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Throwing Stadium Gate Open in Big Games - A Weirdo Marketing Strategy in Nigeria

Never have we seen it anywhere else in the world, but in 2017 AFCON qualifiers between Nigeria Vs Egypt at Ahmadu Bello Stadium Kaduna we saw the weirdo. The match tickets which were initially meant to go for N1000 and N300 for covered seats and popular stand respectively were made free.

The Kaduna State Governor Nasiru El-Rufai on the Friday morning approved the payment for all the match day ticket and threw the gate open to allow fans free entrance into the stadium. A strategy to get more Nigerians to attend the match and to support Super Eagles to victory.

Before 2pm, for the game that will kick off at 5pm, the stadium was already filled to the brim. People climbed roof tops, trees, anything high enough to give them a glimpse of the game.

The strategy however back fired as Nigeria drew the game 1 - 1 and lost in Alexandria 0 - 1 and was fined $500,000 for over crowding and endangering people lives.

It was unnecessary to have thrown the gate open for free entry into the stadium, because the match was big enough to attract a full capacity of fans who were ready to pay for ticket... and the Kaduna tax payers money would have been used for other pressing projects. The games cannot be bigger than Afcon or world cup qualifiers here in Nigeria.

At the club level, the game cannot be bigger than CAF Champions League or the CAF Cup competition. But recently we saw Akwa United and Enyimba decided to also throw their stadium gates open in their CAF Cup home games in Godwins Akpabio international stadium  Uyo and Uj Esunne Stadium calabar. And again it was counter productive as Akwa United was knocked out despite the mammoth crowd support in Uyo.

The reason club's management decide to  make gate entry free is because football is nothing without cheering fans. And most football lovers in Nigeria would rather prefer to watch from home or from viewing  center close to them, where they could stroll in and pay just N100. But by throwing the gate open they can be motivated to go and see the game live at the stadium.

Crowd support is good, but doesn't necessary ensure win, so it doesn't make much sense throwing the gate open!  Indeed, It is a big business loss to throw a stadium gate open, especially in a big game. It could make sense to discount tickets for some set of people in less attractive games than to throw the gate entirely open, even in big games.

NFF and Club management should begin to take serious the business side of football. The ideal is to promote big games to both fans as well as corporate sponsors or advertisers... and create dynamic strategies to maximize the revenue potentials of such games.

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