• Backs mid-week matches
By Kunle Adewale
The General Manager of Super Sports, Felix Awogu, has hailed the League Management Company, LMC, for giving Nigerian football fans a league to behold.
In a chat with journalists in his office, Awogu said this season’s league has been one of the best in recent years.
“This is the best I have seen in a long time. The league has grown; there have been more wins in the league this season than any in our history. The records are there to cross-check. Though, there have been little issues of violence but not as bad as it used to be. These are little hiccups.
This is the first time Super sports have done a direct deal with the league. We have gone through third parties before now, but for the first time in the last one year, we have decided to say, ‘let’s work with the league directly, and it is paying off, and we are very happy, and we are going to continue to work in that direction,” Awogu said.
Asked if he backs the idea of mid-week matches in our league considering the state of our roads in the country.
“I do. First and foremost, you have to look at the fact that midweek matches, especially Friday matches which are very unique have attracted more fans to the stadia than the 4pm matches. It’s an innovation, they have to keep trying things. For the first time, the average attendance in the Nigeria league has hit 15,000. Even the EPL is just about 20,000. There is a growth pattern in the league which we should commend. It is something I will always hit my chest and say yes, I think we have delivered and added value to Nigeria.
Awogu indeed frowned over none payment of players’ salaries, saying any one that cannot pay the salaries of players have no business in the league.
“Even if they are owned by the government, if government cannot afford it, government should let it go. Get investors to take over. We have small teams like Ikorodu United, which pays salaries as at when due and manages its structure appropriately. They fly the team when they have to fly them to attend matches. Why can’t other teams replicate that? To us, it was an ideal team and when we see teams like Ifeanyi Uba FC, which is a privately owned team, we see El-Kanemi, which has returned to the base, flying for their games, so why can’t they replicate it?
“I am of the opinion that it is time the Nigeria teams go on to the stock exchange, sit back and let investors take control. Let the fans own the teams and once they do that, there will be a strong synergy between the fans and the clubs and then the attendance will grow, merchandising will grow. Like I pointed out, is it now time that clubs start hiring a marketing team, a brand manager? For a team like Enyimba FC, two times African champions, what have they done with their brand? These are some of the things that team holistically have to look at and I think it’s is a big job for the LMC,” Awogu said.
The Supersports boss craves for the best team to win the league. “We are supporters of the league; we support every team in the league. We want the best team that can represent Nigeria appropriately and possibly win in the continent. It has been a long time since Enyimba won the CAF Champions League and there’s a lot of money there. You win the CAF Champions League, you get about 2 million USD, you go for the international championship, you get about 10 million USD, it is a huge investment inflow into the Nigerian economy if we can get a team to qualify to win the championship in Africa and also go for the World Club Cup. To us, that will be massive. It’s not just about the LMC, it’s about the federation and the Ministry of Sports putting heads together and seeing how these things will work,” he advised.
He also threw more light on some of the challenges Supersports is faced with when covering matches in troubled areas like the North-east.
“Security is improving and for the first time in four years, three major roads were opened in Maiduguri. So, things are changing. If the roads are being opened in Maiduguri, it means our Outside Broadcasting; OB vans will be able to drive into Maiduguri. If you look at an OB van for instance, it will probably cost you about 10m dollars to acquire a standard one with high definition compliments.
“Our roads are not the best in the world, but we have been all over Nigeria. We were in Kano to cover some matches and shows highlights from Maiduguri. Not that we are not there but it is not yet time to move the OB facilities. If peace returns, which we have been praying for, I think the first thing we will do is take ‘Let’s Play’ with my team to go and give the children some football, let them have something to identify with, let them find some solace, some joy, after many years of stress,” he noted.