Poor Records, Representation and Third Party Ownership: The bane of the NPFL

As you may be aware, I am a contributor to some Sports programs on Radio here in Lagos, Nigeria and whilst on air yesterday with Olawale Adigun doing Sportscafe on Top Radio 90.9FM; we discussed the alleged plan of Sikiru Olatunbosun and Steven Odey to go out on trials in Belgium whilst their team Mountain of Fire Ministries Football Club, otherwise known as MFM FC remained in pole position to potentially end the first half of the season as league leaders. Our discussion centered around the impact their departure would have in derailing the MFM FC train and scuttle all that has been achieved by this modest but ”well run” Football club. My take was that the fact that the commercial ownership of the rights to this players is supposedly in doubt constitutes a major problem for the team. Whether we like it or not MFM are not alone in this messy ownership structures which are purportedly arranged as loan transactions; visit any NPFL Club today and the story is the same, 3/4 of the players plying their trade for different clubs in our league are not owned by these clubs. Now do not get me wrong; the loan system is recognized and acceptable worldwide; especially among ”duly registered” clubs not mushroom academies and messy third party ownership arrangement.

You would ask; why am I so worried and concerned about this matter, well I could direct you to my Twitter Bio which shows that I am desirous of being an Intermediary; but that’s not the main reason, my main beef has to do with the amount of financial benefits our ”Professional” football teams are allowing to waste away by getting into these useless arrangements. Growing up in the 1990s; My father would buy the now defunct Sports Souvenir and I would go to the local league segment especially at the beginning of the season to read the transfer news. For those older than I am; they can correct me if they may; but I remember Ike Shorunmu signing for 3SC for One Million Naira at the time; that transfer was echoed all over the press; it was a major milestone for our league at the time. Today, what do we have? A shambles of a Local transfer system where player movements are mainly captured as loans or the player hops and leaves his previous team to join the next highest bidder with little or no transfer fees captured nor earned. What we do not realize is that the future of this players is been damaged with this practice and the financial responsibility side of the game is completely eroded.

You would ask what do I mean the players future is damaged; well in putting together an International transfer; there’s a document called the player’s passport; it is a document that shows all the teams the player has featured for from the age of twelve this helps eventually in computing whatever solidarity payments or training compensation is due the clubs that helped train the player; but no; because we do not keep this records appropriately nor document these transactions our local clubs lose future revenue that they can get from having a player feature for them at some point in time. The League Management Company still has a lot of work to do in terms of regulating clubs and transfer of players; it is not enough to supposedly implement the Transfer Matching System when documentation is poor, there are no intermediaries involved and the transfers are mainly or in most cases only loans. When was the last time; we heard Mr. X moved from Wikki Tourist to FC Ifeanyi Ubah for XX Million Naira? It doesn’t happen anymore. Just look at the transfer of Chisom Egbechulam to a Swedish club on loan and all the issues that happened with his proposed move to Club African in Tunisia; imagine the amount of money Rangers would have made from that player at the time; if you dig deeper you will find that he may not even be owed by Rangers.

Our Clubs and the LMC talk about getting listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange; we are at least ten years away from achieving this is if this is the way we run our clubs. Interestingly; I wrote something recently on the pros and cons of that initiative¬†(Read Here). We find ways of scaling through CAF’s Club licensing hurdles; only to go on the continent to embarrass ourselves with poor travel arrangements and inability to feed players prior to a continental engagement; who are we fooling? We forget that developing a buoyant and robust transfer system ensures that our clubs are more financially responsible; creating a major income stream for them in Local and foreign currency. Just look at how Brazilian and Argentine players are exported to main stream Europe for huge transfer fees; with a little research you would see that Income from Football constituted 2% of the entire Brazilian GDP; whilst the Brazilian GDP as a whole grew by 4%; Football’s GDP grew by 5.6%; we are sitting on a gold mine that we are not aware of. Yes our players may not be as good as the Brazilians which is debatable but harnessing the income potentials in Football and Sports in general serves as an extra stream of Foreign exchange which is lacking as we speak as our players are transferred to Europe for peanuts because they do not have proper representation and the general greed of our Football administrators.

The time has got to come where the LMC in conjunction with NFF first sanitize the player transfer market locally; where we are able to capture how much exchange hands between our clubs; which gives us an idea of the economic value of transactions done locally (Transfers between English Premier League Clubs has crossed the One Billion Pounds mark). This can first be achieved by limiting the number of loan transfers first; giving a clear picture of who owns this and that player; shed a light on those that represent them; by ensuring that each player has a representative either a Lawyer or a duly certified or accredited football intermediary of course by the NFF and if the agent is foreign; he must have obtained a license from the NFF to transact business or signed a sub-agency contract with a locally certified Intermediary; that way the authorities can track the process of transactions and create a proper football economy.

So for example; Rangers puts in a bid of Ten Million Naira for MFM FC’s, Onuwa Chukwuka; MFM accepts the bid, with Onuwa duly represented by an intermediary; a contract is drawn up with the player earning N500,000 monthly after tax deductions; the intermediary/lawyer earns 3% of the player’s monthly salary which is N15,000 monthly. What has happened here is a creation of a football economy; where jobs or livelihoods are created. You must also understand that the player has the right not to have professional representation; hopefully he doesn’t live to regret that action.

Creating a football economy will make clubs more financially responsible; accountable to government, regulators, individuals, church or corporate owners; allowing them to have forecast and budgets which would include projections for revenue that would have potential player sales as an integral part; that way we can build a viable, robust and financially vibrant league. When clubs own the commercial rights of their players; it allows for them to plan, regenerate for the future; project potential earnings especially for those that have active academies; this way there will be no issues relating to who owns who whilst allowing them to estimate appropriate values to this players, this can only happen with strict adherence to accountability, records keeping and implementation of all rules and regulations guiding the clubs and the league in general.


***Pictures courtesy twitter.com, goal.com and premiumtimesng.com

Adeyemi Adesanya
Sports Business Consultant and Football Intermediary; Risk Management & Due Diligence Consultant; Freelance Football writer & Pundit on Radio & TV and Man.Utd Fan

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