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Nduka Irabor opens up on delay in kickoff of Nigerian league

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Irabor

• ‘LMC still in search of robust sponsor, broadcast partner’
• The government should play its role, says Aigbogun

One of the Independent Directors of the League Management Company (LMC), Nduka Irabor, has given a hint on why the Nigerian 2019/2020 football league is yet to commence.

The delay in the kick-off of the league is giving many football-loving Nigerians a sleepless night. Some analysts have attributed the two losses by the home-based Super Eagles to the Hawks of Togo, as well as the early exit of Enyimba FC of Aba from the CAF Champions League to the delayed kick-off of the local league.

Speaking at the launch of MATCH CENTRE.NG in Victoria Island, Lagos yesterday, Irabor disclosed that some basic issues, including the search for a robust sponsor, as well as a broadcast outfit to cover the league are some of the things delaying the kick-off.

He said: “Tomorrow (today) is our Independence Day. In most countries, football contributes greatly to its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) because it is a big business. But it is not so in Nigeria. The problem here is that we seem to see our wealth coming from the natural endowment, and nobody is looking in other direction of generating revenue for the country.

“In 2017, we did some economic presentations to the government on how to go about the business of our football, but until this moment, the government has not responded. We did another one in 2018, and there has been no response. We had a sports minister who was more worried about what money comes into the NFF, rather than think on how to improve the standard of our league,” he stated.

Irabor added: “In England, the people are crazy about football, but you will never see their government talk about the British FA. The business of the government is to provide the basic infrastructure like stadium and television for the game to thrive.

“Our local league is not popular because our football is not on television. Our stadia do not have the facilities to attract people to match venues. There is also the problem of insecurity and others at the league venues. Even, if we have an ex-Olympics medallist as our sports minister, and he has no creativity and the drive for business, such person won’t take our sports anywhere. What I am saying is that to manage sports successfully is not necessarily the work of a former sportsman or woman.

“League gets money mainly from broadcast right. Now, we don’t have a robust sponsor, and we don’t have television for the league. We are still negotiating. What we have is ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices Commission) and the SPIP (Special Presidential Investigation Panel) on the neck of many people. Most of the things being investigated are internal rivalry, but some people have created the impression of a different thing. The atmosphere is not okay for our league to start now. Some of the people involved in the running of our football are being invited for questioning by the ICPC and SPIP, and this has made the environment not good enough,” Irabor stated.

Also speaking at the event, BusinessDay publisher, Frank Aigbogun disclosed that the MATCHCENTRE.NG would serve as a veritable platform for analysing and getting data of footballers across the globe. “MATCH CENTRE.NG is the sports enthusiast’s one-stop-shop proving up to date statistics, betting tips, predictions, and analysis covering the most relevant betting events across over 20 sports in the world,” he said.

Aigbogun, a Manchester United of England fan, also spoke on the need to improve the standard of the Nigerian league. “I was at the Old Trafford for the Man United versus Chelsea league match at the beginning of the season. My friend forgot our match tickets at home. Five minutes to the kick-off, we were still outside the stadium. But within that period, we were able to sort out our tickets without paying for new ones, and we got to our seat before the referee signaled the commencement of the match. That is a perfect organisation.

“I was at the National Stadium in Lagos when Sam Okwaraji died in 1989. I was still young then, but I still remember the horrible things that happened on that day. Things have not changed since then.”

A football commentator, Deji Omotoyinbo said the government’s nonchalant attitude to sports development in Nigeria has gotten to a point where people have to form a pressure group to force the issues. “The stakeholders, media and government need a round table talk because we have not realised the potential of our sport and what it can do for the nation.”


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