As Aiteo continues to score with football sponsorship
For good 48 hours, the news of Aiteo Group signing one of the most lucrative deals with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) trended on different platforms of the social media. The fact that the Nigerian media space went agog for two days is a pointer to the fact that we are a nation of football devotees excited at the news of any development aimed at promoting the sport. This nationwide excitement is not out of place when placed against the background of where we were heading prior to this heart-warming feat. It is a global acclaim that Nigeria occupies a prime spot in the comity of nations with inexhaustible sporting potential, especially in football, a game for which Nigerians have insatiable passion and religiously follow. One of the banes of the game has been perennial paucity of fund, which has undermined the fulfilment of the NFF’s financial obligations to its coaches.
It had been tales of woe from one era to another. From the golden era of Clemens Westerhof, when he was able to get his job done as Chief Coach of the Super Eagles courtesy of his widely reported closeness and unfettered access to the Presidency, through those nostalgic moments at Atlanta ’96 and these contemporary times when football coaches have had to quit unceremoniously; long delay or non-payment of national coaches’ salaries has been a recurring bane in the administration of the round leather game in Nigeria, and contributed immensely to its continued plunge into the abyss. The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) was so cash-strapped it could not pay the duo of Stephen Keshi and Shuaibu Amodu even in death. An arm of the National Assembly had to consider it a matter of national importance and urgency to intervene on behalf of the departed souls for them to be paid posthumously.
It is on record that Nigeria prosecuted the qualification series for AFCON 2017 with four different coaches, all of whom have a sorry tale to tell. The headlines announcing the exits of our national coaches speak volumes about a bedevilling malaise that has taken the shine off the performances of our national football teams and their respective handlers. The late Stephen Keshi had a harrowing experience delivering on his contract terms while his employers struggled to keep their end of the bargain by owing him a backlog of wages. In actual fact, towards the latter part of his contract, he went months without pay. Citing unpaid wages as one of the reasons, Sunday Oliseh, who took over from him frustratingly and unceremoniously walked out on NFF at a very crucial stage that the Super Eagles had a double-header against the Egyptian national side.
Samson Siasia, who was employed in a hurry, made futile efforts and left, as he too was also owed and even threatened litigation at a point. By the time Germot Rohr took over, Nigeria had already paid dearly, as the Super Eagles would not be participating at the AFCON 2017 due to a string of poor results. As recently as last month, reports surfaced in the media about three months’ salary owed Rohr. Why all these embarrassments in spite of the seemingly lucrative deals NFF had with several corporate organisations? Many have cited breaches of contract or dissatisfaction with returns on investments by the sponsors as the major reasons for their disengagement. In fact, there were accusations and counter-accusations that parties only honoured respective agreements in the breach than in the observance.
It is therefore considered a timely ingenious masterstroke from Aiteo Group with its ‘Blue Oceanique’ approach to sponsorship. With the N2.5 billion five-year-contract (with likelihood of renewal for one year after expiration) recently signed with the NFF, Aiteo has fashioned a model hitherto unexplored in the history of football sponsorship in Nigeria. It examined the administrative architecture of the NFF, and pinned its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) focus on the terms of contracts of the Super Eagles’ coaches. What the NFF used to have was a system where the burden of sponsorship of the whole Nigerian football ecosystem was placed on one sponsor; the league management, national teams’ management, and other related aspects. But the Aiteo-NFF deal is unique in that it singles out and takes care of “a critical area” of the NFF’s expenditure, a fact which the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, echoed during the signing ceremony of the deal on Wednesday, 26th April, 2017. It was truly a “heart-warming landmark in the history of football sponsorship in Nigeria,” Amaju said.
As “Official Optimum Partner of the NFF”, Aiteo Group is granted exclusive rights to cover all local and foreign components of the NFF’s financial obligations for the main team. The possibilities in the Aiteo-NFF deal are numerous. Besides prompt payment of salaries and benefits of coaches, which will eliminate needless friction and enable them to focus on their jobs; players, who used to turn down honouring national assignments on the excuse that their bonuses were not guaranteed if they turned up, will be accorded priority. Aiteo Group, through this deal, has brought resurgence to interest in Nigerian football and joy to the lives of football-loving Nigerians.
“This is a long-awaited injection of funds the NFF has earnestly yearned for. We are convinced that we are turning a new chapter in Nigerian football with this agreement in place. As Aiteo Group is breaking grounds in all spheres, we share a vision of excellence to promoting the delight of football-loving Nigerians,” said Global Vice President, Aiteo Group, Mr. Benedict Peters.
Aiteo has risen to the occasion. It now behoves the NFF to ensure it tightens all loose ends, seeks ways to make the Super Eagles the power-house they used to be and justifies the big faith reposed in them by the sponsor. Kudos goes to the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF for pulling this through. It is hoped this brings about renewed faith in football administration as the league is in need of another bold sponsor in the mould of Aiteo.
Okoronkwo is a Lagos-based sports enthusiast