Monday, May 10, 2010

Hurdles Before New NPL

In spite of claims from certain quarters that the election into the Premier League board should not have held due to a case instituted at an Appeal Court, a new administration has taken effect from Monday this week with former Enugu Rangers’ striker and sole administrator, Davidson Owumi, as chairman of the Nigeria Premier League (NPL). It is the first time that a former footballer would hold such a high position in any of the country’s football administrative arms. Already Owumi has a track record of having played for Sharks Football Club and then the Flying Antelopes as Enugu Rangers is popularly referred to. But it was at Sharks that Owumi became the league’s top scorer with 10 goals in the 1985 season.
However, the Delta State-born soccer official was later appointed to become CEO of Rangers and Special Assistant to the Enugu State government on issues bordering on the Premier League club. His scorecard under that period was quite impressive though the club never won a domestic title but finished in continental positions in almost all of the seasons when Owumi was in charge. But the former Sharks’ man, who is believed to be one of the think-tank in Oyuki Obaseki’s tenure, knows that he has taken up a task of bringing quality into every facet of the top-flight division of the country especially considering the achievements of his predecessor – Obaseki – whom he worked hand in hand with. Owumi also knows that the running of the Premier League is not a one-man show. "There is so much work to do and I am sure that we are capable of getting through the problems to properly reposition the Premier League in the country. There is going to be a turn around, God helping us, there is going to be a new change for the Premier League. The last board did very well and we are going to improve the league in all ramifications," Owumi said.
With Owumi’s submission on the task before his administration, takes a look at FIVE vital areas where the new Premier League body should give credence before setting off to other equally important aspects of the league that appears not to have been given enough attention.
Sponsorship Deals
Since the fall-out between the title sponsor of the top-flight, Globacom Nigeria Limited and the NPL in December last year over contractual terms, nothing has been heard about the deal, which runs out at the end of this season. The telecommunications giant withdrew its sponsorship citing lack of value on its investment. The contract with Glo was signed in 2006 at a total cost of N787 million including value in kind. That sum rose to over N1 billion for the ongoing season and the telecomms outfit was expected to pay N922 million but instead offered N250 million. At the moment, Globacom has failed to pay its sponsorship fee for the current season and this might be the first task to be ironed out by Owumi’s board. For instance in Ghana, the same company signed a $15 million deal for a five-year period with the Ghana Football Association (GFA) last year. The first season of that contract raked in $3million for the Ghanaian league from Glo. With the season nearing its close, the new board must act to ensure that it puts a deal on the table for the Premier League before next season kicks off.
Television Rights
Just like the title sponsorship, the television rights have been a source of concern to followers of the league. One of the club managers told that since the broadcast rights was given to SuperSport through Total Promotions Limited, it has never been paid any premium from television rights. “I don’t know anything about the TV rights because nobody has mentioned such to us. Nobody has given us money for it,” said one of the Premier League club chairmen. Same goes for other clubs in the top-flight.
The deal with SuperSport remains shrouded compared to the one signed between Ghana’s FA and Optimum Media Prime (OMP). By the terms of the contract signed in Ghana last year, OMP-Optimizing would inject a total of GH¢1.7 million (Ghanaian cedis) for the second round of the league till 2011. OMP started off last year by presenting an initial installment of GH¢200,000 to the GFA in cheque in a three-year contract. In the subsequent seasons, OMP will add GH¢600,000 for the second year and then GH¢800,000 for the third season. For example, the English Premier League (EPL) broadcast rights outside England has been sold for around £1.4 billion for between 2010 and 2013 which is more than double the previous level of £625 million. This is definitely one area that the NPL can capitalise on since the league is shown across some African countries by SuperSport.
Official Website/Media Department
The Premier League in Nigeria has lacked in one area, which the aggrieved title sponsor picked on to pull out of further putting funds into the championship in the last year of its deal. Apart from the fact that most clubs have been guilty of lacking official websites of their own except for the Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC), Sharks, Enyimba, Kano Pillars and Heartland among others that run unattractive web portals, the Premier League is a major culprit in the area of channeling adequate information. Unlike South Africa’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) or the EPL that results are got within minutes of matches concluded, correspondents covering the league wait on media officers attached to clubs to get update statistics or results, which at times could be untrue.
The PSL has been using PA Sport to generate stats for its website. The new NPL board needs to realise that any potential sponsor would want full value for its money in the area of mileage just like Barclays enjoy with the EPL. In order to make the Nigerian top-flight attractive to followers of the game, basics such as players’ stats, personal data as well as match information along with pictures should be made available at the tip of our fingers. At present, the official website of the NPL is in comatose – though it has press releases or communiqu├ęs often posted on it by its media office. This is one area that the immediate board did not do justice to and Owumi and co can borrow a leaf from two independent Premier League web portals currently running in the country.
Players’ Welfare/Contracts
There is no way the game can be talked about without involving the players. In recent weeks, there have been revelations on how some of the professional clubs in the country have been heavily indebted to present and past players. It is believed that professional clubs including those in the Premier League owe players to the tune of about N306 million. There are even clubs in the top-flight that do not offer their players proper contract. Since there is an arbitration panel that presides over issues like this, then there is need for the Premier League to insist on clubs submitting copies of players’ contract with it even when a renewal takes place.
National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF) president, Harrison Jalla, believes that the players and the Premier League board have lots of work to do in tackling issues bordering on players’ welfare and contracts in the elite division. “We have read cases of players threatening to go on strike before they are paid their money. I think the NPL especially the new board has lots of work on its hands in this area,” he said. “The players too should know better by signing contracts that benefits them because without them, there would be no league after all. It is good we have an ex-player of the league as chairman now and we hope that he and his board will look into matters of this importance.”
Refereeing Structure
In England there is the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) that appoints referees to officiate matches in the Premier League, as well as the Football League, FA Cup and Carling Cup. This select group assesses and determines the performances of referees and where they should officiate. However, this issue in the past has brought about friction between the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the NPL. That friction costs the league a deal worth more than N350 million with an airline company for the referees. At the moment, no one knows can say outright how the referees get their indemnities after each match. This is also an issue to be thrashed out through structured wages for centre and assistant referees, which allows the Premier League know the wage bill of officiating officials for a whole season.
Four years from now, Owumi and co in the NPL must know that there are people waiting to carry out an assessment on their performance considering the way Obaseki’s board was able to give the Premier League a lift from the doldrums. Though there are still some areas in which his board failed to live up to its billing, the Bini High Chief was still able to leave his footprints on the Premier League with a big shoes for Owumi to fill. 

1 comment:

    Nice one sir!
    Bode Oguntuyi