Will Buhari’s presidency restore sanity to Nigeria’s sport sector?

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VENTURES AFRICA – On March 28, Nigerians made a historic choice. For the first time ever, an incumbent President suffered defeat at the polls in what many regard a milestone moment in Nigeria’s democracy. Already, many analysts are reporting on what President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari’s emergence will mean for the country’s politics and economy. In what appears to be a first sign of progress, market indices improved rapidly after the announcement of Buhari’s victory as Nigeria’s all-share index jumped 8.3 percent. With financial experts suggesting that the markets will be more responsive to a Buhari Presidency even before the polls, it appears the positive gains in the market could be long-term.

Whilst economic experts break down possible effects of a Buhari presidency on Nigeria’s polity and economy, we take a deeper look at what impact it might on the country’s sporting sector.

Appointments

Buhari has previously served as Nigeria’s leader with a two year stint at the helm of affairs between 1983 and 1985. In that period, despite his disposition as a military dictator, Buhari was notably keen on meritorious appointments in key positions. Having returned as a reformed democrat, it is unlikely that the man fondly referred to as the People’s General will deviate from the norm. This is excellent news for the sports sector as given the right appointments and the emphasis on following due process and protocol, Nigeria’s sports sector could be set to witness its most stable and qualified leadership in years. Over time, one of the main reservations of insiders has been the relative lack of professional expertise in sports administration among the upper brass of decision makers in Nigeria’s sports industry. But with the possibility of appointments based less on political leanings and more of qualifications and merit, a lack of direction and vision could well be a thing of the past.

Corruption and spending

Just as it has bedeviled other sectors of Nigeria, corruption has stalled development in Nigerian sports. A lack of accountability has consistently meant that funding has been shambolic while whatever progress was made in corporate partnership was shrouded in questionable secrecy. One of Buhari’s famous governance policies is zero tolerance of corruption and again, this is excellent news for the industry. Not only will there be funds but those in charge of these funds will be accountable for them and when need be, will be held accountable for irregular activity. History is replete with national teams being underfunded while ministry officials live luxuriously but if history is anything to go by, all that will be nonexistent under Buhari. In the event that funds are provided and distributed when due, various sporting federations can rapidly enjoy growth and development.

Strategy

With the aforementioned in place, a Buhari presidency could well set the stage for strategy to thrive. Long-term planning and strategy requires the alignment of various factors but with vision and direction from qualified leaders and financial discipline across board, whatever set goals will have far higher chances of being achieved. One of the main focus areas of the central strategy team will be to develop a multi-sports economy. Nigeria is historically a football nation and this has led to the neglect of other sports. Forward thinking nations, however skilled and popular their national football teams may be, have taken to ensuring equitable development across various sports as this has a ripple effect on the sports economy. First, there is wider infrastructural development with a larger pool of athletes coming through training programs. With proper nurturing, talented athletes can emerge as professionals and compete on bigger platforms. The development of multiple sports also means the provision of jobs for various coaching and administrative professionals in the field and can also lead to more possibilities for corporate partnership. Perhaps if in need of ideas, the new leaders of the strategy can look to South Africa who have had excellent results in their sports sector which various sports- cricket, rugby, football, basketball, golf and cycling- all thriving not just in sporting terms but also financially. Africa’s largest sports economy, without doubt, is South Africa’s but Nigeria- with the right thinking- can rival it.

The good news for sports industry insiders and enthusiasts is that a Buhari presidency means exactly that- a new beginning.

 

 

Source: New feed25

Solving the Attendance problem of African football

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VENTURES AFRICA – One of the major drawbacks of generating revenue in African sports, particularly football, is a relative lack of tangible widespread interest. With the absence of this interest, the various local football leagues in Africa are faced with low stadium attendances and low profile match-day experiences which in turn make for rather dour games. Across the world, one of the key components of football games and competition is the presence of the fans which adds an entirely unique element to these events. The atmosphere they create, the support they provide and the camaraderie they engage in all make a truly unique factor which, in many ways, elevates the game altogether.

In recent years, Africa has faced the widening gap between its revenue generation ability and those that obtain in global football circles as it aims to develop and sustain a continental football economy that can, at best compete with, and at worst, not appear too inferior to European leagues particularly. The continent’s leading lights have been handed further conviction of this possibility by the successes enjoyed by the Australian A-League and the American MLS. However, while some African leagues such as the South African PSL and the Moroccan Botola boast decent organization and attendance numbers, some- like the Egyptian and Tunisian league- are plagued with crowd trouble while others, such as the Nigerian Professional Football League, are renowned for shoddy organization and dodgy officiating.

There might be a litany of problems with local leagues in Africa but one which must be tackled urgently- alongside credible officiating and organization- is the lack of attendances at stadiums. Fans in Africa are famously passionate about football and it is paradoxical that these same fans pass up the opportunity of taking advantage of the proximity which the local leagues offer in favour of adding to television audience numbers for Europe’s leading leagues. However, if clubs in conjunction with league organizing companies attempt to fix some particular issue, they may well begin the long-term process of reversing or balancing the interests of African football fans.

 

Security

Egypt has suffered cases of crowd violence in the last three years with more than twenty people tragically killed in instances that occurred in recent years. As such, with the possibility of lax security becoming an apparent issue, it is not hard to understand fans who choose to remain at home rather than attend these games out of fear. Fixing stadium security is paramount as if fans view attending games as being a huge safety risk, attendances are bound to dwindle. It is pertinent to note also, that crowd violence is not an issue exclusive to Africa as only last year, a fan was killed in Spain after clashes with rivals but the difference and key to retaining supporters’ trust was the swift and strict response of the Spanish football authorities. Dissenting fans and groups (popularly called ultras in Spain and Italy) are kept in check by the cubs and by the league management bodies to ensure that unbridled passion does not evolve into safety hazards for other fans.

In Germany, the Bundesliga is ranked as one with one of the most globally attended games. The relaxed atmosphere at games make it a perfect day out for family outings which boosts attendance figures at various arenas in Germany.

It is imperative for club officials and for league bodies to address the security issues at various stadiums and adhere to tackling issues head-on to regain and retain the trust of match-going supporters.

 

Entertainment

Another reason supporters pay good money to see games is because of the entertainment value it offers. In many of Europe’s biggest leagues, the chance to see star names in action are a major attraction but asides that, the quality of football on display goes a long way in ensuring that, like every customer and service provider relationship, the fans in the stands get value for their money. Interestingly, the presence of big names does not always guarantee excellent football just as their absence does not automatically rid leagues of high quality football. The truth is that the delivery of football as a product on match-day is an interwoven process that involves the provision of adequate welfare packages and facilities and also organization on the part of the league body. Where shoddy officiating reigns supreme, like in the Nigerian Professional Football League, it is important to win the trust of supporters with credible refereeing so fans do not feel as though they are pawns in a high level game of match-fixing. The genuine factor of unpredictability and entertainment in football on matchdays gives fans extra incentive to pay good money to watch; it behoves on the clubs and league bodies to deliver this.

 

What do clubs stand to gain with full stands?

With sold-out stadiums on weekly basis, the possibilities are near endless for football clubs as they are provided with a tangible, sustainable and long-term source of critical revenue. Of the four key revenue streams in sports globally, gate receipts account for the highest percentage of earned revenue ahead of other components such as media rights, sponsorship and merchandise. Clearly, while other components involve a few variables, the match-going fans who buy tickets to watch their favourite teams play can provide teams with a stable source of income but only if conditions for attendances are right.

In a way, high level of attendances can spur on other revenue streams. A case in point is the newly launched football franchise in America’s MLS. New York City played their first ever home game two weeks ago and with a sold-out stadium, the club’s shops also witnessed a lot of activity. A particularly popular item was the official club scarf with official club outlets announcing that they posted the highest game day merchandise sales in MLS’ 20-year history. A total of 4,000 scarfs were sold netting the club between $80,000 and $120,000 on that day alone from the sale of just one line of items.

The congregation of large numbers also increases branding value in and around stadiums as the club can monetize the consistent presence of its brads with stadium ad panels, brand activation and multiple other channels.

As many of Africa’s local leagues push for rapid growth and formulas for achieving sustainable success, it is crucial that some focus lies on ensuring higher attendances at games. The fans are passionate about their football and about their teams and if the conditions are right, many global lessons have shown that these fans are generally willing to put their money where their mouth is.

 

 

Source: New feed25

Photo: Super Eagles players having dinner after beating Congo 2-0

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The Super Eagles this evening defeated their Congolese counterpart, the Red Devils, in a 2-0 match to get them closer to qualify for the 2015 African Cup of Nations holding next year.

The first half of the match ended 0-0 for both teams but the second half saw Nigeria’s Ikechukwu Uche and Aaron Samuel scoring a goal each to beat Congo.

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