PULLING FANS OVER THE STADIUM WALL: How Nigeria Premier League Can Save Itself from Sinking Down the Drain

 Guess why football fans don’t attend Nigeria Premier League (NPL) matches? No, it isn’t what you’re thinking. It isn’t because the standard is so low or because satellite TV (DSTV/HITV) are bringing better games from UEFA champions’ league (UCL) or English Premier League (EPL) to their homes. No, it isn’t the reason!

I know it sounds more like it. Nobody would want to go and see a sub-standard league game that is not well organized and doesn’t provide adequate security at the stadium. Not when you could get all the excitement at home by subscribing to satellite TV channels such as Super sports, ESPN, Sky sports, BBC Sports etc. Perhaps, it’s the obvious reason why the stadium is always empty, sponsors and advertisers are backing out and NPL is gradually sinking down the drain.

Well, a more critical study revealed something different. And to understand it well, let us take the South African league as a comparable case. You would agree with me that the league standard is not better than NPL. And the South African people are also more exposed to satellite TV (E.g. Super sports). Yet, fans still attend the local league so well.

On the other side, we discovered that most Super Eagles matches are broadcast live on television, but fans still prefer to go and see the matches at the stadium. It’s the same Nigeria stadium, same security system, yet fans overlook all the shortcomings and still fill the stadium to capacity whenever Super Eagles are playing. 

The question is why do fans attend Super Eagles matches and don’t attend that of NPL.

Naturally, fans would prefer to go to the stadium to see matches. The entertainment is so different from what they can enjoy while watching at home or in a viewing center. Some fans I interviewed explained that Super Eagles matches are well publicized in the newspapers, radio and television stations.

There’s a great correlation between media hypes and stadium attendance rate, because the media shape the people’s attitude. While UCL, EPL, and National team matches enjoy such front page media reports in Nigeria, NPL news are relegated to the sixth and seventh inside pages. Moreover, NPL news is usually sketchy and poorly presented in the newspapers.

One of the challenges is the difficulty in getting NPL information. It would cost the media more and some of them don’t even have that capacity to go for such news. It’s easier to get UCL, EPL, and Super Eagles news. Just a click of your mouse on the Internet, you’ll get a full dose of the information you require for the next day’s publication. So, you often read UCL, EPL news at the front page and the center spread.

The implication is, fans discuss more about what they read in the newspapers and watch on television (UCL, EPL and Super Eagles news), and such interactions motivated them to go and watch at the Viewing center or at the stadium whenever Super Eagles are playing.

LTV sports Splash presenter, Godwin Enakhena brought another dimension to it. He said that the sports media only reports news and stories that interest the people. Nigerian fans are more interested in UCL, EPL and national team news and that’s what they get. A medium that brand itself with NPL news alone might not sell enough to breakeven. Well, this is a topic for another day. The bottom-line is, we now have an insight of what the problems are, so we can proffer solutions.

Truly, blaming the media is not the solution. Every organization has the responsibility of marketing its products and services to its target markets. The solution is simple. NPL and its clubs should invest largely on building a more vibrant marketing department. They could as well contract out the job to expert sport marketing companies such as GreenHunters Sports International. The best way to get spectators’ interest back to NPL, is to take a more aggressive approach in marketing NPL programs and events to them.

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