Not again – The Nation Nigeria

Not again – The Nation Nigeria

Ade Ojeikere

The Europeans are the owners of the beautiful game. For those who want to argue, lest I remind you that England is the home of football. Some call it football, others label it soccer. But the objectives and rules are the same. The Europeans have devised laudable templates, which have gone a long way to woo the people to embrace it. They have created a product with immense followership, which they have used to cajole the corporate world to key into their marketing windows, using their products and services. No wonder the astronomical increase in cash in all facets of the game’s administration. Today, the game is attractive because of the enduring structures laid down since inception.

So much speculations trailed the Coronavirus pandemic period, which casts doubt over the completion of all the European leagues. Different countries chose options arrived at by a consensus of the stakeholders and their governments. Today, the European leagues are being reset for the new seasons, using the existing templates. There may be a few adjustments, but the essence of its operations are readily available for discerning minds to applaud.

European countries adopted models which suited their circumstances. The beauty of these models was it took into cognisance all the stakeholders, with the different governments picking the ones which addressed all the issues raised. Decisions taken came from the heads of such countries considering the importance attached to eradicating the Coronavirus which is still ravaging the world.

The French League (LFP) decided to conclude the season using the points per game system (PPG), making PSG the champions. Ligue 1 authorities during the LFP meeting hinged their decision on the fact that Paris Saint Germain (PSG) were virtually champions for 2019-20 pointing out that the points per game would  determine league placing. Lorient were crowned Ligue 2 champions and gained promotion alongside second-place Lens while Amiens and Toulouse were relegated from Ligue 1.

Bundesliga was the first of Europe’s major leagues to decide the title winners by most points, goal difference, if there was a tie in points accumulated at the top of the table. Italy and England took the German path just as Spain’s Laliga also opted for most points but better head-to-head, if the league’s top two teams had ended the season in on the same points. It didn’t happen in Spain as Real Madrid clinched the title, thus dethroning the former champions, FC Barcelona.

Why are we so cursed in Nigeria? The French adopted the points per game formula which chose and crowned champions across cadres, relegated poor performing teams and promoted the champions from the lower rung to the elite class. In our case, the Nigeria league organisers picked the champions and those to represent the country at the continental level ‘using’ the French model. But cast an indulgent eye on those to the demoted from the elite class. It was quite sickening listening to the league organisers trying to justify their decision not to relegate failures, as if the PPG formula wasn’t what the French used to promote and demote teams. How do you run a competition where winners at the lower rung can’t aspire to rightly play in the elite class the next season, for instance? Is that what they call football development? What happened in the domestic league here is a sham.

We corrupt processes that are flawlessly executed in other climes to suit our whims and caprices. Why do our administrators always think there is a Nigerian way to doing things? Other leagues have ended with commencement date for the next season, making it imperative for the clubs to shop for players and those eager to leave teams to do so through the transfer windows. For Nigeria, we are groping in the dark. We are waiting for everything to subside (growth rate of the Coronavirus). Hmmmm! What if it (Coronavirus) doesn’t subside until God knows when, does it mean the game won’t be played? What a country.  I digress!

There was also talk on how to decide the European and relegation places and points per game was again the preferred option. PSG are 12 points clear of second placed Marseille and there are just 10 games left. Of course, this option by the French looked like a fair decision, except that the English Premier League, whose eventual winners Liverpool had a higher points difference (25 points) on the table than the French, yet chose to play the remaining games, purely on grounds of it being business.

The curious trend during the debates by European countries was the need to ensure that the resumption of the 2020 season wasn’t inadvertently affected, with special attention paid to existing contractual agreements with sponsors. The contracts were sacrosanct which needed to be respected otherwise matters are settled at the law courts. Of these contracts was the television rights with the clubs struggling to cut the losses arising from the absence of the fans at match venues.

What struck everyone was the possibility of games to be played without the spectators. It looked like a mirage for such to happen. Pundits wondered how players could be at the utmost best during matches without the roaring voices of the fans sitting at the stands. Interestingly, the organisers thought outside the box by introducing robots and other mechanism which sought to reinforce support for the players, though it was apparent that those things were mechanical – not real. The hugs, the brickbats, the club anthems as side devoured their opponents was missing. The game had to played. The players knew it was their duty to make the best of a contrived setting. And they responded very well. what stood out was the absence of racists comments arising from stray balls towards the stands.

Renowned broadcaster Sky reported a £575million fall in revenue after their sports subscribers switched off during the coronavirus lockdown with figures suggesting that a 15.5 per cent fall in revenues from $4.8billion to $4bn (£3.7m to £3m) with the pandemic impacting the sporting calendar.

American TV company Comcast hinged the massive losses on the cancellation of Premier League, Bundesliga and Serie A fixtures as well as a decrease in customers receiving Sky broadband and mobiles services.

According to the report in Daily Mail, Comcast stressed that the total number of customer relationships to all of its services fell by 214,000 in the quarter as a result, which they also blamed on the lack of televised sporting fixtures and the suspension of sales of some services.

‘’ The company said the total number of customer relationships to all of its services fell by 214,000 in the quarter as a result, which they also blamed on the lack of televised sporting fixtures and the suspension of sales of some services.

‘’Sky issued payment holidays in an attempt to keep customers but five per cent of sports subscribers still cancelled their memberships. Content revenue also took a hit because of the lack of sport with a 38 per cent decline to $234million  (£179.5million). The broadcaster said for the six months to the end of June adjusted profits fell by 9.4 per cent to $1.3billion (£1billion).’’

Need I restate what the clubs across Europe lost in terms of revenue? It explains the slow movements in the transfer markets since the clubs are seemingly cash-strapped. The players weren’t amused by suggestions to suffer pay cuts arising from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. A few of them accepted though grudgingly while the big boys kept tossing their managements without really losing much when they agreed. Nobody knows if the clubs would refund when the business of the sport improves. We wait.

Whispers from abroad are that there may be a lockdown due to the Coronavirus. Let’s pray against another spread of the deadly disease. Not again, please.