I am one person that strongly believe we can get football business right in Nigeria – that’s an industry that can bring billions of dollars into the economy for crying out loud.
Pardon me if I’m wrong, but I am not sure Nigeria football Federation (NFF) or League Management Company (LMC) has ever sat-down to look at the “Nigeria Football Model” or even make attempt to re-engineer it for future growth and success.
Here, putting Nigeria football model side-by-side with that of China may help you understand what it is – why Nigeria football seems to be declining so fast and perhaps, what should be done to salvage the present situation.
Nigerian football Model Vs Chinese Football Model
Nigeria football is modeled consciously or unconsciously to serve as feeder to major clubs around the world. Although, the country is blessed with a large deposit of talents, every one footballer in Nigeria has the mind set to travel out to play abroad.
By this, there is a massive flight of players to Europe, North Africa, Asia and the USA. So, a typical Nigerian club doesn’t have enough quality at anytime to compete in the global football market; or even at the continental level like CAF Champions league. This trend has greatly affected business growth as attendance keep declining and sponsors cannot find real benefits to invest in Nigeria league.
I read an article in the guardian Uk, “Why China, not MLS, is luring stars away from Europe.” Chinese football model is deliberately fashioned to lure big stars around the world to China’s Super league. By this, attendances and broadcast deals are rising in China as the government looks to build homegrown talents too.
China is set to become the biggest non-European league by 2018, overtaking the likes of MLS, J-league, Mexico and any other you may think of now.
China has already broken the barrier of 25, 000 average attendance predicted to happen by 2018. The Chinese Super League will be the third most watched football league only behind Bundesliga and English Premier League by 2017.
So what is china doing that Nigeria can emulate to build the commercial quality of Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL):
1. The Political Will and the Money:
There’s the political will as China have been able to mobilize its capital towards building the commercial quality of China Super League.
There’s money,infrastructure, the passion, the ambition and plenty of potentials in china.
The spending has been encouraged by a government headed by big soccer fan Xi Jinping. Wealthy businessmen get involved in part, to curry favor and craft links with the politicians, but ultimately, to make money.
For instance, Guangzhou, one of the top clubs in china, may have spent over $150m on players and coaches in 2010, but Evergrande, who bought the club for $16m, sold 50% of it for $190m to Internet giant Ali Baba.
- Question, is Nigerian government ready to play ball? Does people in NFF or LMC have the capacity to mobilize Africa’s richest man, Aliu Dangote and others alike, to invest in Nigeria league rather than going for Arsenal in the UK?
2. Favorable Rules and Regulation:
Chinese clubs can offer huge salaries to Renato Augusto, one of the four players from Brazilian Champions Corinthians, to make him move to China with lots of tax rebate.
- Nigeria football system can be complex with plenty of obnoxious rules and regulations. In china, it’s naked capitalism. There’s lot of money and lots of people happy and willing to see that cash buying players from overseas.
3. Luring World-class Starters:
China is increasingly able to paying big money. Often too big at the moment, but that is due to necessity more than naivety.
Chinese football is buying regular starters in Europe, Gervinho in Serie A. There’s a mid-table club chasing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and paying Chelsea over $30m for Ramires.
Guangzhou have Ricardo Goulart, only 24 years of age and regarded as one of the top Brazilian prospect a year ago when he left Cruzerio…
- Question: Can LMC find a way to encourage more clubs to scout for top starters around the world, just as FC ifeanyiUba bought six Brazilian players into their team in 2016 NPFL Season.
4. Luring Big-names now Over their Prime
Chinese clubs are able to offer big money to big name stars in Europe that are now over their prime and get them to play in China. This strategy has attracted global fans interest towards the Super League.
Shanghai SIPG, has lined-up millions to buy Robin Van-Parsie, Wayne Rooney… the club paid $50m to the Ghanaian goal-king, Asamoah Gyan.
Apart from players, China is also luring big-name coaches Scolari, Sven Goran Erikssion, Alberto Zaccheroni, Dragan Stojkovic, not long ago tipped to be Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal successor.
- In 2005, Julius Berger signed Rashidi Yekini back to Nigeria Premier eague, after his long stay in Vitoria Setubal in Portugal. So imagine, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Osaze Odenwingie, Chinedu Obasi, Vincent Enyeama, returning back to play in Nigeria. Such big-names can help NPFL attract large attendance and sponsorship.
5. Playing Matches with World Class Teams
Guangzhou Evergrande faced Barcelona at the last Club World cup and the Chinese team gained a lot of experience with ambition to lift the trophy one day.
China has been the destination of many big-named European teams, especially during pre-season. In 2010, Manchester United played international friendly with two Chinese teams, Shenghai Shenhua and Beijing Guoan, with a record of over 92, 675 fans in attendance; hit the gobal media with a bang.
- Enyimba is the only team in Nigeria that has played such top international friendly with Inter-Milan in 2003, to mark the return of Ronaldo. But we have seen Copa Lagos Beach soccer excel in bringing world class teams like Barcelona, Spanish and Brazilian national beach soccer teams to Lagos. I guess it is part of the reason the beach soccer tournament attracts good attendance, sponsorship and media attention.