By Precious Godwin
The aim of every footballing nation in the world is to have its own national league, that portrays every form of quality, standard, and professionalism, thereby give it’s football-loving citizens a sense of football belonging and a football league to proudly call their own.
But the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, over the years has been far from the word professional.
The League has come under scrutiny from football loving fans in the country regarding its professional status and quality.
Nigeria, being home to millions of football fans who not only see football as just a game, but also as a way of life, and of course, being a country that also sees football as its national game of interest should have a standard football league that shows how much football is loved.
But it seems Nigeria just has a league for the sake of it, rather than one that is well managed with all the ingredients that make for a professional league.
The NPFL has a lot of issues ranging from constant re-occurrence of fan violence, assault on match officials, players are not paid their salaries or match allowances as when due, hostile nature of match venues, lack of sponsorship for the League and these are just a few of the numerous issues that affect its growth.
One problem that was not mentioned above is the unavailability of broadcast rights for the league which is one aspect that helps in the development or growth of any football league in the world.
Broadcasting the League on TV or Radio helps it attract sponsors which helps its growth.
LMC and the Supersport deal
And talking about the broadcasting of the league, in 2013 the League Management Company agreed to a deal with Supersport that was reportedly worth about $34 million, which was supposed to commence from 2015 till 2019.
The deal was, however, unfortunately, ended abruptly in 2017 by Supersport because of a reported breach in contract from the side of the LMC and since then till now there has not been a broadcast right owner for the League.
This has deprived hundreds of thousands of viewers the opportunity to see the NPFL on television, leading to the NPFL being regarded by many as a social media league as updates are only seen on Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Media channels.
A former Super Eagles player, Eddy Dombraye, currently based in Ukraine was asked recently how he follows the Nigerian League and he responded that he only watches teams when they play on the continent, but for the League games he only reads about them online.
Then you will ask, “how can he watch the League online when it is not shown on any Television station? This is the fate of the Nigeria Professional Football League.
There has been the clamor from Nigerian fans in recent years mainly after the successful outing of the late Stephen Keshi led Super Eagles at the AFCON in 2013 which saw him lift the Cup with a few players from the home League.
The clamour has to do with fans wanting more players from the League represented in the Super Eagles set up or at least getting the same opportunities afforded their fellow players in Europe and other parts of the world.
And you will ask, how do you get to see the best Nigerian legs in the league play when the fans are not afforded the luxury of watching these players on a weekly unless they to go to the stadiums which frankly not so many Nigerians will afford to because of the peculiar nature of the country.
THE CAF ROLE
In the drive to promote home based players in their different national leagues in Africa and also to give them the opportunity to represent their different countries, the Confederation Of African Football ( CAF ) in 2009 started the CHAN competition for only players in their country’s league as the eligibility for participation.
Since this competition started, the best that the Home Super Eagles have done is to finish in second place in 2018.
This tournament has had countries like DR. Congo as two-time winners, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya with one championship each.
Then one will be tempted to ask that if the NPFL has as much football talent as some fans say it has, why haven’t the home-based Eagles won the CHAN competition?
This will take us back to the issue of the broadcasting right of the league where the matches have been played blindly away from the outside world and where the quality of football can not be compared to what is in other countries in the continent; a place where the best players in the league are constantly getting frustrated by not being able to showcase their talent and the quality that they possess to the continent and the world.
The players look for the slightest opportunity to leave the country to other countries for greener pastures and this has contributed to depleting the quality of the NPFL and if the NFF and the LMC want to improve the league and take it back to glory days, then it must first bring back the league on television and also improve on the league’s quality on and off the pitch.
Some time ago, a broadcast right was rumored to have been agreed between the LMC and NEXT TV to broadcast live matches of the league, but whether these rumors are true and if NPFL matches will come back to our screens again still remains a mystery to Nigerians.