, world soccer governing body, FIFA, have threatened to suspend the country from the international football fraternity citing interference. Public pleas, fuelled by the masses’ fanatical football followership caused the government to soft pedal. Although FIFA demanded that that the governments of host countries of their members do not interfere in the running of football, they are usually oblivious of the magnitude of the sleaze and corruption going on in the FA. And even when they do, they are usually powerless to stop it.
Government’s attempts, usually half-hearted, to compel the private sector to get involved in soccer has usually been rebuffed as most corporate brands chose to commit money into entertainment and showbiz.
You may not really blame them because they are aware of the reprehensible level of graft that goes on in the country’s football. The management at the helm of most football establishments in the country; domestic clubs as well as the FA at the federal and state levels are usually made up of unprofessional characters, political opportunists and cronies of government officials who hold those positions not because of merit but because they know top shots in government.
The club sides on their own become more or less government mouthpieces and billboards. The cumulative effect of these is that there is no enabling environment for soccer enterprise to thrive in. With the country’s continued funding of the domestic game, the ruts and channels via which monies are siphoned into private pockets would be maintained. Those involved in these shady transactions would fight tooth and nail to ensure that the status quo remains shrouded in a dark cloak of secrecy.
The ready alternative to government funding of football is corporate sponsors but it is no secret that they have always shown cold feet and apathy towards sponsoring football in Nigeria. As profit-generating and profit-conscious organizations, the management of these outfits would not want to invest their monies where they cannot be assured of a healthy return on investment.
Perhaps that might explain why these organizations are more likely to sponsor entertainment in the form of music and comedy rather than football.
Indeed if the Federal Government is persuaded to hands-off the funding of the domestic football, it would make the NFF to sit up and think up creative ways to generate money for the running of its activities instead of always running cap in hand to the government, a lazy approach by any standard. This would mean cleaning up their act by making their fiscal activities transparent.
It is a well-known fact that the country earns handsomely for participating in international competitions but unfortunately these monies are diverted into the accounts of opportunists who manage the country’s football.
For the avoidance of doubt, if the Nigerian government stops funding football, it would not spell the end of football in the country. Rather it would drive the NFF to find creative ways to generate funds. This would necessitate them making their financial dealings transparent and public. This would in turn boost public and corporate confidence in the organization, thus making it an attractive bride and brand capable of earning a huge return on investment for any brand or entity that chooses to invest in it. There is certainly no end to the possibilities that exists if this is achieved.
This article was written by Alonge Akinlolu, the brain behind footyalert.com. he is also a football content provider for Goal.com, News24.com.ng, Sl10.ng
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