The Nigerian Professional Football Club: From a Political Tool to Publicly Traded Companies; the Pros and Cons.

Growing up in the eighties; the Nigerian League football landscape was controlled and dominated by privately owned clubs run by billionaire individuals or private companies; clubs like  Abiola Babes, Leventis United, Iwuanyanwu Nationale, Stationery Stores; just to mention a few. Interestingly, most of the clubs mentioned above have gone extinct and this can be traced back to the advent of the Professional game in Nigerian in 1990s, the emergence of Cable Television and eventual adoption of English Premier League teams lead to most Nigerian Professional League sides losing their core fan base. This is not to say that fans have completely deserted these teams; but most have lost out to the factors mentioned above; even though the Traditional clubs like Shooting Stars, Rangers International and Kano Pillars continue to have packed venues every other weekend.

As the ”Professional” game and structure started to take shape in the Nigerian Football Landscape; a number clubs forgot and abandoned their core values; seeking to grow over night as against gradual and organic growth. The clubs were all over the place chasing one grand scheme or the other; eventually alienating its fan base as the promised and expected rewards of embracing ‘’professionalism’’ were no-where to be found. As Democracy took foot hold in the Nigerian Socio Economic and Political Landscape; the new Civilian Governments embraced, revived and resuscitated the erstwhile dead, moribund and abandoned football club turning them to a political tool to touch the hearts of the average football loving Nigerian.

The like of Iwuanyanwu Nationale was revived under the Democratic dispensation; its name was changed to represent the new identity having now come under government control. There were a few success stories like Enyimba of Aba under of the Governorship and Leadership of Orji Uzo Kalu from 1999 to 2007; who won several domestic titles and delivered the Holy Grail of African Club Football; the CAF Champions League back to back; which no Nigerian Club had previously won. There’s Kano Pillars under Alhaji Kwankwaso when he served as Governor; led to their domination of the domestic game for three years from 2012 to 2014.

With the changing economic Landscape and the realization of the huge financial, marketing benefits and potentials been ignored under the guise of continued government control, lack of know-how and overall incompetence; the Governors realize today that with more pressing societal needs under this harsh economic recession, the continued funding of club football can take a back sit whilst individuals and the organized private sector can now be at the forefront of managing club football. The League Management company; under the leadership of Alhaji Shehu Dikko have since its formation clamoured for Nigerian football club ownership to be centered more on community and fan based ownership structures as it operates in certain parts of the world. For this to be successful and worthwhile; there must be a gradual divestment from government; but before this can happen; the Legislative arm have to enact acts of parliament and enabling laws to smoothen the process and create an environment that is enabling and open enough to encourage such ownership types which range from collection of individuals, fan based ownership, community based ownership to corporation/ core investor ownership of Nigerian Football Clubs.

As brilliant an idea this may be; the journey to Eldorado is a long, bumpy and treacherous one with the be it end all being the eventual listing of Nigerian Club sides on the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE). As we stand; no Nigerian club can pass the rigorous listing process of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); simply because they have been managed in a reckless and unprofessional manner. This is not to cast aspersions on all the managements of the majorly state owned teams in the Nigerian Professional Football League; but to share the pros and cons of listing on the NSE.

The Pros of Listing on the NSE

  • One of the major reasons why Limited Liability Companies approach the NSE for listing is to have access to cheap and long term capital which would aid whatever projects, expansion and other activities of the company with a view of broadening their horizon and giving potential access to more experienced and exposed business leaders.
  • The listing of Nigerian Clubs on the market will encourage accountability, a more focused and long term outlook with more experienced hands (such as investment bankers, accountants, issuing houses etc.) coming on board to cater for the business side of Football.
  • This will enhance the profile of the average Nigerian Football club; make them more attractive to potential investors, broaden marketing and sponsorship outlets and opportunities.
  • The average Nigerian Football fan owning shares in his beloved football club gives him a huge sense of belonging, enhances ownership spirit amongst fans. The Fans can hold elective positions on the board and be involved in the day to day running of their favourite football club.
  • Listing on the Stock Exchange would bring about structural change within the clubs which would lead to job creation opportunities for the Fans and community members of where the club is located.

The Cons of Listing on the NSE

A number of people from different quarters have been asking for when the process of listing on the NSE will commence; like a stated earlier it is a long, expensive and labourious process; if things as expected by regulations are not in place; the good intentions of the League Management Company might just be in vain. The Cons are as follows:

  • Going Public is expensive, time consuming; a company desirous of been listed must put its house in order and prepare reports that and make disclosures as regards every aspects of their business.
  • Loss of Management Control: Going Public eliminates the notion of business as usual, powers of previous directors are reduced and diluted; overall management if not well put in place becomes complicated; decisions can no longer be taken in isolation of other shareholders/directors.
  • A typical Nigerian Football club would be used to the NFF (Nigerian Football Federation) being their only regulatory body; however going public, places companies under more regulatory oversight from SEC and other State authorities and agencies.
  • A private corporation may keep its internal business information private and confidential; with little or no objection or review. A public corporation, is mandated to make extensive quarterly and annual disclosures about their operations, financial status, remuneration and allowances of directors and officers. It loses privacy rights as a result of opening itself to the public to invest in its stock.
  • Taking a company public increases its potential liability and that of its officers and directors for mismanagement. By law, a public corporation has an obligation to its shareholders to maximize shareholder investments and disclose operational information. The company and its directors can be sued for making misrepresentations to shareholders or excluding certain information that the federal securities laws require to be disclosed.

**** Pictures Courtesy soccermax.co.ng; independentnig.com; thenationonlineng.net; goal.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
http://www.halftimeng.com

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