‘Nothing has changed in Nigeria’s Women Football League’
At the inauguration of the current board of the Nigeria Women Football League headed by Aisha Falode, Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung threw a challenge to the members to rebrand ‘their products’ so that the league can have sponsors, partners and investors.
He said: “The days when government will be the sole financier of sports are over. Therefore, the league managers must think outside the box, rebrand and influence investors and sponsors because anything besides this will lead to lack of support and there will be dwindling fortunes in women’s football.”
The Falode-led NWFL and others like the Nigeria National League (NNL) and the Nigeria Nationwide League One came on board at the same time. However, while the NNL and Nationwide League One are marching on, securing millions of naira sponsorship from corporate organisations, the women league is still at a stand still. The situation is giving players, coaches and some stakeholders serious concern.
“Our season is half way gone and nothing seems to be coming from the promises they made at the beginning of the year,” one of the players, who feature for one of the elite clubs in the South-south region told The Guardian in a telephone chat yesterday.
“The former board headed by Chief Dilichukwu Onyedinma was not given a breathing space. They were attacked left, right and centre, and was tagged a failure by some people currently on the new board simply because they could not secure sponsors for the league. On several occasions, Falode boasted she would re-brand the Nigerian women league by getting sponsors. They did not give Dili the cooperation she needed. We are waiting to see how far they can go,” the player stated.
Last week, the leadership of the Nigeria Nationwide League One unveiled PIPUL TV as its title sponsor in a N100 million deal in Lagos. It will be the turn of the NNL tomorrow, as it looks set to unveil Sports betting company, BET9A, as its official title sponsor.
“I don’t really understand why it is so difficult for leadership of the Women League board to get a sponsor for the league,” another player, who plies her trade with a club in Lagos said. “Nigeria is a strong country when it comes to women’s football. The Super Falcons, the Falconets and Flamingoes continue to dominate the continent, yet our leaders can’t capitalize on that to get sponsors from companies.
“Look at the South African Female League. It continues to attract sponsorships from various companies even though the Banyana Banyana are not in the same class with our Super Falcons. If the South African Women League can get sponsors, Nigeria with her football pedigree on the continent and the world should be able to secure a sponsorship deal with an organisation so that Nigerian female football will attract foreign players, spectatorship and television rights like what is obtainable in other well organised leagues,” the player added.
Since soft drink giant, Pepsi, pulled out of the sponsorship of Nigeria women football league in 2002, it had been the same message of no sponsor from one board to another. From the days of Princess Bola Jegede to Alhaja Ayo Omidiran and Chief Dilichukwu Onyedinma, the nation’s women football league has been without any form of sponsor.
In the past, players from Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, DR Congo and Equatorial Guinea featured for various clubs in Nigeria, but today many of them have since left because the League has been running without any sponsor. One of such players, Bernadette Anong, who is currently the assistant coach of the Lionesses of Cameroun, featured for almost seven clubs in Nigeria in her playing days.
In her days as leader of the NWFL, Onyedinma said that the major problem facing the women football league was that of inadequate funding by way of sponsorship. But her gospel of adequate mileage to corporate sponsors to embrace the Women League could not scale through.
On assumption as the chairperson of the NWFL Falode said her board was committed to taking the women’s game to a new level. She vowed to engage the key stakeholders to the move the league in greater heights.
“We will bring spectators back to the stands, make the league competitive and create an ambiance that will be great for the game,” Falode said. “We will expose the different levels of activation and leverage opportunities to different categories of intending sponsors and partners. Players welfare and wages will be of utmost priority,” she stated.