Like European, Asian and South American nations where Sports business is a major revenue spinner, Nigeria too can revolutionise sports and benefit from the revenue windfall.
For Nigeria, a country of over 180 million people with a growing middle class and about 65 percent youth population, sports hold huge prospects. Nigerians’ interest in sports is legendary. Sports have been known to be a uniting factor in the country defying ethnic, regional or political divides.
The Nigerian sports industry, especially in football over the years has seen decline from what it used to be in the early 80’s and 90’s.
No doubt, investing in football business can help grow impact on the economy by creating jobs, but private sector participation is key in driving the sports industry.
At a recent Nigeria Economic Summit NESG stakeholders meeting, where economic potentials in sports business and how it can impact on the economy was discussed, the stakeholders from the public and private sector unanimously agreed that government interference is hindering the development of the sports industry in the country and pointed out that the industry should be private sector-driven while government provides the structure, policies and enabling environment to attract investors.
Panellists at the forum highlighted the business potential in Nigerian sports that can be exploited to drive future economic growth and youth development.
They pointed out that capital investment is needed in sports merchandising, media and facilities, stressing that it was the best model to financing sports to drive revenue generation, employment and business opportunities.
Analysts challenged that there should be a system in place to drive potential investors into Nigeria sports business.
Amaju Pinnick, president, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) mentioned that the potential in Nigerian sports is limitless, adding, however, that the government needs to create enabling environment for sports industry to thrive.
“Twenty-five years ago, the British government invested £200 million in the Premier League and today, the EPL is worth £8 billion. If we create enabling environment with proper structure, sports can contribute significantly to Nigeria’s GDP more than any other sector,” said Pinnick.
“We must engage reputable brands to drive sponsorship for the national team. If every geopolitical zone concentrates on its strengths and harness them properly, Nigeria will fly the flags high at international competitions and thus get global attention for investors to come in and invest,” he added.
Aiteo Group, Nigeria’s foremost integrated energy solutions company have taken the burden to grow Nigerian football and give it a face lift, and on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 signed a five-year mega sponsorship deal worth N2.5billion with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to boost football development in the country.
Also, few months back, news broke that the Super Eagles technical adviser, Gernot Rohr was owed three months salaries from January through March 2017, amounting to $141,000 due to inability of the NFF to fund his salaries. It was even more shocking when the NFF admitted it had no idea how to pay the bonuses and allowances of our national team during the Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers.
The deal has helped to alleviate the issues of non-payment of salaries of all national team coaches.
Before now, the Super Eagles have missed out in two African Cup of Nations and the last edition of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil owing to poor performances and inability of the Nigeria Football Federation to foot the bills of national team coaches.
Since the timely intervention from Aiteo Group, the Super Eagles have improved tremendously in their performance and have restored the confidence of esteemed Nigerian fans.
Super Eagles recent sterling display and outstanding results recorded against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers where Super Eagles trashed the Lions 4-0 and ended Cameroon’s dream of a record World Cup qualification.
The Super Eagles also got the much needed point in the return leg in Yaounde following Moses Simon’s goal to give Nigeria the 1-0 lead in Cameroon. Eagles gave an excellent performance over the 2 legs, getting 4 points.
Aiteo Group again pledged the sum of N10 million for every goal recently scored by the Super Eagles against the indomitable Lions of Cameroon. This donation is to be applied towards the treatment of the team’s goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in July 2017.
This pledge is the second made by the energy giants prior to each of the games against Cameroon, the first being on September 1, when Aiteo Group had also committed to N10 million for every goal scored against the same opponents. The Super Eagles of Nigeria scored 4 un-replied goals against Cameroon in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on that occasion, and its subsequent one-all draw against the Lions in Yaounde resulted in a total pledge of N50 million.
The recent outstanding performances of the Super Eagles have been attributed to the financial stability the team now enjoys. Many of the team’s key financial needs are being addressed by the N2.7billion sponsorship deal between the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the Aiteo Group which is ensuring that major outings of both the senior men and women national football teams will be extensively supported by the Aiteo Group for the next five years.
“Our ambition is to boost the performance of the Nigerian teams and return the country to the position of dominance in African football,” said Benedict Peters, Executive Vice Chairman of Aiteo Group.
Government total revenues are all potentials, the private sector should the driver to grow the industry as government lack the funds to drive all the sectors of the economy.
Laoye Jaiyeola, chief executive officer, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, remarked that CBN doesn’t have the fund to finance the sports industry, as the size of government revenue is small to handle all the sectors.
He revealed that government total revenues are all potentials, the private sector should be the driver to grow the industry as government lack the funds to drive all the sectors of the economy.
“Government expected revenue for 2017 as captured in the budget is N5trillion, the budget is N7.4 trillion and borrowing N2.4 trillion. We have borrowed those monies year in year out,” Jaiyeola said.
“We are servicing with almost 33 percent of what we generate, you get money by generating or borrowing. One of Nigeria’s main source of revenue is taxation, which is 4 percent to GDP ratio, lower than Angola and Congo which have 15 to 25 percent tax to GDP ratio,” he said.
The coast looks clear for Nigeria to Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup and all Nigeria require to book their place at 2018 FIFA World Cup is just a victory from two games against Zambia and Algeria and a win will land Nigeria in Russia come 2018.
Other corporate organizations should follow the Aiteo’s CSR initiative in revamping the nations’ sports industry. It is about initiatives likely to impact not just a small crop of people, but also the generality of the populace. After all, football is one sport that unites us as a nation despite our tribal differences.
The Aiteo/NFF partnership has signaled hope to the Super Eagles and also Nigerian football.
Nigerians have taken to the social media to commend this effort, and rightly so. Aiteo Group has expressed its intentions to sponsor every cadre of Nigerian football, beginning with the Super Eagles if all goes well. In the next few weeks and months, we can be sure that the usual excuses offered by every party involved in satisfying the yearnings of our national team and sports-loving Nigerians will cease and the team can concentrate on being world giants again.
Anthony Nlebem is BusinessDayís sports analyst