INTERVIEW: Our league system good enough to attract juicy sponsorship deals -Chukwuemeka

The Executive Secretary, Club Owners Association of Nigeria, Alloy Chukwuemeka, who is also the Director of Football, Abubakar Bukola Saraki FC was on FCT platform today. We bring you details of the interview.

Why are Nigeria companies not using Nigerian footballer for advert and endorsement?

Every establishment has its mission and mandate. As an organization the pursuit of such mission can only be achieved depending on how the Managers tend to channel its strategic marketing formula. Not so many want to use Footballers as brand ambassadors, some may decide to use other celebrities in other spheres of human endeavors. The league has produced a lot of good players who have made their names playing in the local scene before going to become National team players and even playing in big leagues abroad. It is notable to state here that the likes of Vincent Enyeama, Ahmed Musa, Mikel obi, obinna Nsofor etc were all products of the local league. So it depends on individual company’s decision on whom to make their brand ambassador.

What efforts are you making to bring back Abubakar Bukola Saraki FC (ABSFC) to reckoning in Nigeria football?

In terms of reckoning, ABS FC is one of the few privately owned professional clubs in Nigeria still existing since its debut in professional Football in 2009/2010.

We are known for having a solid football structure that supports the growth of young players.

Virtually every club in Nigeria has a former player of ABS FC as we are known to develop exceptional talents.

We have a mandate by the owners of the club to make it one of the best clubs in Nigeria.

We have not deviated from that mandate as we done so well in our youth development programme.

We were the winners of the maiden NPFL/Laliga U-15 Promises championship.

We have won the Kwara State FA cup severally as champions.

We have played twice in the Nigeria Premier League and can boast of defeating virtually all the big clubs in Nigeria in league games which earned us the ‘Giant killers’

We have produced players for the age groups national teams in Nigeria, the latest being Olusegun Olakunle, the Most Valuable Player of the U-17 Eaglets presently with Fremad of Denmark.

So far so good, we are a team to reckon with and soon we shall be back to the apex league, NPFL. That is where we belong.

What has been the achievements of the Club Owners Association since its formation.

The club Owners Association of Nigeria as inherited from the Founding Fathers, is the umbrella body of all the professionals football clubs in the country.

It is a pressure group whose mandate is to protect the interest of its members on matters affecting them.

As the present leaders of the association, we have not deviated from this objectives.

As we speak today, the association is oneā€¦.if not the only group amongst others, that is not factionalised.

We have maintained a strong united front even with the heavy duty members of the association who are timbers and calibre in their different disciplines.

As an association, we have maintained a cordial working relationship with the league organizers, the League Management Company (LMC), and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on matters of interest to our members.

We have been able to attract training and capacity building seminars for our members both within and outside the country.

We developed a peer review mechanism (PRM) strategic formula to ensure uniformity in organisational and management structures in our various clubs.

We embark of general education and orientation of members on new management techniques in the management and administration of Football.

So far, the Club Owners Association have been a strong and viable stakeholders in football administration in Nigeria.

How does it feel to be a Secretary of an organisation that your club isn’t a part of?

I joined the Club Owners Association of Nigeria when my club was in the top flight league. After the relegation of my club to the lower Division, I resigned my position then as Acting Secretary of the association.

The association unanimously rejected my resignation and appointed me as the Secretary of the association owing to what they described as my excellent performance and the need to guarantee and consolidate on my services.

I took the challenge based on the honour and confidence they reposed in me.

And ever since then, I have discharged my duties to the best of my ability and they have never doubted my commitment to serve them.

As we speak now I am almost 9 years on the seat as the Executive Secretary.

It is notable to state here that my position does make the Premier League clubs to be 21clubs and it does not reduce it to 19 clubs if eventually I leave.

Just like the Director-General of the Nigeria Governors Forum is not a Governor of any state.

What do you think the Nigeria National League (NNL) has to do get it right?

As a former member of the NFF Adhoc Committee on the reform of the NNL, what the NNL needs to do to get it right is to revert to the submission of our Committee which suggested a total reorganisation of the structure of the league and make it a brand that can attract investors.

When I hear about some organizations searching for investors without creating a brand that the investor will be happy to put his or her money into, it makes me laugh.

Let the NNL board and management sit back and reform the league properly. The investors will be happy to partner with you for common business interests.

What happened to the ABS FC Puma jersey deal?

We at ABS FC are very much with PUMA as the official kit partners of our team.

As I speak to you, the contract is still subsisting and we are proud to be associated with one of the best sportswear in the world.

It is well-documented that a lot of controversies have trailed the formation of the NPFL Club Owners Association. Some people maintain that it is an illegal entity while others believe that its establishment negates international best standard practices. Give us a sense of what informed this creation from your background as a founding member knowing that over 85% of clubs in that fold are sponsored by government.

Club Owners Association of Nigeria as presently constituted has no controversy.

It is an association of member clubs, a pressure groups to protect the interest of its members.

It is a legal entity known to Nigeria laws and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

It is created by its members and for its members interest only.

It is recognized by the NFF as a strong football stakeholders platform.

It is recognized in the NFF statutes via the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), which constitutes a member of the NFF Congress.

The NPFL is already attractive as a globally recognized brand doing football business with the top leagues of the world.

What is needed is to consolidate on its achievements and manoeuvre the toxic domestic and economic factors inorder to enter the cruise level.

NPFL players have been potting from one club to another sir. I want to know on what criteria(s) is this transfer taken effect since football is still on lockdown and the ban is not lifted yet?

Yes of course the LMC has opened the transfer window for the coming season.

It is expected that players movement follows.

We are not unmindful of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic which forced the league to stop.

However, there is a planned proposal before the clubs with a tentative date of league commencement fixed for September/October, subject to government reopening of sporting activities.

As soon as the government opens the space for sporting activities plus football, the resumption template will be activated.

The world over, except on few cases, it is only the top players that their transfer movements attract prominence, others move but not publicised like the ‘big players’

As a member of the NPFL Club Owners Association, are you satisfied with the state of Nigerian League? What do you think can be done to return the glamour of the past?

So far so good, like I said earlier, our league is on the right pedestal.

We have done the needful to be amongst the recognised leagues of the world.

What we need now is to consolidate on the achievements recorded, manoeuvre the negative environmental factors and advance to the next level.

Recently, the CEO of the LMC, Nduka Irabor resigned, as a member of the Club Owners Association. Do you think there are moves to replace him? If there are, what are the procedures?

Yes I can confirm to you that the CEO, Hon. Nduka Irabor has resigned his position for personal reasons.

The process of appointment of a new CEO is embedded in the LMC framework and governance structure.

The management of the league will definitely announce a new person when the process is completed .

In what way can SWAN get rid of quacks to salvage its image?

SWAN already has a minimum criteria for one to become a member by becoming a professional journalist and obtaining the minimum academic requirements of at least a Diploma in Mass Communications or Journalism as the case may be.

Again, to further check for elimination of non professionals, you are expected to belong to the mother union, the NUJ.

What is required now is for the leadership of both the NUJ and SWAN to ensure full enforcement of this requirements before enlisting such members.

Again Media organisations need to check their employees during recruitment to ensure that they posses the needed credential before employment.

How possible and feasible for NPFL clubs to start club licensing as we go into new season?

Through the Club Owners Association we have began constant discussions and interface with our clubs to ensure that before the commencement of the post Covid-19 season, every club would have been able to meet the licensing requirements.

Again, both the LMC and the NFF have made it compulsory for participation in the league, so we are very much on top of it.

What should the NFF do differently this time to bring about positive changes to NNL and others leagues, apart from NPFL?

The NFF can reposition the NNL and other leagues by adopting the governance structure of the LMC and NPFL framework and ensure its domestication in the other leagues.

What is the LMC doing to have sponsor for the league

Sponsors are attracted, not invited. Kudos should be given to the LMC for the uncommon transformation in the NPFL which has attracted sponsors.

As you are aware, the league was at the right pedestal which attracted national and international commendation cum recognition.

The toxic environmental factors and economic meltdown forced some of the partners to step aside.

As we speak now, and with the level of success in the abrupted season, more partners are now willing to do business with the league, including NextTV, which is the broadcast partner amongst others.

What does it take to assembly a team like ABS FC that took Nigeria League by surprise?

ABS FC has always maintained and sustained a viable football structure that support the growth of young talents.

Year-in,-year-out, we have striven in all our policy decisions to ensure that the structure is given the required priority it deserves in order to continue to chunk out exceptional talents.

Note that as a private club, we have continued to manoeuvre the environmental factors and challenges posed by the imbalances of competing amongst the millionaires government owned clubs.

But be rest assured that with the structure we have on ground, great players will always come out of the club and will take us back to the Premier League soonest.

You are the Secretary of Club Owners. How does it make you feel when clubs owes players and also some teams don’t have insurance for players on and off the pitch. What are doing about that.

Yes, no worker feels happy when he or she is not paid their wages.

However, let it also be stated that only few clubs owe their players which makes it an isolated case.

Again, we have discovered that some of the clubs owing players was as a result of the state government-owners owing salaries of workers of which the players form part of it.

It is another environmental factor that need to be looked into too.

It is our hope that with the full compliance with the licensing requirements going forward, the issue of owing salaries will be eradicated.

As the Secretary of Club Owners, can you tell Nigerians how ready is the NFF and LMC as regards NPFL resumption in October?

Be rest assured that as soon the government open up the space for sporting activities/football to resume, the LMC and all the relevant stakeholders are already set to commence the league in earnest with a tentative date of October already in place.

There is still controversy surrounding the 2nd position on the log of the just concluded season. What is your stand on this?

The LMC has published the official Point-Per-Game (PPG) table as adopted.

Though with a minor observation which was made by Rivers United FC, the LMC has since replied them with detailed clarification.

As ex-officio of the national SWAN, what is your stand on the crisis rocking the body?

I was a member of the SWAN NEC of the immediate past tenure as a Ex-Officio member and my tenure has elapsed.

The present crisis in SWAN is a case before the court so I cannot speak on it for now.

Is your position as Secretary of Club Owners Association an appointment or member of the association. If it is membership, then what qualifies you to be a member of the association because I’m not aware if your club are still playing in NPFL?

My present position as the Executive Secretary of the Club Owners Association of Nigeria is by appointment and has nothing to do with the status of my Club ABSFC.

Anytime the association feels that they are done with my services, I will be glad to leave them honourably with my head high.

Some clubs in the league are not paying needed attention to the welfare of their players, what is the Club’s Owners Association doing to ensure players are paid as at when due?

As an association we will continue to interface with the few clubs that are owing their players to do the needful and urgent too.

It is our hope that with the full compliance with the licensing requirements going forward the issue of unpaid wages will be eradicated.

CAF recently ranked NPFL on 9th position.For you, where do you rank Nigeria’s apex league in Africa at the moment?

Our league was once rated number one in Africa.

What is needed now is for all the stakeholders to join hands together and support the LMC so that we can consolidate on the achievements recorded in order to climb from 9th to first position.

We have to think outside the box, avoid toxic acts capable of causing bad images/ demarketing the league cum disaffection amongst stakeholders.

With the support of all of us, the challenges of Covid-19 and economic meltdown can be effectively managed to the advantage of the system.

Could you confirm if what we read or hear about some NPFL players earning up to N1.5m is correct. And what really is the minimum salary for NPFL players.

Yes, I can confirm to you that few clubs in the NPFL pay salaries of over N1m to some players while some coaches earn over N1.5m.

Again, something like this helps in promoting the image and quality of the system media wise, but because of environmental factors the identity of the players and clubs are sometimes hidden because of kidnappers.

The official minimum salary in the NPFL is N150, 000, as against N30, 000 in the public services. You can see that the value of our players is high.

The Anambra state FA crisis, why has it become a big deal?

So far, the NFF, which is the custodian of football in Nigeria had in their wisdom, set up an Interim Caretaker Committee to oversee another round of election with the same Electoral Committee.

We await them as they discharge their duties within the stipulated time frame.

Though some of us criticized their actions but sometimes, you need to overlook some vital facts inorder to move forward.

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