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What Private Investment Could Mean for the Nigerian Premier Football League

What Private Investment Could Mean for the Nigerian Premier Football League

Private investment offers a potential turnaround of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) system, promising improved infrastructure, enhanced marketing, and economic growth. This discussion looks at how deeply a change in management can affect the league.

By Tuka Letura 

In 2014, Shehu Dikko was appointed as President of Nigeria’s League Management Company (LMC), the body responsible for administering the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL). Between then and 2022 (when the federal government declared the LMC illegal), he led the country’s affairs of league football top flight. 

The league has had its fair share of success in that time, but it has also been a shadow of its glorious days in the early 90s and the 2000s where teams from Africa’s most populated nation won continental trophies on four separate occasions, with the Enyimba Football Club of Aba responsible for over half of those.

Away from the absence of continental success in over a decade, Nigerian league football has also seen a massive decline in followership as well as in financing. This has eventually led to players moving away from the league and altogether from Nigeria, and into leagues that are not better at face value than the NPFL.

The biggest indicator of hope in the league has come from private ownership. While some have failed — like the now-defunct FC Ifeanyi Ubah — others like Remo Stars, Doma United, and the newly formed Sporting Lagos have witnessed significant growth and patronage from locals and the international community.

Tony Elumelu, the widely recognised chairman of the United Bank of Africa (UBA), recently speculated with the idea of purchasing a team in the NPFL. The multi-business chair expressed this viewpoint through his X (formerly Twitter) account in response to a post. “This is a nice idea. The Sports Minister, Senator John Enoh, is already thinking along this line and has approached me and we are already evaluating viability.” He said. Elumelu revealed that the Sports Minister had addressed him about potential acquisitions, a comment which was in response to another post where the writer suggested that Dangote took over Kano Pillars, BUA Group, owned by Abdul Samad Rabiu acquired Kwara United, Elumelu took over Rivers United, and Geregu Power PLC led by Femi Otedola acquired 3SC. The question however is, what outcome lies ahead of the privatisation of more teams and eventually the league itself?

What  Private Investment Could Mean for the Nigerian Premier Football League - Afrocritik
Tony Elumelu

Privatisation or increased private sector investment in the NPFL could have significant effects on Nigeria both economically, culturally and sporting-wise

Off the Pitch 

Private investment and ownership of the league and participating football clubs will significantly enhance its quality and reach. Through capital investment, investors can improve facilities and infrastructure, while generally marketing the league better. These developments are likely to draw more fans who will eventually have closer ties to the clubs and league, attract sponsors for better revenue generation, and increase the attention the league receives.

Additionally, privatisation often leads to improved financial management. This is one of the biggest lack at clubs and also in the league, as the government runs both on taxpayer money. This strategy will not only increase profitability but will also promote the league’s growth and long-term viability.

This will in turn result in the need for more people to run these clubs at varying levels and also be a part of the league structure. From on-field jobs like playing and coaching to facility management, administrative duties, and other non-administrative roles, more hands will be needed and more jobs will be created. 

With Nigeria’s actual unemployment rates reaching new highs and poverty level nearing the worst in the world, having all 20 league clubs run professionally across the country would provide jobs for around 2,000 people both directly and indirectly. 

A well-organised and competitive league will draw football fans from both Nigeria and overseas, resulting in increased tourism revenue. This would necessitate investment in infrastructure such as stadiums, hotels, and transportation, boosting many areas of the economy.

At this rate, the audience available to the league is wider, forcing brand promotions to become regular and available to clubs and players who can serve as ambassadors and make even more profit in return. 

Nigeria will also see a potential boost in trade, as is the case in major footballing nations like Brazil and Argentina which scale up to Nigeria on other continents.

Football Development 

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As is seen with Remo Stars owned by Kunle Soname, who has a proper academy set up in Beyond Limits FC, where they hone talents for their senior team and other teams across the world, whilst giving them access to the best facilities to make their growth as smooth as possible. A recent graduate of the academy, Ebenezer Akinsanmiro, is currently at Inter Milan in Italy where he has already made his debut for the senior team. Akinsamiro joined Inter in the winter transfer window of 2023, for a fee believed to be in the region of $450,000. 

What  Private Investment Could Mean for the Nigerian Premier Football League
Ebenezer Akinsamiro

This could be the case for a handful of teams should they get investment from the private sector, and so with players intent on growing. 

These clubs could also achieve retention by keeping certain players who are good enough but would ordinarily have left. Similar to how Remo Stars have kept Ismail Sodiq, one of the best defenders in the league.

On the surface, keeping these talents and buying even better ones will raise the quality of the league and make it more entertaining to watch. Games will be more competitive, as more would be at stake for concerned clubs. This will further strengthen teams and have them find their way back to continental domination, or at the least, raise performance levels. 

There’s also international exposure to this effect. Teams will be able to afford tours to other African nations and the rest of the world for pre-season preparation. Little factors like these play important roles in retaining players. 

However, privatisation isn’t all glitter and gold. While it has the potential to increase viewership and patronage of the league, it has to be led by purpose-driven individuals to avoid a case of it falling into mismanagement and funds misappropriation like previous leaderships. Knowing that there is a potential to generate major economic and football advantages, rigorous planning, regulation, and control are required to limit risks and protect the interests of all stakeholders, including players, clubs, fans, and the broader community.

In the coming months, we will find out if the Sports Minister’s ideas have been accepted and how close they are to becoming real. 

Tuka Letura is an experienced sports writer with over five years of experience in the craft. He uses data and statistics to provide analysis and commentary. From regional to worldwide competitions, he has covered a wide range of sports-related events and topics. He is devoted to sharing his enthusiasm for sports with his audience and engaging them with interesting anecdotes and viewpoints.

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