Wednesday, May 15, 2013

-Return of Globacom

IT IS European football that is dominating the headlines at the moment as the major countries on that continent crown their league champions for the 2012/2013 football season, or are about to do so.

Penultimate weekend, Ajax Amsterdam won their third straight Eredevise title in Holland, Juventus won their second straight Serie A title in Italy while Bayern Munich collected the Bundesliga Shield which they effectively won nearly two months earlier.

Last weekend, it was the turn of Paris Saint Germain (PSG) to finally secure their first French Ligue 1 title since 1994; Barcelona reclaimed the Spanish La Liga from fierce rivals Real Madrid, while Manchester United collected their 13th English Premier League trophy under their departing manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.

In the midst of all the title celebrations, though, what captured the biggest headlines was Ferguson’s announcement last week that he was stepping down as United manager after a record 26 years in the saddle during which he won a remarkable 38 trophies.

The news was so big that even Cable News Network (CNN) and other major international news networks broke their regular programme schedule to do live coverage, special features and analysis on what has been an enigmatic managerial career.

The following day, newspapers around the world joined in paying glowing tributes to a man who is clearly the greatest football club manager of his era. Those tributes are already well documented and all I want to say here, borrowing the words of a SkySports journalist that interviewed Ferguson after his last home match at Old Trafford (a 2-1 win over Swansea City last Sunday) is: “Sir Alex, well done.”

European football may be grabbing the headlines but, for me, the best football news was actually breaking back here at home. Last week, telecoms giants Globacom officially confirmed their return as sponsors of the Nigeria Premier League (or Nigeria Professional Football League) by signing a three-year contract worth nearly N2 billion. After collecting the sponsorship cheque from Globacom, the League Management Committee (LMC) headed by Nduka Irabor proceeded to resolve their differences with the “Club Owners” on how the league will be run. And just before that, Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi arrived from his holiday in America and doused the controversy surrounding his relationship with the Nigeria Football Federation by tendering an apology for allegedly going AWOL. These for me were the best news of the past week, especially the return of Globacom.

Personally, I have been quite saddened by the fact that an acclaimed football-loving country like Nigeria, despite the multi-billion naira corporations that abound,  did not have an official title sponsor for our football league. On the surface, the legal tussle of the past two years or so between Globacom and Total Promotions representing MTN was the cause of the sponsorship logjam. But there were strong political undertones and sloppy handling by the managers of the league at the time as well.

A situation where a sponsor, intending sponsor and/or their agents would become so powerful that they could manipulate the league according to their whims should not have been allowed to happen in the first place. Nigerian football is replete with cases where the property agent is more powerful than the property owner in determining what happens to the property. Often times, the agent even benefits more than the owner from what accrues on the property. Some people should actually be in jail now for the kind of slavish contracts they had signed in the past either ignorantly or fraudulently on behalf of Nigerian football both at the federation and in the league.

I have not seen a copy of the new Globacom contract but I hope it does not include the types of clauses that have held the league hostage in the past at expiration, thus resulting in protracted legal tussles. Globacom deserve great commendation for their huge investment in Nigerian football since the company’s inception.

But our league sponsorship contracts should be drawn in such a manner that the league retains full control of the property, and can realize reasonable market value for it either from a sitting sponsor exercising a right of first refusal, or from a completely new sponsor without one being able to block the other by judicial or extra-judicial means.

Past managers of the league failed miserably in achieving a seamless continuation or transition of sponsorships either because they compromised themselves or they were simply ignorant. I hope that the LMC have ensured that we won’t have a repeat of that scenario at the expiration of the new Globacom contract.

It is worthy of mention that Total Promotions Limited who had a subsisting contract to market the league sponsorship rights which they subsequently executed in favour of MTN graciously accepted to concede that right to Globacom for a compensation fee, after their client MTN, also dropped its court case. Had MTN and Total Promotions not conceded, the legal tussle would have continued and the  league would have remained without a sponsor even now.

The recent confrontation was the second time that the league sponsorship would be enmeshed in a tussle between Globacom and MTN. I remember being in the thick of things in Abuja and writing a series of articles - Globa-Come, Globa-Go; Globa-Quit and Globa-Comeback - during the first crisis in 2003. MTN eventually backed down unhappily, but even Globacom did not enjoy a happy tenure as league sponsor.

It is only a sign of the irresistible drawing power of football that both companies returned again to tussle for the same property several years later.  

The big lesson in all of these is for the LMC and whoever will succeed them to be very vigilant before entering into  any contract on behalf of the league in the future. And after the contract is signed, they must adhere religiously to all its provisions in case matters end up again in court!

The title sponsorship has been resolved for now, but there is still the problem with the television rights which should be fetching the league a healthy sum but is reportedly benefitting some private pockets more than the league itself. If the LMC can resolve that as well in favour of the league, that would be another great achievement.

Back to Globacom and the title sponsorship, it’s time for Chief Mike Adenuga and his men to raise the stakes even higher. As much as the company’s consistency in supporting Nigerian football is appreciated, critics continue to insist that Globacom can do more in the area of creative activation of its football properties. The major challenge facing the domestic league is how to draw the fans back to the stadium in the face of the very fierce competition from European football that is broadcast almost daily now on television. Globacom should take the lead in confronting this seemingly insurmountable challenge and it will find those of us in the sports media  willing and ready partners.

If Nollywood which also enjoys generous support from Globacom can domesticate the entertainment consumption pattern of Nigerians so significantly as it has done, surely the football league can also win back the followership of the football-mad populace if the right incentives are introduced. It will be difficult, but certainly not impossible with strategic planning and committed execution.

Advice to “Club Owners”

I HAVE read the communique released at the end of the reconciliation meeting brokered by minister of sports Bolaji Abdullahi and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) between the League Management Committee (LMC) and the “Clubs Owners” Association.

Essentially, the “Club Owners” want to ensure that the LMC did not usurp their own powers or steal the League itself from under their noses through a “suspicious” incorporation of the League Management Company.

To demonstrate the genuineness of its intentions, the LMC has agreed to “amend the Memorandum and the Articles of the Association” of the League Management Company Limited to allay the fears of the club representatives. That is a significant victory for the “Club Owners.”

However, I have some pieces of advice for the “Club Owners” which I hope they will consider going forward...

1. Do not kill the LMC: The League Management Company Limited is a child of circumstance born effectively “out of wedlock.” But rather than kill it, I will admonish the clubsides to be open-minded about its benefits and nurture it instead. From my assessment, the LMC have some brilliant minds who can help us to develop a masterplan for a commercially successful league and it is in our collective interest to give them a chance once the issue of “ownership of the league company” has been resolved. If an individual or the entire LMC fails to perform effectively, the club managers acting as a Board of Directors of the League may resolve to replace them. But the vision behind the League Company must not be allowed to die. It promises to be revolutionary.

2. Do not re-inaugurate an Executive League Board: The next Board of the NPFL should not operate on an executive basis. The board should only sit periodically to approve policies, budget, revenue sharing and other key decisions and leave day-to-day running of the league to the LMC. At the end of the LMC’s specified tenure, the board should review their performance and decide whether to retain the current LMC members or appoint new ones including a Chief Executive. LMC staff constituted by neutral members not affliated to any clubside is the best for the league as it will ensure fairness, equity and professionalism in the management of the league.

3. Do not allow the LMC to fix its own emoluments: Even ahead of the election to the new league board, the “Club Owners” should immediately assume the powers to fix the salaries and allowances of the LMC members. When the new board comes on stream, it should then take over the role in full in order to check mismanagement or embezzlement of funds by the LMC staff who are effectively employees of the League.

Meanwhile, members of the Nduka Irabor-led LMC should avoid appropriating to themselves excessive comforts at the expense of the league. If they allow that to happen, they would have mortgaged their credibility. Any how, that is why I am suggesting that the club owners should fix their emoluments.

Salaries and allowances should be comparable to similar organizations in Nigeria, but bonuses should be generous to encourage performance. For instance, if the LMC acquire new sponsorships for the League, the League Board may give a percentage of the revenue to the staff as performance bonus.

I’m Off to Liverpool

I will be traveling to Liverpool this weekend to participate in a 5-A-Side international football competition organized by Standard Chartered Bank running from May 18th to 22nd, 2013. Ten countries will be taking part and I am a member of the Nigerian Standard Chartered team.

The other countries and territories are United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Bahrain, Thailand, Korea and MENAP.

I asked the organizers why I had been selected and was told that the major criterion was my being a loyal fan of Liverpool for nearly 30 years now. But I guess they also considered the “TV Goal” (that goal must not be forgotten!) that I scored to inspire Complete Sports to the Lagos SWAN Cup title last year.

Just last week, I wrote here how I was addressed as an “ex-international” at Segun Odegbami’s book launching. Now, it appears that I am going “international” for real.

Be on the look-out for my first-hand reports from Anfield, courtesy of Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria.

4 comments:

  1. Kudos to Globacom for their unwavering support of Nigerian football over the years. Hope they keep up the tempo until our league can stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of EPL, Laliga, Serie A & Bundesliga, etc.

    I was disappointed again you did not even give a mention to the Europa League final played on the same day. Am sure you will have done so if it is your club. But thank God we won! At least, we are not in the category of some people who have been WALKING ALONE in the wilderness of Europa League for the past few seasons now without winning neither are we in the category of some who have been GUNNING for the UCL for 16 consecutive seasons with NOTHING to show for it! UP CHELSEEEEEEEEEEA!!!! BLUE will remain to be the colour!!

    Anyway trust your participation at the 5-A-Side international football ending tomorrow is going well. Enjoy the rest of your stay over there and journey mercies back home as we “look-out for my first-hand reports from Anfield”

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  3. Good advice for the management and ownership of NFL, let's hope they read and follow words of wisdom. All the best Team SC Nigeria and i hope you score goaaaals !

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  4. Nigerian Football team has finest players in the world - http://www.ngr24.com/

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