By Emmy Saint Jaka
Accidental interest grew high during the mid-season, and we want to let you know what transpired to bring such attention on NPFL.
Like soldiers on the watch tower, I keep our eyes on what’s happening on the football landscape here in Nigeria – and I blow the whistle where and when necessary, to give my sincere analysis as to what we see ahead. It’s with this spirit of loyalty to the football fraternity that we share our thoughts on the state of football in Nigeria, mirroring factors affecting Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) as a true reflections of the situation here in one of the largest football market in Africa.
In NPFL play book, 2020/21 season is just another witty-washy year, definitely not the best days for League Management Company (LMC), not having a clear idea what lies ahead.
Football Pandemia continues with the said ‘second wave” of the corona virus spreading. LMC are forced by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to play NPFL matches under-closed-doors. A policy that has taken the league back into the woods.
PLAYING BEHIND CLOSED DOOR – The league average regular attendance had hit 8,192 in 2017/18 season, with fixtures of the top five teams reaching 10,000 mark. NPFL crowd puller, Kano Pillars averaged an impressive 16,101spectators in 2018. All that attendance growth may have gone with the wind, as teams Play-behind-closed-door this season.
*NPFL-TV GROWTH RATE* – The challenge of live broadcast of NPFL matches on television and growing viewership remains one of the Leagues primary goals. One would have thought that with playing-under-close-door policy and the launch of Redstrike NPFL-TV App, many Nigerian fans would have quickly subscribed to watch live NPFL matches on their devices. Ironically, it wasn’t so. The download of the TV App has been surprisingly very low.
Nigerian fans preferred to watch English Premier League games on Cable TV, with regular attendance to football viewing centers rising, than the subscription of *NPFL-TV* for *NGN1,500* per month. As I write only a cuminlative1 *5,200* downloads has been recorded from the several App stores so far.
ELITE PLAYERS SCHEME– increased interest in NPFL hit a new high this season with what we may refer to “accidental growth” that came about Ahmed Musa, captain of the Nigeria national team, decision to return to the local league playing for Kano Pillars on a special contract negotiation spearheaded by the LMC Elite Players scheme.
Signing of Ahmed Musa complimented the return of goalkeeper Dele Aiyeugba back to Kwara United. Aiyeugba has been inspiring Ilorin fans interest as Kwara United began to contest for the league title this season. And Ahmed Musa’s first game drew a mammoth crowd, who couldn’t find their way into the Ahmadu Bello Stadium Kaduna.
*THE ELITE PLAYERS SCHEME* is a project pioneered by LMC to inspire Nigerian internationals who may be out of contract abroad to get back into NPFL with the intent to improve the quality of the games and increase fans interest.
NPFL PLAYERS IN THE NATIONAL TEAM – Enyimba star winger *_Anayo Iwuala_* got to play the last two AFCON qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho, so did uzornwafor play in the second International friendly game again Cameroon in Austria. That goes to show that NPFL has some quality players that can compete at the national team level.
*VACCINATION AND THE RETURN OF FANS TO THE STADIUM* – though LMC doesn’t seem to have a clear plan as to when fans can be allowed to return to the stadium, following what has been happening in Europe, we assume that when more people are vaccinated in Nigeria, maybe, PTF could consider spectators back to the stadium.
*STATE OF INSECURITY* – Nigerians are more safety-conscious now-s-days with the state of insecurity in the country. The gathering of a large crowd in one place is now seen as high risk and target of Boko Haram bombing, herdsmen attack and unknown gunmen ambushed. Fans may find it risky to attend matches in some of the stadiums across the country.
The global pandemic has put a spanner into the works of LMC and the planned commercialisation of sports in Nigeria. The minister of sports has no choice but to suspend his pet project. For now, football is better to run as a social service. Teams in Nigeria survived the crisis of the pandemic because they still relied on their state government financing. It is better that way for now. I think, when the coast is clear, then LMC will restart the rebuilding process.