By Jacob Ajom
It sounds strange for one to ask for royalties on a product one did not contribute to its fabrication. It will be more intriguing to the layman on how a lawyer, arguing for the plaintiff, could convince a judge to entertain such a motion, talk less about granting such a plea.
But that is the seemingly awkward position the National Association of Nigerian Footballers, NANF, finds itself in as it has taken up the fight for compensation (NANF calls it royalty) from the English FA to Nigerian football “for the invasion of the Nigerian space by foreign football leagues.”
Speaking on the issue during the week, NANF President, Harrison Jalla said he was forced to bring the matter to the public domain for the interest, growth and development of Nigerian football.
“Nigerian football has suffered the biggest blow because of foreign leagues,” he argued, adding, “put the best two Nigerian clubs at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium for a match that coincides with, say, Manchester United vs Chelsea fixture in England, I bet if you would see one thousand spectators at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. That is how bad the domestic game is suffering from the English Premier League. Why is the national stadium looking like a graveyard?
“The issue we are bringing today is about the invasion of the Nigerian space by foreign leagues.”
Jalla said NANF had written to the English FA over the development. “We have written to them and informed them that their product, the EPL is having a very adverse effect on the Nigerian Professional Football League. To that effect, we are demanding for a royalty of US$10 billion, being part of the money going into their league at the detriment of the Nigerian league.”
He said, “they have acknowledged receipt of our correspondence and have even discussed with us on phone. But we don’t have that luxury.
“We are speaking from the angle of the players and for the protection of our own local content. The invasion has very serious adverse effect on the players in this country.”
Jalla said regulatory authorities like the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, the Nigerian Lottery Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Lottery Fund had also been contacted and enlightened on the need to amend their policies as they affect their operations as it has to do with satellite broadcast and betting.
“If you look at the Acts of Parliament that created these bodies, they gave them absolute powers to use their discretion in absolute control of the industry,” NANF boss contended.
He said NANF believes in the viability of partnering the English FA in the quest to develop Nigerian football. “That is why we are not asking for outright ban on the broadcast of foreign leagues in Nigeria but what we want is a fraction of what goes out should be given to the local game to develop.`“We have got in touch with our external solicitors, Johnson & Steler Solicitors of Hanover Square, Mayfair London to launch a process to recover US$10billion as outstanding royalties from 2008 to 2018 for the adverse effect of the invasion of the EPL and football betting using the Premier League games.”
But the battle is not only against the English FA, the cable television networks have also been roped in as co-conspirators. “We are holding them accountable for the state of our football today and we have drawn the attention of the regulatory bodies to this sad trend,” Jalla said, adding that the agencies have shown a lot of sympathy to NAN’s cause, and have pledged their commitment to the struggle.