A tough future awaits Nigerian football as it faces the difficult era of financial spending brought about by the global lockdown that could see it close the door of opportunity to many young footballers
The Nigerian football landscape will take a difficult path to sustain its operations with the global economic meltdown caused by the novel Coronavirus.
Amaju Pinnick, president of the Nigeria Football Federation, has said that among the plans to stay afloat is the cutting off of the Beach and Futsal national teams as well as the reduction of spending or the potential scrapping of youth national teams.
During a Zoom video call with journalists on Monday, Pinnick said that the NFF was struggling to meet many of its financial responsibilities and will need to take important steps to reduce the burden by focusing on the senior national teams, the Super Eagles and the Super Falcons.
This means that the future of the national U17 teams, where Nigeria has won a record five FIFA titles in the boys’ category, is on shaky ground. Nigeria also maintains U20 men’s and women’s teams and an U23 Olympic men’s team.
Mr Pinnick’s solution to keep the youth teams going is that the NFF may no longer pay players camp allowances and bonuses but could leave them with tournament winnings to share, one hundred per cent.
“Of course, the priorities, for now, would be the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers involving the Super Eagles, and the Women AFCON assignment of the Super Falcons. Those are the subheads guaranteed for now. I said earlier that COVID-19 pandemic has wrought some havoc and we just have to be realistic in our expectations from both the Government and our corporate partners. So, we are working with that reality and with that mindset,” Pinnick said.
“We are looking to still keep the age-grade teams in business, despite priority being given to the Super Eagles and the Super Falcons. But there will be conditions. They will earn no match bonus or camp allowances and we will only be able to take on board the minimum technical and backroom staff as specified by FIFA and CAF. However, if any of the teams go ahead and win the World Cup, or performs well enough at the World Cup to earn an appearance fee, that money will be shared by the entire team. The NFF will have no part of it. That will be the boon for them, the incentive to perform.”
All these changes would have to be subject to the agreement of the Executive Committee and a final pass from the Youth and Sports ministry.
With Nigeria’s economy reeling from the global lockdown, Mr Pinnick told journalists that the NFF would have to operate a tighter ship in order to keep afloat. His aim for a 100 per cent fully independent NFF has taken a hard hit, but he is hopeful that things will return to some normalcy when the economy stabilizes post-COVID-19.
“Things are difficult,” Pinnick said, in response to a question by Soccernet.ng on achieving financial independence for the NFF in a post-COVID-19 world.
“COVID-19 has left businesses gasping for breath and it has been quite tough. It is tough for businesses now, so we just have to be realistic with what we expect from our sponsors and partners. We have had a number of meetings with them and we are looking at middle-ground situations that would be conducive for ourselves and for themselves. Our discussions are ongoing and we must continue to do everything to keep them in-house even as they also struggle to stay afloat. We are very practical on this matter.”
The NFF’s biggest sponsors are oil servicing company Aiteo, the Nigeria Breweries, Coca-Cola, among others. All industries that have seen earnings decimated by the global lockdown.
The NFF re-hired German trainer, Gernot Rohr, last month with new terms that will see him paid in Naira due to the challenges of securing dollar payments. Aiteo was responsible for paying the NFF coaches previously, it is not yet known if they will continue that role.
The NFF will also hope that the funds from FIFA and CAF continue to come in to support its operations.
But it is clear that the NFF needs to be creative in order to survive the global pandemic. And if it means that many of its teams are off-loaded with the hopes of many young players dashed, it is a difficult decision that Pinnick is willing to make.
*This article has been updated with quotes from Mr Pinnick’s media chat to better reflect his plans for the NFF