WHEN you look for and find the average home attendance numbers for clubs in non-European leagues, you find that our Kano Pillars comes in 26th out of 100 football clubs. This average is for teams that average from 15,000 per game; Kano Pillars average 25,000 in a 30,000-seater stadium (i.e 83% of capacity).
This was an interesting find for me because I am following the trending argument on Nigerian league football; is the sports media doing enough to encourage people to come watch live games at the stadium? This is a relevant question but with many answers. The sports media in my own estimation is doing well; they are covering a league that is highly underdeveloped in playing styles, infrastructure and administration. So there is nothing interesting happening besides the usual financial problems, there is no innovation; there is no accountability, so the media coverage therefore is repetitive. Our league football is stagnant.
Here are a few more attendance numbers from other African teams; Raja of Morocco, Vita of DR Congo and Esperance of Tunisia all average 20,000 per game. Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa averages 17,000 per game with an 18% capacity. So let’s conclude that attendance is not only a Nigerian problem, it is a major problem for football outside Europe. Game day revenues therefore cannot be a major source of revenues for Nigerian clubs with the exception of Kano Pillars. If Kano Pillars charges N200 per fan to every home game, the club would raise N95 million. Using the numbers from the LMC, Kano Pillars will have a quarter of their budget of N500 million from gate takings; that is very good. But what about the other teams in our league?
So how do we get other teams to pull decent numbers to their games? Let me start by doing a small analysis on the Premier League; 92/93 season of the EPL saw an aggregate attendance of 10 million, a 66% of capacity. By 2012, the EPL had risen to occupancy of 95%. The EPL worked very hard with the clubs to make Premier League football attractive and accessible. They worked hard to reduce the incidents of football hooliganism; they created an atmosphere where women and children were welcomed. The EPL, with the design or reconfiguration of premier league stadiums, made it look more like a place for big social outing for fans. Family, friends chose stadiums to celebrate because food and drinks were allowed. Today, a premier league game is one social, sports or entertainment event that is on your ‘bucket list’ to attend.
Our own LMC should start with small simple ideas and stop blaming the football media. I would start with playing early games in our leagues. I would play a noon game every Saturday before the EPL games kick off on television. I will tape delay another game to be shown immediately following the last EPL game on television. With all the drinking joints around the stadium, football fans will not miss their EPL games. So give it a try, early games and tape delay games.
Here is another idea, ‘nifty scheduling’. Schedule certain games on public holidays for maximum exposure. I see no reason why Enyimba cannot be home to Heartland on Easter Monday or Kano Pillars at Shooting Stars on Independence Day. With decent media and product promotion, you are likely to get a huge number of fans at those games. Nifty scheduling will also help create a tradition of football dates for certain teams and over time it will result to a good football attendance culture.
The most watched and celebrated NUGA games in Nigeria, was the games hosted and sponsored by the University of Ibadan and Guinness (the beverage company). Every event venue was filled to capacity, because you had to be seated to be able to buy your favourite Guinness drink at a discount. This can be done again in our football stadiums, if only our stadium authorities would allow the sale of drinks. The LMC must partner with a major drink company and allow for the sale of their products at a discount to attract fans to the games. We are matured enough to allow alcoholic drinks in the open and many of the drinks already come in cans and not only in bottles. If this can be done, you can increase attendance by a fairly good number.
Pillars, Enyimba and 3SC are the clubs that I am told have decent fan attendance at games. But we need to get at least 10 to 12 clubs to have decent attendance for half of their home games (10 games). Here is why: If you bring in 10,000 fans for 10 games in a season, you earn N20 million if you charge an average of N200. Any club that can add N20 million to its coffers, should be encouraged to do so, but I will continue to insist that professional football revenue consists more of television and commercial money. Club revenues for our clubs must be a percentage of LMC revenues; the LMC raises revenues for the clubs and that revenue must find a way to get to the clubs. It is unfair for the LMC to source close to N2 billion (estimate 2014) and disburse only N275 million to all 20 clubs (14% of LMC revenues). If our league is to prosper, the LMC and clubs must agree to a number/percentage that must come to the clubs as part of their revenues. It is when we have this kind of arrangement, that the LMC can really have control over clubs. The present LMC rules of engagement will come to nothing because they have no hammer over clubs. The threat of non-participation if clubs do not comply is hollow; the money you raise is because you have 20 clubs. DSTV and GLO paid for a league of 20 clubs.