The in-coming administrations at federal and state levels have been urged to invest in football through the league by upgrading existing stadium facilities that meet modern requirements of the game as a sport and an entertainment vehicle.
Chairman of the League Management Company (LMC), Mallam Shehu Dikko made the call in Lagos over the weekend during an interactive session with Sports Editors and said the football industry could generate huge jobs with a properly articulated policy to support the business aspects of football.
Dikko cited the example of the United Kingdom under former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher which in the 1990’s produced the framework that supported the English Premier League to evolve into a huge industry that has come to be a major revenue earner for the British people.
“Football is a national asset. It has sustained so many other industries where it has been properly harnessed such as in the UK. It supports the beverage, apparels, hotel and restaurant, souvenir manufacturers, transportation legal and media industries amongst others.
Governments need to invest in football not by being club owners but by providing infrastructure, upgrading existing stadiums to meet standards for broadcast, good play, leisure and business”.
On capital flight to European clubs, he said the LMC may seek through the NFF to have a legislation that will compel companies doing business in Nigeria and investing in clubs abroad to pay a percentage of the value of the deal to the league here.
“We think it is important to show domestic credentials of supporting sports before going abroad and some of the wealthy foreigners investing in English football already had a tradition of supporting sports in their home countries…Abramovic, the owner of Chelsea has a Foundation that has been supporting their national team and so also the Glaciers who were deeply involved in sports ownership in the US. We are not saying they should not make profitable business choices but we are saying that they are making money from Nigerians and should use part of the money to support our domestic passion”.
Dikko said the LMC would in the days after the inauguration of new administrations engage the governors individually through letters and collectively through the Governors’ Forum to present to them the benefits of divesting from clubs and investing in infrastructure. “We are working on creating incentives that will encourage State governments to open up club ownership to the fans and immediate communities”, the LMC Chairman also said.
He said the LMC is also looking forward to engaging the incoming government at the center towards developing policies that will make football a huge revenue earner through taxes that is derived from the business side of football.
He clarified that the three weeks break that began after Matchday 10 is consistent with the fixtures drawn up at the start of the season and said those who might have complained apparently did not find time to read through the fixtures released.
“The fixtures were released to clubs and it made it clear we will go on break after Matchday 9 to enable us assess progress made by the clubs in terms of meeting registration requirements as they were only granted provisional registration at the start of the season.
“ More fundamentally, it was also an opportunity for the clubs to interface properly with the incoming or re-elected political leadership of their owner states that have since the last couple of months been pre-occupied with election campaigns”.
He explained that in operating the NFF Club Licensing Regulations, the LMC is careful not to make enforcement seem punitive. “We cannot change some of the entrenched behaviours and practices overnight but we will continue to work with the clubs towards changing their orientation as we have clearly achieved in having having the league governing structure accepted”.
Dikko also spoke of provisions in the Rules and Framework to encourage clubs have a succession line of players, noting that “since at the moment, we do not have a youth league, the clubs have been encouraged to bring in five youth players at anytime in the season who will wear jersey numbers 36-40 for identification. They can also be withdrawn and replaced at any time and clubs are not obliged to pay them minimum wage”