• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

New lease of life for Nigeria league

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Individuals and other private sector operators  interested in having a  stakes in local professional football clubs in the country now have  an opportunity to buy into local football clubs of their choice, as State Governments are expected to start divesting from the local clubs, beginning this 2013/2014 season.

All the professional football clubs currently competing in the Nigerian Premier league are owned and financed by Government, a situation that has stifled the growth of the league.

Major leagues all over the world, including the English Premiership and the Spanish La Liga, are privately funded hence their viability.

Consequently, the plan of the League Management Committee (LMC) to encourage private sector participation in football ownership and management in the country is highly commendable, as it would  make the local professional league viable and commercially attractive.

Nduka Irabor, chairman, LMC, in a recent visit to Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State and home of Enyimba International Football Club, affirmed that present ownership of football clubs resting in the hands of Government must dilute to about 30 percent this coming season.

According to him, by 2014/2015 season, we will need to see evidence that independent private sector people are involved in the clubs, not just by appointments of nomenclature of directives, but tangible control of the clubs by about 30 percent and thereafter another 20 percent

It is the plan of the committee to reduce Government’s stake in the local professional league sides to about 50 percent in two years, starting from the coming season.

In his words, “We hope that two years from now Government will have not more than 50 percent stake in local football clubs in the country. However the desired point is zero percent.

“We know that we cannot do without Government as at this point. Not only do they own the infrastructure, they are a ready and willing source of funding. And we need to make our club sides commercially attractive and viable enough for more funds to come in.”

He observed that Nigerian Clubs all these years have not been run like businesses, which according to him has made them unattractive, noting that the involvement of the private sector operators in the management of the clubs would attract more funding.

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“We will go like the rest of the world, because private sector tends to operate business better. Our clubs have not run like businesses all this while, but once private individuals begin to put money, the necessary questions will be asked, the necessary tolerance will be effected and then the clubs will put themselves in a position where they can get the full benefit of professional football.”

He also revealed plans of the committee to institute pension scheme for professional footballers in the country, so that they can have something to fall back on after football.

“I believe that sometime during this season, we probably, would have finalised everything we need to do, to effect that, but if we can’t do it today, we will do it in the nearest future.

He continued, “It is unacceptable, that we are not looking at the future of the people who are giving their best in the prime of their lives-physical involvements that certainly can’t carry them too far after their football carrier. They were not thinking about life after football. We will try to do it this year, but if we can’t, we will do it when we get there. But it is a matter of urgent concern to us.

The LMC also recently announced the scrapping of sign-on- fees in the local professional league and in defence of that decision Irabor explained that most complaints about debt pile-ups in the past were as a result of sign-on-fees.

“The complaints about debt pile-up, most of the time arose from sign-on fees. But if you try to enforce it, you hardly find a contract. It is usually a private arrangement and we believe that there are other incentives to attract players to clubs, rather than paying sign-on fees.

“Take that fund if you have it and do other things within your club. You can enhance the salary of players, you can rebuild infrastructure with your money, improve other welfare benefits of the players or increase their match bonus. There are many things you can do, but sign-on fee is not enforceable, because the contracts are not there,” said.

He explained that some clubs, including Sunshine Stars  and Lobi  prosecuted last league season without paying sign-on-fees, but had good welfare packages for their players, stressing that there was never any threat of  disruption of the clubs’ programmes.

By: GODFREY OFURUM