With Adebayo Olodan
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) may soon return to its old ways of owing coaches to the grave and running cap in hand to solicit financial support from state governors and well-meaning individuals.
Except the NFF is able to resolve its contractual issues with one of its major sponsors, many of our national teams may have to pull out of qualifiers and major tournaments due to imminent paucity of funds.
Also, the Federation Cup and our domestic leagues –Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), Nigeria National League (NNL) and Nigeria Women Football League(NWFL)- may be suspended pending the time the NFF will be financially buoyant enough to foot the bills of organising them.
When all the setbacks are factored in, our budding football talents will suffer severely just as over 75 per cent of the nation’s population who followed our national teams passionately may have to fully switch our allegiance to foreign clubs.
Millions of health challenged Nigerians who live on football instead of prescriptions may have their conditions worsened should they be denied opportunity of watching their local and national teams at the stadia or on their screens.
If you are still wondering the sponsorship deal I was am talking about well it all started in April 2017. Football aficionados in the country breathed a sigh of relief following NFF’s announcement of N2.5billion sponsorship deal of the Federation Cup by an oil and gas company, AITEO Group.
According to the five year deal, the Federation Cup was to be named AITEO Cup just as the parties had also agreed earlier that the salaries of the nation’s national team coaches be taken over by the energy group. The second agreement generated more excitement among Nigerians as many of us believed it was a permanent solution to the NFF’s persistent inability to pay coaches under its employ.
The FA Cup deal entails AITEO taking over the entire costs of the organisation of the tourney from the round of 64 to the men and women’s finals. Also, the energy company was to provide solidarity support to Football Associations of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, expenses and indemnities of match officials, support to participating clubs, media, branding/activation and prize money to winners.
In return, the NFF is expected to provide through various activations, visibility for the AITEO Group especially during the competition and national teams matches.
Five months after those agreements, the energy company is threatening to boycott the deal following allegation that the NFF has failed to fulfil its part of the bargain.
A senior official of AITEO Group, who pleaded anonymity, was said to have berated the NFF last week for not acting according to agreement adding that the company was reviewing the partnership.
“They told us that the AITEO Cup will be a media event, which means the competition will be widely publicised. But it is almost coming to an end and the newspapers and broadcast media seemed not to know what is happening.
“We have not seen the programme for the competition. In fact, the NFF only informed us of the quarterfinal draws a few hours before the event. There is no plan for anything… things are not done that way.
“We are talking of more than N5billion sponsorship that has been made so difficult for us to leverage on. If this NFF continued this way, we will be forced to review our relationship with them,” the AITEO official lamented.