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Still without sponsors

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WATCH DOG By Patrick Andrew

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The domestic league remains the bedrock of Nigeria football being the oasis for the growth of the game and indeed the avenue for the abundant talents- prodigious or otherwise- who could be found on many soccer pitches in Nigeria, flourish their talents and earn a lesson.
Of course, the league also offers administrators ample avenue to learn sundry organizational skills as they grapple, on daily basis, with the management of the clubs. Such running of the league is made easier by the provisions of funds by sponsors.  The funds address various problems in addition to ensuring that the practitioners-players, coaches and relevant elements who make a living through the game- are catered for.
Sadly, this has proved to be an ordeal for Nigerian clubs, players, technical and other administrative officials because the necessary oil to lubricant the machinery is missing in action.
Yes, lack of sponsorship has been the bane of the domestic league especially the elite league which ideally should be professional in all aspects: organization, packaging, quality on display and crowd attraction.
But the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) has been without sponsors for three seasons now. No, it had a sponsor and the sponsorship fee had raised the bar. Then, the NPL became the torch stone for even leagues in the continent which were rated far higher than Nigeria's on account of better structure and organization. At a time we were rated second best in Africa, next only to Egypt.
But the party soon hit the rock. The sponsorship was halted midway. The reason may have been justified: the league body was unable to justify the huge sums poured into league because rather than attract crowds to the stadia- something that would correspondingly boost the image of the sponsoring outfit- the crowd were daily thinning out.
In veiled terms, the sponsors doubted that they would ever reap from the expected clout if any and so thought it wise to breach the contract. 
That was ungentlemanly. It was unfair, it was a return to the dark days when professional football was alien to Nigeria.
Almost three seasons on, the situation has not changed. Though the faces who were responsible for the initial hiccups have, the institutions have remained. Well, one has tended to avoid being repetitious because the issues involving Globacom's sudden decision to back out of a deal it voluntarily entered and the subsequent tussles over the title sponsorship and or right of first offer are within public domain.
However, with the intervention of the Presidency as we were made to understand, one would have thought that the issues which hindered the league body from securing sponsorship had been resolved to clear the path for sponsorship.
Again, one wonders why an institution that places premium on its image, indeed business integrity, would rather prefer to be enmeshed in irritant controversies over deliberate or inadvertent breach of agreements.
No, if they say that as a Nigerian outfit the interest of Nigeria comes first, then they owe the country a duty to walk its talk or let another company step in to offer its services. That way, Nigerians would see for themselves and judge between the two who had served their interest better instead of pontificating in the corridors of power.
The second stanza of the league is scheduled to begin on April 24.

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