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Nigerian Football

Dangers, even before NPFL kicks off





It is a week to the kick-off of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL). But there are danger signals.

The NPFL board has ruled that there will be a jackpot of a minimum N100m for the winner.

There will be no take-off grant  as it happened last season. The 2022/23 league season is easily adjudged as the best, even by the relegated clubs.

Great thanks to Gbenga Elegbeleye and his team in the now dissolved Interim Management Committee (IMC). They gave the Nigerian lead football league, a renewed hope.


Elegbeleye is back, even in greater capacity. The new season should build on the success of the last one.

Every club should have a cut of the pie. That has been the essence of expanding even flagship competitions such as the FIFA World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations.

It is to ensure that the pot of money is spread, even to lower teams who would not have qualified if the prevailing size of teams were to be maintained.

In the case of the Nigerian domestic football league, the principle of proportional sharing should be activated.

By their callings, the 20 clubs in the NPFL are professionals.


Professionalism implies making money and having good returns. What then is the business sense in embarking on a  tortuous venture that is capital and energy intensive but leaves one with ratio 1: 20 of success?

The reasoning behind a N100m jackpot is to give the league a colouration of affluence. It is mainly to prop up the sponsors – real or imagined.

It will therefore  not do the league any good. In the NPFL, teams go for three stakes – becoming the champion, falling within the top three bracket to pick continental ticket and lastly, escaping relegation.

This is where the inbuilt damage mechanism lies. ‘Trading’ steps in. Teams struggling for title and top three positions may begin to reach out to middle placed clubs who are without any realistic chance of getting anything.

Since their positions are secured in the league, they may begin to seek avenues of augmenting their expenses.


This is where  the dangers in ‘match buying and selling’ come in.

The same applies to the teams swimming in the murky waters of relegation. There is the tendency for them to ‘reach’ out to the clubs in safety zone for assistance.

Apart from the possible financial corruption already enunciated, fans may go violent to ‘safeguard’ the interest of their clubs.

It will therefore serve the NPFL well, if prize money is shared proportionally among the 20 competing teams.

The English Premier League is a model to glean from. All 20 clubs  bank at least nine-figures for fulfilling their fixtures as richest league in the world returns with £2.2m on offer for every position.


Let the NPFL therefore have a rethink on the issue of prize money. If other sources of money roll in, as being envisaged, it is better for such to be channelled to the other 19 clubs instead of giving all to the eventual champion.

Lack or shortage of money may sniff out life from some of these clubs if a general principle of getting proportionally from the prize money pie is not applied.

Let’s recall the sad incidents of the 1987 season when suddenly, many privately owned and corporately run football clubs scrapped owing to ‘harvest’  of debts that the prevailing system offered.

Nigerian football has not recovered from that as most clubs in the country are state-run.

The NPFL should look into the issue of prize money for the clubs as it is done in the English Premier League and most other viable leagues of the world.


Estimated 2022/23 Premier League prize money

1 Manchester City £170m
2 Arsenal £167.8m
3  Manchester Unite £165.5m
4 Newcastle United £163.4m
5 Liverpool £161.2m
6 Brighton £159m
7 Aston Villa £156.8m
8 Tottenham Hotspur £154.6m
9 Brentford £152.4m
10 Fulham £150.2m
11 Crystal Palace £148m
12 Chelsea £145.8m
13 Wolves £143.6m
14 West Ham £141.4m
15 Bournemouth £139.2m
16  Nottingham Forest £137m
17  Everton £134.8m
18 Leicester £132.6m
19 Leeds £130.4m
20 Southampton £128.2m

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.