Wednesday, September 08, 2010

FEATURES: The KPL model, another recipe for NPL

Over time, those involved in the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) have often pointed to the English Premier League (EPL) as an example to follow in organising the league. Lately some have added the Premier Soccer League (PSL) of South Africa to that exclusive list of leagues with proper organisation and structure – which the top-flight division of the Nigerian professional league needs to emulate. Unlike its PSL counterpart the Nigerian championship is a long walk away from becoming a truly professional championship in the face of incessant interruptions and disagreements.
The Premier League is currently embroiled in a disputeinotype","serif"; font-size: 12.0pt;">English writer with the Guardian of London, Paul Doyle, explained that the period in question in the KPL was littered with corruption even from gate-taking proceeds, which were unaccounted for. “There was not a single penny banked by the treasurer as proceeds from gate receipts,” Doyle stated.
However that line of the KPL story is typical of the Premier League in Nigeria. Tales of corruption, incompetence and infighting remain commonplace than success stories in the Nigerian top-flight. Even Kano Pillars, which recorded the highest attendance in a single Premier League game last season of slightly above 14,000 cannot conveniently give financial details of average earnings from gate-takings. A top official of the club, who prefers to be kept out of the picture, told that it is difficult to state what the club earns every season from gate receipts.
“I agree that at the moment, our club is the side that has the largest followers in the country. But I cannot really tell what the club makes from the gates for each match. And please don’t mention me,” the official shocked our correspondent in an interview on telephone at the weekend.
Last season, club officials of a northern club were alleged to have bolted away with proceeds from gate-takings of a Premier League game worth over N200,000 in cash before the matter was swept under the carpet – never to be heard again.
General-secretary of the Council of East and Central African Football Associations (CECAFA), Nicholas Musonye, points the blame to the various national associations on the continent for having weak leagues.
“Too many national associations are failing African football,” began Musonye. “We cannot have strong national teams without strong leagues but we do not have strong leagues because too often the associations are run by the wrong people, people who get involved for politics or money, not for football. Until we sort ourselves out, we will have the same old circus.”
The KPL appears to have sorted itself out, and now provides a typical example for other African leagues including that of the NPL, according to Doyle. The KPL is now owned and run by the 16 Kenyan clubs. The revolution in the KPL began with an investigation into corruption into the activities of the Kenya Football Federation (KFF) five years ago involving proceeds from gate-takings, football agents selling players abroad, embezzling of FIFA subvention and disappearance of computers donated by the world soccer governing body.
In the heat of that investigation, the Kenyan clubs began agitation for reforms, which ended up with them taking over the running of the domestic championship in 2008. The KPL is only the second professional league owned entirely by clubs after the PSL in South Africa. Chairman of Mathare United of the KPL, Bob Munro, explained how the Kenyan top-flight now works. Munro is also an official of the KPL.
“When you have a company that owns the league and the 16 clubs are equal shareholders and equal decisionmakers, then you automatically have three things “First, you have complete accountability, because you basically have 16 auditors as every shilling that comes in belongs to the clubs together and they sit and decide how best to allocate it – how much goes to the clubs, how much to a common pool for staff, referees, marketing and so on.
“Secondly, you have complete transparency because there are no secrets when there are 16 owners. And, thirdly, you automatically have fair play – if any official or referee tries to favour one club, the 15 others will fire them. Fair play, financial accountability and democratic transparency, that’s all you need to have good football management,” Munro summed up the foundation on which the KPL now thrives on.
The situation in the Premier League in Nigeria is similar to that of the KPL five years ago. The battle for the soul of the NPL has already seen chairmanship aspirant and Bayelsa United chairman, Victor Baribote Rumson, take his dispute over the NPL election to the doorstep of the world soccer governing body. Rumson’s dispute is not the only one before FIFA, as there is another case against 26 clubs in the country with the world soccer body over debt in the region of N700 million (about $47 million) owed players and officials.
Enyimba, Dolphin Football Club, Crown Football Club, Sunshine Stars, Sharks Football Club, Niger Tornadoes, Lobi Stars, Gombe United, Heartland, Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) and Kwara United are among the Premier League clubs indebted.
One of Kenya’s top sports editor, Elias Makori of The Nation, believes that FIFA should stop harping on its policy of non-government interference, as it is not working in the African context. He urged the world soccer body to “insist on good governance” for the game.
“What FIFA needs to do is stop insisting on no government interference and instead insist on good governance. It needs to help the right people and thwart the opportunists by drawing up a model constitution for all its associations and demanding that it is respected. If the status quo remains, it is hard not to be pessimistic,” said Makori.
No doubt the Premier League appears to be stuck though the NPL has taken the first step of paying up the debts of players and officials after releasing the sum of N6.5 million (about $43,300) to three former Sharks FC players last Friday. In spite of its enlightened leadership, the NPL’s undoing remains being tied to the NFF for final verdict on the activities of the Premier League as the suspension of the kick-off date posits.
No doubt the Premier League is going through a rebuilding process as Gombe United coordinator, Mallam Farouk Umar, puts it. “The league will gradually grow but it needs time to do so because we are in a period of rebuilding,” he explained. It is also believed that the downturn in the country’s economy has affected the league exerting pressure on infrastructure and administration with no clear contingent plan in sight.
In spite of the impediments, the Nigeria Premier League is regarded as a potential money-spinner, and experts project that if properly ran, it could explode in a matter of less than five years with TV being a critical factor to that success story. But the real valuation of the NPL remains a total mystery and until solved will continue to be the crux on which the Nigerian top-flight championship will form a solid base like the EPL, KPL or the PSL.

1 comment:

  1. This is one serious issue that might work for our league. But will this ever happen?