LETTER TO THE LEAGUE MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
I have been a fan of the Nigeria League since Plateau United and Mighty Jets were in the top division together in 2004. I had just finished my secondary school and started getting interested in football other than the Super Eagles and other National sides. Thanks to Complete Sports Newspaper, I followed the league and enjoyed the Plateau based teams, the South East teams and never ever missed the news stands on Monday mornings.
Since 2004, I have followed the League as much as possible. The joy of winning the league, the chance of playing continental football and the sorrow sight of being relegated, all summed up the league for me. Enyimba went on to win the CAF Champions League twice and those newspapers from complete sports still lie in my room in Lagos. (unless my folks have swept it away recently, not in town). Goose pimples still populate my skin whenever I think of that CAF Champions League.
Back to my letter: I have always wanted to write you this letter since the inception of the LMC but chance and time have robbed me of achieving that. And after our interaction on twitter, I knew I had to get this letter to you as soon as possible. I work as an Engineer though I blog on Nigeria Football and Arsenal.
I am writing this letter for two reasons: commendation and suggestion.
I must commend the effort you have been putting to better the Nigeria Premier League. Last season (2012/13) was great. It was a joy to see new things and changes though not with some challenges.
Challenges must be, especially when new changes are being introduced and enforced in a system. There may be flaws in implementing these changes but it is expected that with little more time, the changes will come to stay and affect the league positively. The resultant challenges must be surpassed.
People cry for changes but most times are the obstacles to these changes. In as much as the reason for these changes are genuine and are for the betterment of the league and Nigerian football at large, we must fire on irrespective of whose ox is gored.
I must commend you for everything so far and meaningful Nigerians expect more.
The race to positioning our league is a joint race by all Nigerians involved, be it the clubs, the fans, the government or the LMC. I have some suggestions that may help. Forgive my ignorance if any of my suggestions are illogical or impracticable.
1. League Schedule
After the 2006 competition, the league changed its calendar to more closely match the common European regular season structure (starting around August and ending around May). This was as a result of some of our league players leaving for Europe for trials et al. The CAF and African calendar runs from February to November. Enyimba won the CAF champions league in seasons when the league ran concurrent to the CAF yearly calendar. No Nigerian club has won any African club competition since Enyimba. Dolphins came close.
A yearly schedule will be much better starting from February and ending by November with a mid-season break that may coincide with the end of the European season. The mid-season can be a window for players that intend to go for trials in Europe can use.
Advantages of a yearly calendar include: Easier for clubs to register and manage their players with respect to both the league and CAF competitions; Easier for clubs to have a proper pre-season; Easier for clubs to perform better in the continent.
Please, I hope this new 2014 season will not be rushed like the last season where clubs had to play as much as twice or even thrice a week just to finish up the season as quick as possible. The Nigerian geographical terrain is large and travelling is quite an issue for teams. We recorded some accidents last season and hope to avoid same this season. It was tiresome for the players and I believe affected the teams representing us in the continent.
2. THE CLUBS AND THE COMMUNITY
The football clubs are part of the community and thus have to socialize. I suggest that each of the clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League should manage a website, a Twitter account and a Facebook account. These will aid Nigerians in knowing more about these clubs whether they are far or near. The website should have information about the club, the players, fixtures, results and other things that will make anybody visit it again. A twitter and Facebook account is quite easy to manage when you have a PR department. I mange three twitter accounts: one for me, one for my blog and one strictly for Nigerian football statistics. It hasn’t been easy because I have a job other than football.
The clubs can get closer to the community in many ways. A fans shop, jerseys, TV and radio shows, community services, gifts, presents and many more. I am not satisfied with just knowing the names of the club stadium, coach or a bunch of players, Nigerians can know more. It may seem difficult to de-European-ize the Nigerian fans but little by little, with proper socialization they will reach a compromise.
I must commend the clubs that manage twitter and Facebook accounts. Those with websites can do better by updating their sites as often as possible. Others should be encouraged to get one. The teams in the NNL should follow suit.
The state of insecurity in the North East especially in Maiduguri is a thing of concern. It seems illogical to have matches played there with Boko Haram tormenting the area. Last season, I was always unease whenever a game was played in Borno especially with the fact that there is even no communication from the stadium. We don’t get live results from El Kanemi’s home games until after the match. This must stop until security is restored in that region. Nobody will like to lose his life with the attacks from Boko Haram. Teams travel to Borno with so much fear that I think they don’t put up fights on the pitch. They just want to fulfill the righteousness of playing to avoid sanctions.
I suggest that games in Maiduguri should be suspended and moved to another location, maybe Abuja. I don’t have any hard feelings against El Kanemi but the safety of the other teams should be in consideration too.
The security of match officials, visiting teams and fans should be considered in all the stadia. I hope we don’t see any ugly scene of officials being beaten or fans being molested.
Others suggestions include:
- Monthly awards for best player and coaches
- End of season awards (player of the season, coach of the season, best XI)
- Best stadia, best fans etc.
- Continuous televising of the League.
- Key matches of the week
- League weekly summary and goals highlights
- A couple of matches under flood lights (only in secured cities and stadia with good fans)
- Drugs and Testing of players
- Limited number of registered players per club
- Club screening
- Better club sponsorship
- Better club jerseys
- Inviting European clubs to play friendlies with Nigerian clubs
I hope my suggestion will add to many other suggestions and tools you have to make the league better. I truly want the Nigeria League to rank up with the best in Europe. I believe winning the FIFA World Club Cup will market the league more. It begins with steps at home.
I would appreciate a response and acknowledgement to this letter.
Let’s get better
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**This Letter is made public after proper consultation.**