The European Football scene was hit early this week with news of the European Super League announcement, with 12 teams from 3 European nations, namely England, Spain, and Italy confirming their participation, with no representatives from Germany and France.
The founding teams were AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur.
The league, which would have hosted Europe’s richest clubs except for Bayern and Dortmund, got news of a financial boost as JP Morgan Chase, a US investment bank, also announced on Monday that it is funding the new season of the breakout league, the European Super League in a €4 billion ($4.8 billion) bet. The teams in the league were expected to share €3.5 billion ($4.21 billion) to spend on infrastructure and rehabilitation from the COVID-19 pandemic by a private corporation that will own the league.
However, by Tuesday evening, the Super League was pretty much dead, as the announcements precipitated anger from fans, footballers, ex-players and pundits all calling for the idea of a Super League to be killed. Later that evening, all six English clubs announced their withdrawal from the breakaway European Super League following protests and furious condemnations from the football community including football’s governing bodies.
Arsenal apologised for their ‘mistake’ saying: “As a result of listening to you and the wider football community over recent days we are withdrawing from the proposed Super League. We made a mistake, and we apologise for it.”
The European Super League idea failed because football is not only a sport in Europe, it’s a mega money-making institution, used to whitewash dictatorships (PSG-Qatar) and to generate billions in direct and indirect revenue for governments.
However, the reverse is the case in Africa, where the only semblance of a properly structured league football are in South Africa and the North African Leagues. Add the fact that European Football is easily available, and you get a situation where young Africans would rather watch midtable European league football than the CAF Champions league for Africa.
In 2020, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, disclosed that there are talks of an African Super League which he says can generate revenues of $200 million in a radical plan to reform African football.
“I want to create a real pan-African league that would feature 20-24 clubs with a maximum of maybe two clubs per country that would still play in their national leagues but that would play during the year so we can really crown the club champions of Africa,” Infantino said. “We have had some serious problems in Africa and it has to change. It has to change the way we do the business of football, it has to take on board the basic elements of good governance. There needs to be proper competition infrastructure. I think it is fair to say that competitions in Africa are 30-to-40 times less successful than in Europe.”
“The talks of an African Super League obviously did not generate much pushbacks as local African football needs all the help it can get,” according to Olaoluwa Aro of Maxisport International representing players including Abubakar Ghali of AS Trencin in Slovakia and Akinkunmi Amoo of Hammerby in Sweden. He argues that the African Super League would be a huge boost to Nigerian talent as it will build competitiveness and improve the general local football value chain.
“The proposed African Super League would definitely be a huge benefit for Nigerian players because, it will further expose our talents beyond Nigeria. The event would be more competitive as more of Local league players would strive hard to announce themselves when the showpiece kickstarts. Additionally, it would enable our local coaches to field the right players because most of them want to make a name like top African coaches,” he said.
On the objection to African Super League in Nigeria so far
Olaoluwa adds that he sees no objection as it would be financially beneficial to the teams that take part in the league.
“There wouldn’t be objection of such on our local front,” he said.
“The African Super League would force all the football stakeholders in Nigeria to move away from antiquated structures of football. The Super League would bring Money to the local clubs because, one of the unseen benefits of the impending event is Market Value. FIFA Understood that African football needs proper reshaping in all its facets; hence, they have used political “will” to install a visionary as the new CAF president. Another advantage for local teams in Nigeria is creating awareness about how talented we are but not having a good platform to stardom (which FIFA is trying to create) is hindering many future football stars,” he added.
What needs to be done to improve Nigerian league football
Olaoluwa adds that Nigeria needs to focus on 3 major area to improve local league football development, including Restructuring, Grassroots Development and Infrastructure. His thought are captured below.
The current structure of the system needs to be changed comprehensively. The NFF “statute” does not really give rooms for proper and modern football structures. The administrators need to create an enabling environment for the private sector to come into the system and contribute to developing the game from the grassroot.
He calls for larger investment in the space as Nigeria losses out on refining proper talents. Modern programs for developing talents are yet to be implemented in Nigeria and the NFF needs to periodically organise events that create an avenue for proper and systematic growth and transition.
The Nigeria Football system as a matter of urgency needs to establish a law that would enable football Academies have modern football facilities before issuing them licenses. Academies without proper facilities are one of the reasons Nigeria fails to produce quality players locally.
Note, Football Academies have moved more players abroad than NPFL clubs in the last few years. Players like Osimeh, Nwakali brothers, Simon Moses, Chukuweze, Ndidi, and Ihanacho were all products of Academies thus, the NFF should design a good structure for owing an Academy.
Sponsorship and TV right:
Football is business and not just a recreational activity. No sponsor would do business with your league without proper protection and projection of the league. Club owners are not innovatively running the system, they have made the ecosystem an enclosed one. Government needs to hands off from 100% control of the football system. Most of the appointees are cronies of the government who don’t care about the development of the game except government subventions. Most of our NPFL teams do not even have Jersey endorsement deals compared to North and South Africa. We must change holistically, the governance structure in football.
Like the saying goes, “one man’s poison is another man’s meat,” the Super League structure which has failed in Europe may be the catalyst needed to save African football as neither the fans nor the clubs would rebuff an opportunity to earn proper sponsorship and matchday revenue, a luxury most African football clubs do not currently enjoy.