By China Acheru
With the Nigeria Professional Football League just one match day to go, the more serious clubs should begin to plan for the next season already.
Of course there is still the fight against relegation at the bottom of the table while the top of the table clash has to do with either winning the title or qualifying to play on the continent.
One thing that has been clear since the Nigerian league began in 1972 is the fact that Nigerian clubs are structured to play for three points every match day and in between match days little or nothing happens.
Sadly, in forty four years of league football in Nigeria, the clubs are still set up just to play for three points every match day
The professional touch
However, after an eight day trip to the Spanish cities of Valencia and Cadiz where they attended training sessions, Nigerian football administrators may begin to look beyond three points as the reasons why their clubs were set up.
Chairman of Abia Warriors, Emeka Inyama who was part of the group that visited Spain for the Laliga tour is optimistic that things can change and says he will look for experts to run different departments in his club.
“We need to look for experts because football is not a one man show,” Inyama said.
“In Spain last month for the La Liga tour, we learned that improving on player capacity and development is as important as the three points we play for every weekend.
“The tour was well packaged and the challenge for us now is to go back to our clubs and put the things we learned into developing our football,” Inyama said.
General Manager of Warri Wolves, Moses Etu agrees with Inyama, saying that that professionals must be brought in to run Nigerian clubs.
“We will certainly restructure Warri Wolves but this will be done at the end of the season because there is no time to do it now,” Etu said.
“We will look at the staff quality and certainly those that are not useful to us may go.
“We also need professionals to manage the commercial side of the club and then a human resources manager.
“The fans are our number one priority now and we will strategise on improving our relationship with fans of the club,” Etu said.
No hurry about changes
But chairman of Nasarawa United, Danladi Isaac insists that though they are anxious and eager to make changes to the way their clubs are run, they will not jump head long into it.
“We are anxious and eager to make changes and we believe there will be changes in the way our clubs are run from next season, but we must be cautious and understand that Rome was not built in a day.
“I learned a lot and I am sure my colleagues learned a lot but these changes must be gradual so we don’t upset the apple cart.
“For us at Nasarawa United, we are especially looking at the issue of fans attendance and engagement as we will try to create peaceful and entertaining environments to bring the fans back,” Isaac said.
Beyond the three points
For chairman of the League Management Company, Shehu Dikko, Nigerian clubs must look beyond three points as they continue their restructuring programs.
According to Dikko, the three points acquired on match day is only about thirty percent of what makes a football club.
“We learned our lessons from the LaLiga tour and everybody has a story to tell and I am sure the club administrators cannot wait to begin to implement these in their clubs.
“We need to do a lot to improve our game. It’s about participation and improving fans base which in turn improves revenue. It must be beyond the three points and that is why ahead of next football season, we will start a campaign with the slogan, ‘beyond the three points’
Dikko cited fans engagement, a proper admin structure, physical club structures, the business of football amongst others as seventy percent of what makes a football club.
“The three points our clubs play for every match days is just about thirty percent of what makes a football club while there are other aspects which are as important or even more important because the three points without fans means low commercial value that will affect the club in the long run.
“The same way three points without a proper club structure, playing philosophy or marketing plan will count for nothing in the long run.
“We need to change that mentality so people know they would be judged more on stadium structure, admin structure, media visibility, etc, rather than just the three points,” Dikko said.
And to this, Danladi Isaac agrees by saying, “Playing basically for three points puts lots of pressure on the players.”
Isaac says the stadiums must come alive again.
“We want to return our fans to the terraces. We are looking at a situation where we will have a full house every match day.”
As fans and watchers of the league wait patiently for the next football season to begin to see the benefits of the Laliga tour in August, Mutui Adepoju also pleads for caution from club owners, the media and fans alike.
Adepoju who played most of his football with Real Sociedad in Spain in the 90s now runs the LaLiga office in Nigeria and says Organisation and structure must work for the gains of the recent tour to show fruition.
“If we can have a structure that works, then we will see the best of Nigerian football, but let us not act like there will be no challenges,” Adepoju said.
“There are obvious challenges in Nigeria, but having been to Spain and attending all the workshops and interactive sessions, I believe things will change this time around,” Adepoju said.