Look closely at this image below. That was a match between Rangers of Enugu and Bendel Insurance of Benin in 1978. Can you see how filled the stadium is? That’s in big disparity with what our league has become.
And you and I guilty of what it has become. We have grown appetite for things that aren’t ours. No matter how well EPL entertains us, give stipends to few through few Bet9ja patronizers and enrich a few of our sports media owners and journalists; it can never give us through wealth. Our local league is our hope.
Just as circumstances have compelled us to cut down our appetite for foreign rice and eat Lake Rice, so we must take conscious effort towards consuming all that’s ours, including our leagues.
Yes, there’s no tv coverage in the 70s. Yes, you can watch any match in the comfort of your home in the year of our Lord called 2018, but how many of us will travel to England and not visit Old Trafford, Emirate or Stanford Bridge to watch our favourite teams, except when constrained beyond our control? Why then do we want to relegate our own to just watching them on TV?
I know there are issues – a handful of them – but it’s also because we aren’t placing demands on those managing our local league teams and the entire league. The English fans played and are still playing a major role in the darling status of the EPL.
I purposely chose not to dwell on the issues because, if we keep hiding behind the skirts of the issues plaguing this nation, we will never move. With bad roads, security issues and not-so-fantastic state of facilities and infrastructures; Nigeria is witnessing an increase in intra – travel. Social Prefect Tours, TVP Adventures, Avantgardetours and many others are business because both foreigners and some citizens now travel Nigeria. The number may not be huge, but it wasn’t this good 10yrs ago. Have the roads been fixed? Have our tourists attractions become state of the art?
I am not celebrating mediocrity here. Rather, I’m propagating the gospel of citizenship engagement and involvement. Even in sane society, the government cannot do it all. I saw on Facebook yesterday, the picture of a fan who banned from the stadium in Turkey. The man went to hire a crane that lifted him above the walls of the stadium, he hung the flag of his beloved team, watched their match and shouted goal! Such is the passion that drives a football fan. Stop claiming you love Enyimba if you won’t go through discomfort to watch them do their thing, live.
If we don’t throw everything in, to support and elevate our league because we prefer our local league, let’s do it because doing so holds a great wealth creation and distribution potential.
The truth is, there are ways to force the hands of those manning our government and football to do things right. Even management of the league can be cimpelled to improve, but not by giving sparing support to our league.
Yesterday, I saw the picture of the DG of Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation in a meeting with a white man (I’ve forgotten his name) who’s going to help generate tourism statistics in Nigeria. That’s a welcome development, but that didn’t happen until he saw how much private stakeholders are doing to make Nigeria a destination of choice.
There are statistics showing that Nigerian league of then was better than european league.
Below are some facts to ponder on:
1. “In the 70s till the 80s, Nigerian League average wage was higher than that of England then.
2. EPL is just getting close to matching the average attendance our league recorded in the 80s.
3. El Classico’s with its slighly above 99, 000 attendance record is still hustling to catch up with the record attendance of Shooting Stars vs Rangers game, which was in the region of 120,000”.
I will dwell on the third fact and dish my argument on the saucer of opportunities we are looking away from. There’s no way 120,000 fans will attend a match and 50,000 won’t be non-residents of the given host city, town or state. Can you imagine 50, 000 people storming Uyo, on a weekend? An estimated 15,000 will fly down, while 35,000 will use other means of transportation a.k.a road transportation and the railway services (assuming there’s any). If the average flight ticket from southwest and Northern region is N30, 000, let’s multiply 15,000 by 30k. That’s N450, 000, 000 on one weekend.
If the average bus fare is N5000, 35, 000 multiplied by 5000 equals N175, 000, 000 on a weekend.
They won’t sleep on the streets. 50, 000 people will need hotel room nights. Maybe 2 room-night with an average rate of N7000. 7000 multiplied by 50,000? N350,000,000!
Someone says Uyo doesn’t have enough hotels for 50,000 people and I say isn’t it the order of our world that demand forces supply to step up its game?
They’ll eat. They’ll drink. They’ll visit tourist attractions (if we engage them) which they’ll pay to access. At those tourist attractions, they’ll buy drinks, food and memorabilias, but let me pause the maths here.
N450,000,000 + N170,000,000 + N350,000,000 = N970,000, 000.
Just one weekend. Almost a billion naira. This will be repeated when Wiki Tourists hosts Enyimba, in Bauchi State. This will spark more international players fighting for jerseys in our local leagues. TV rights will be sold. Global brands will bring in foreign currencies for endorsement. Tell me, which club management will have enough nerves to underpay their players?
The services of more doctors, therapists, talent managers, publicists other professionals will be needed and the beat of wealth circulation goes on, because no other trade distributes wealth like tourism does – from the government who earns from tourism fee and taxes, to the investors in the assets, the employees, the intra – town taxi or bus drivers/conductors, restaurants/bar owners, the pure water/fruits sellers, the memorabilia sellers – everyone gets paid.