Popularly called “Naija Football” and founded in 1972, the league is the highest level of domestic football in Nigeria. The current NPL Chairman is Victor Rumson Baribote.
The league comprises of the usual 20 teams, and averages over 50 goals a season.
Most notably, two teams named “Enugu Rangers” and “Enyimba F.C.” are referred to as the power-horses of the league, as they have both won the NPL on six occasions. While another team, “Kano Pillars”, are the current league champions.
Till date, the league is struggling to meet the required football standards despite currently being the best league in Africa.
I have successfully highlighted five possible factors hindering the progress of this league.
1) No functioning website for the league and teams – Shocking as it may sound, the league and its teams don’t have a particular website situated to them. Which means, you won’t be granted access to each teams; fixtures, results, match-ticket news, team news, etc.
To make matters worse, the NPL chairman and his subordinates are in no way looking set to ameliorate this mess.
2) Poor stadium facilities – The current poor state of most stadiums in the NPL, I must say, has been the major factor hindering the progress of this league. Teams in the NPL are state owned, but it has had no positive impact. Stadiums are left in deplorable conditions.
Last year, I managed to watch one of the league fixtures. I noticed, the vibrant movement of the football was reduced to a certain limit, because of the “potholes and weeds” in some areas on the pitch.
Even more appalling, the team that lost on the day had a glorious attack opportunity in the closing stages of that game, but the ball, somehow, didn’t cross the goal-line because of a very big pot-hole. The opposition eventually cleared and a big chance was squandered.
It would also interest you that, due to the lack of flood-lights in most stadiums in the NPL, matches are never played at night.
3) Lack of Sponsorship – The private and government organizations prefer to sponsor teams abroad instead of the local football teams (NPL teams). Just a few months back, a popular refreshment company in Nigeria – “Malta Guiness” – signed up for a three-year partnership deal with English Premier League side, Arsenal.
They also went ahead to spend millions in hosting about 3 (three) Arsenal players, to be precise: Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna. Now you can only wonder the improvement if that large amount of money was invested in the league.
4) Cases of match-fixing scandals and corruption – The cases of match fixing and corruption among clubs in the NPL are so rampant. Teams rely on biased decision from the referees to win crucial games.
It was also rumored that high cases of corruption was the major reason the popular football scores website “Livescores” refused to add the NPL on their list of leagues. Something must be done quickly before the situation gets catastrophic.
5) Gigantic ticket prices – The high rate ticket prices has caused a major decline of Nigerians going to watch the NPL games.
One Nigerian I spoke to on this issue complained laconically, “why on earth should I pay over £5 to watch a team on a dilapidated pitch”.
All these factors have been an obstacle in the progression of this league. Ticket prices certainly needs to be reduced drastically, the government and private individuals needs to invest more into this dying league, and stadiums needs to be upgraded to the normal standards.
You don’t expect people to buy tickets and enjoy watching a game on an ugly pitch surface- people always want the value of every penny paid. And it’s no surprise that Nigerians prefer to watch the European football over the local “Naija” league.
Unless something is done about this few factors, I can assert that the Nigeria Premier League would remain in gloomy shadows, and I envisage in few years, may be writing its own epitaph in the Nigerian audience.
Written by @femi4arsenal
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