TWOREPORT'S contributors - Tonte Davies
By Tonte Davies
As the NPFL’s 2015-16 season kicks off on February 20, eyes will be on the newly promoted clubs: especially the clubs from Lagos state. Understandably, the absence of a Lagos-based club in the premier league division since 1993, has deprived local residents the thrills of being part of the league. That, is history.
Ikorodu United Football Club (IUFC) and Mountain of Fire and Miracles (MFM) FC, have joined the league of elite clubs in Nigeria – along with Plateau United and Niger Tornadoes. Their promotion to the NPFL was ratified at a recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) hosted in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state. Also, both clubs currently have the ‘full support’ of the government of Lagos state and the Lagos State Football Association (LSFA).
So what do these two clubs have to offer Lagos state and the NPFL?
Fortunately for Ikorodu United and MFM FC, Lagos is home to three mini stadia and two major stadia with at least two astro-turf pitches. Both NPFL clubs will play their home games in two dedicated stadia incidentally owned and managed by the government of Lagos state.
Agege stadium, a 4,000 capacity arena will be the home turf of MFM FC. Filling the stadium should not be much of a problem. The stadium is located within adjoining residential and commercial nerve centres. This simply implies pulling crowd to the arena on any given day of the week is guaranteed. Furthermore, with every home game, there are opportunities for growth of economic activities.
By the same token, estimated to be a thousand more in capacity (5,000) than Agege stadium, the Onikan stadium located in the heart of Lagos – Lagos Island, is the ground-designate of Ikorodu United FC. And Ikorodu United have given strong indications to always have the arena filled during home matches, just as the club recently released information relating to sale of season tickets to fans. “…With Ikorodu United, Nigerians will return to the stands to watch local football,” says Adewunmi Ogunsanya, chairman Ikorodu United FC
Lagos, by virtue of its history as former capital city of Nigeria and its current status as the commercial capital of the country, has the natural penchant to stay in public spotlight. The spate of infrastructural development and its growing human population has earned Lagos a mega city status. From business summits, trade fairs, carnivals and even the recently organized Lagos City Marathon, there is at least, a reason for Lagos to make news headlines.
The NPFL will certainly benefit from the established media appeal – local or international – to Lagos. The state used the City Marathon in early February to promote tourism and other business activities. And this was not limited to Nigeria alone. With MFM FC and Ikorodu United FC each playing two games home and away, they are certain to stay under the spotlight each week at least by Lagos-based media platforms. This is sure to aid the appeal to the NPFL and widen its brand image across the country.
Lagos on the other hand, will be reckoned as a sports destination for both domestic and international events; an objective set already by the state government.
Old Culture Made New
The result of a sample poll to find out how many people have watched a live football match in Lagos, should not come as a surprise. Many among today’s young generation (including those born in the 80s and early 90s), have never been to a stadium to watch a live game. Some may defensively say they have howbeit, in Europe or the United States.
Attending football arenas to watch live matches used to be a culture in Nigeria. That culture died largely due to administrative bottlenecks combined with inadequate in-stadium security and poor attention to the values of football. Importantly, that culture died.
Today, the entry of MFM FC and Ikorodu United, will without doubt, rekindle the culture of watching live games at a stadium. The passion is not likely to be different from what was obtainable from the 1960s to 80s. A significant difference is the anticipated donning of branded club wears and other related materials to make the day colourful.
Unlike developed nations in the West, sports in Nigeria, is still at an embryonic stage. The influence of sport in a given society when harnessed properly, is close to being unquantifiable. The impact is gargantuan in terms of ticket sales, sale of merchandise, and media coverage and brand sponsorship. There is consistent cash flow from these pillars of the sports market into a local (or national) economy. It is a function of the size and nature of the event.
Broadening the impact of the sports market on an economy, fans make purchases for consumables and other forms of entertainment, to have a 360 degrees experience of fun during live games. Sport can no longer be qualified as only a recreational activity; sport is now an economic lifeblood of a community or country. Hence, the impact of sport is today, quantifiable.
Ikorodu United and MFM FC will be centrifugal forces of economic lifeblood not just within or around their individual home-ground, but Lagos state as a whole. Aside the much touted sale of tickets by both clubs, which is set to open up cash flow for them, sport fans in Lagos are certain to make purchases of consumables during games. This economic ‘tug-of-war’, is expected to create positive cash flow for producers of consumables and a positive tax flow for the state.