A couple of days ago, news broke on various online media and twitter handles that South African Television giants Super-sports who were the official broadcast partners of the National Professional Football League were on the verge of pulling out from their coverage of the Nation’s top flight league. What began as a rumor shrouded in uncertainties took a clearer dimension hours later with news emanating over dispute in contract agreement or the TV giants seeking a renegotiation in terms of the legal tender to be adopted going forward, though there is no official statement from the LMC or Super-sports on the issue as at the time of writing. Super-sports currently have an exclusive contract to broadcast live matches of the National league alongside highlights in a 4 year deal worth $34MM (about N5.4 Billion) signed in 2015.
So much have been said and reported over the past couple of days but irrespective of what the issues are, planning to run a ‘professional league’ without Television even if it is just going to last for the remainder of the season is nearly unimaginable and the League Management Company (LMC) led by Shehu Dikko have got to do all within its powers to find a resolution with the TV giants and ensure that come the second stanza of the League which resumes in two weeks time, fans, followers and critics of the League have to continue seeing live matches on our screens, even if we stay restricted to one game every week and here are five reasons why;
It has helped put the NPFL on the map: Few seasons ago, we all know a lot of people had lost interest in the Nigerian league, we had all become fans of one foreign club or another and sacrificed our weekends at viewing centers to support our teams, but since the games began to be televised, more people have begun to take interest in the league, more people find themselves tuning to watch live matches and this often leads to a trending topic online as witnessed during the Kano Pillars VS Enyimba game in Kano. TV has helped as a showcasing platform for our players, recently MFM’s Sikiru Olatunbosun’s goal against Rangers got voted on TV giants CNN World goal of the week and the likes of his teammate Stephen Odey has enjoyed calls from fans to be included in the plans of the National team. Sikiru Olatunbosun’s goal is definitely not the best goal that has ever been scored in the league, neither is Stephen Odey the best talent that has ever stepped on the local scene but with Television, comes propaganda, with Television comes a larger viewership, with television comes word of mouth promotion, and this has helped give our players and teams more prominence across various platforms.
Television improves the standards of the game: We will be living in self denial if we claim that the NPFL as it is today can rival other top African leagues like what we witness in Egypt or South Africa, but it will also be unfair if we refuse to acknowledge the growth in quality and improvement that the league has witnessed in various areas especially with the efforts of the LMC. Few years ago, getting away victories especially in the second half of the season was almost an uphill task but thus far this season, we have witnessed the likes of Plateau United and MFM pick up points from away grounds, the first half of the season successfully came to a conclusion during the course of the week and with the second stanza due to commence in a fortnight, a lot is at stake, CAF Competition places as well as survival in the league will be determined, it is important for the league that there are no dark areas and matches are beamed across various stadiums so we can create a worthy Champion of the league who can be true representatives in the continent come next season. Also, Television allows for proper actions to be taken on grounds where crowd violence of poor match officiating is witnessed as you can only mete out punishment on actions that have been seen and properly reviewed.
Television boosts Revenue and attracts Sponsors: The lucrative deal with Super-sports has made more money available for the teams in the league, the deal has been a form of monetary brick building the gaps between the spending powers of the teams in the league as well as ensuring that the eventual winners of the league have an healthy sum in terms of revenue. Television has also encouraged fans turn-out at stadiums as fans troop to stadia across the country that have been penciled for live broadcast on match-day because there is a belief that with the cameras around, security will be better and the joy of being caught on cameras and beamed on giant screens have improved match experience which has in-turn led to an increase in ticket sales. It has also encouraged companies to get involved with NPFL clubs as we now see more shirt sponsors of teams and more organizations bidding to be league and brand sponsors.
Television has fueled increase in popularity and profitability, it has also inspired various innovations from the broadcasters, the home teams, the fans and has changed the optics of the league especially in the last two years, the league is now being viewed, understood, followed, marketed, packaged, played, officiated, talked about and governed differently.
Arguments have been made in several quarters for local stations to capitalize on the current imbroglio and steal a spot as broadcast partners in the league, many have called for the LMC to partner with the Nation’s largest television NTA, who have outfits in every state of the federation and could transmit via their ”partner” satellite station Star-times to a much larger audience, on paper this sounds like a good idea but I doubt that presently it will yield much, if we remember the league once has a terrestrial deal with African Independent Television (AIT) but this never materialized much, Super-sports have done a decent job thus far and if there is a chance of renegotiating the terms and maintaining the relationship, I will subscribe to that as we cannot afford to allow the league take major steps backward from the goodwill it had gained in recent times, we cannot return to those days when we rely on the pages of sports papers for all the information concerning the league and the longer this blackout persist, the easier it is for fans apathy towards the league to return, for the sake of the professionalism of the league, it must be on TV as soon as the league returns.