The Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), like most other leagues in the world, was suspended owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NPFL was not only suspended, all football-related activities in the country were placed on hold in line with imposed COVID-19 regulations by the FG to limit the spread that has claimed over a thousand lives. After series of debates on the subject, major football leagues across the world however resumed to complete the 2019/2020 season.
On that list are The Italian Serie A, The English Premier League, Spanish La Liga as well as the master of all leagues, the UEFA Champions league. The agreement reached was that fans will not be present on the stands, among other COVID 19 protocols. In spite of different measures taken across the sports world, NPFL still rescinded all resumption plans. Initially the league was tipped to resume early in May. Then resumption for the 2019/2020 season subsequently became an issue of constant drag and postponement.
Apart from the business angle, football no doubt has been a unifying tool in Nigeria. Irrespective of tribe or religion, Nigerians speak with one voice when it comes to football. Obviously the sport has huge following in the country. This explains why betting companies like Bet9ja have thrived, contributing immensely to the entire GDP of the Nigerian economy. The irony in the midst of all these opportunities is that the NPFL has constantly struggled in getting sponsors. This and other issues continue to limit its potentials. Although the year had its own challenges, the COVID year equally presented one of the biggest opportunities for the NPFL to diversify. The entire continent at a point was on a lockdown. People who were used to being busy were bored and needed something to stay alive during the lockdown.
This explains the surge in online streaming recorded in this year more than any previous one. This further explains why major leagues in the world pulled themselves up to resume. With matches going on even in empty stadia, streaming income began to trickle in. At least half bread is better than none. The NPFL could have therefore cashed in on this opportunity to showcase the potential of the league to a world yearning for all sources of entertainment, especially from Nigeria where the game of football is a unifying factor as mentioned earlier.
Many Nigerians ordinarily do not believe in the NPFL. They repose no confidence or element of hope in the league because they feel it is bereft of the professionalism, technicality and originality with which they hold other leagues of the world. In several cases, the disdain is not any of these. Some just have the orientation that Nigeria lacks the capacity to process a league that meets world-class standard.
Regrettably, while many football organizations and businesses were busy capitalizing on some of the upsides of the COVID-19, the LMC failed to do any in that regard. In waiting for the perfect time, the resumption of the NPFL was delayed up till this point. No doubt, the fear of the novel coronavirus, and the fact that we lack enough capacity to deal with it, could have been underlying factors, but if countries where the surge was more threatening than ours, could kick off their leagues at that time, what could be our excuse?
The NPFL has kicked off today, December 27, 2020. But with the official declaration of a second wave in the country, what purpose does this scheduled date serve? Does it in any way paint the picture of a perfect timing given the yuletide season?
While it is never too late, the LMC must constantly work out effective options that would not place the league in any further disrepute. It must reach decisions that would favour the league in all ramifications. It must strive at all costs to cash in on any opportunity to showcase to Nigerians and the world at large that the NPFL possess full potential, and has what it takes to process a league that meets global best practices. This would garner admirers and sponsors who are mostly particular about potential to expend investments in any venture.
Two months earlier would have been the perfect time to get the NPFL off on the right foot. Wrong impressions and perspectives could have been corrected by taking advantage of the fact that many people were bored and needed entertainment to distract them from the overall uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Intense efforts could have been made to strike a 50-50% sponsorship deal with certain investors, especially in the streaming market for video coverage and other omnipresent essentials. As the year draws to a close, the LMC must constantly reinvent its overall processes, and rethink where they missed it in the year. This would further inform better decisions in the New Year.
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