Despite the seeming apathy by fans, the Chairman of the League Management Company, Shehu Dikko, insists that the Nigeria Premier League is a big brand which must not be ignored by corporate organizations in Africa.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, he also says that the LMC is making all plans to ensure stability and growth for the League ranking in Africa and a proper assessment of players contract;
PT: Are you not worried that the Nigerian league has fallen from the number one rating in Africa?
Dikko: I can take credit for both because I was a consultant when the league was number one in Africa. We work on ideas and people don’t understand the factors used to rate a league. It’s not all about the results. They consider the results, how competitive is the league, how many teams are winning the league. The reason why our ranking will drop is because one team has been winning the league for the past three seasons. It now affects the league. We are working hard; we take it step by step.
PT: How are you repackaging the League?
Dikko: Nigeria League is a big brand, corporate organizations should be more interested in them than paying million of dollars to sponsor the foreign clubs. We on our part have to get the brand to be attractive for sponsorship and we are working assiduously on that. When we came on board we met about N400 million debt and within months we paid back and everybody have seen and people are shocked we have reached this level. Clubs are happy they are receiving something and this year we are hoping that before the league finishes, whoever wins the league will get about N80 million; very huge number which has never happened before but to us it is very small because we are not even making news about it. We are rebranding the league to make it attractive, We are not in a hurry, we have a minimum benchmark timeline of money we can accept.
PT: A coach pleaded for the appointments of CAF licensed coaches for league clubs, how soon will this be considered in the League?
Dikko: It is done already, it is a done deal and in the rule book, the problem is because they are coaches, that is the reason why we have our rules and regulations on the website everybody can see it. The license and documents are on the website. We only push forward the implementation to September this year, we already have a rule that says that only coaches that have a minimum of CAF Grade B license will be head coach for any team, and assistants must have at least a C license. We are looking at next season so we can give more time for more coaches to be trained, the people that we have waiver for are the people that have played for the super Eagles. If you have played for a certain of years, you can coach a team for two years and are expected to get your license within that period. So it’s already in the rules and regulations.
PT: What are the major challenges faced by the League Management Company
Dikko: I don’t think there is any big challenge to be sincere; because if you look at my antecedents I have come a long way associating with the League. In 2004 I drafted the blueprint that led to the Premier League independence from the NFF and I was the strategy and marketing consultant for the league. In 2015, I was part of the team that went to England to sign the memorandum on how they can help us to develop, so I’ve been involved for so long in the system to withstand anything on what we need to do to move forward. When we started the LMC, I was a director, before I moved to Assistant Chairman and now Chairman, so I have been around for so long to understand what the issue is and what we need to do to move forward. So it is a continuation of what we have started and we are taking it gradually.
PT: What new policies are the LMC planning to introduce to the Premier League:
Dikko: We have introduced match assessors, they monitor the league matches and give feedback, we pay the referees on time, we take care of them well, away teams get money for win and same goes to the home teams. Even we have some match delegates who are journalists that will also assess matches and to also strengthen the social media and bring games to the public. We also have special delegates they do overall assessments, we will get there
PT: So many league players like Christian Obiozor seem to have issues with their contracts, what is the LMC doing to regulate the issue of players contracts:
Dikko: The rules and regulations we have are given to the clubs and in the rule book; all clubs are to abide. We are gradually checking things. There are also bad managers who always try to cheat players and we are working on that. We even talked about the issue at the NFF executive committee meeting, our rules make it clear that no player can be owned by a third party, a case of Obiozor for example who has played for Rangers, Pillars and Super Eagles and a Lagos academy claiming to own him, you can say you have a share but you can’t say you own a player, instead of share of the transfer. Players must sign at least minimum of three years contract, It is a matter of time, we will get that sorted.
PT: Are you not worried that the league matches clashes with the timing for the English Premiership? Are we going to see an adjustment soon?
Dikko: We are looking at our broadcasters to be able to resolve the issue, and adjust the time. We tried to play star matches on Friday night last season, we are also going to see about that. Even (Spanish) La Liga are doing it; (German) Bundesliga play on Friday too. Timing of matches shall be sorted soon.