Total Promotions, TV Rights, Squandered $ Millions And The Rape On Nigeria League
The Nigeria Professional League was founded in 1990 and the expectations since then were that it will be the solid bedrock on which football in the country will blossom to top global reckoning.
While other arts like Nigerian music and Nollywood now enjoy world-wide acclaim, football on the domestic front is not just lagging far behind, it has become a huge joke in a big football country like Nigeria.
Besides the huge following that the sport enjoys in the country, local football has also got some major breakthroughs that should by now have propelled it to enviable heights.
Sale of television rights of the league has delivered millions of US Dollars, but unfortunately individuals, companies and organisations have enriched themselves from this jackpot at the detriment of the major Stakeholders of the competition.
The root of this tragedy that befell the Nigeria league was in 2005, when then Nigeria Premier League (NPL) Chairman ‘Moving Train’ Oyuki Obaseki signed a contract with a little known company Total Promotions.
The broadcast rights agreement was to pay the NPL 150 Million Naira in four instalments a year.
Curiously, the same Total Promotions also entered into another agreement with South Africa-based SuperSport pay Television that paid it 750 Million Naira a year – a cool 600 Million Naira a year profit for this smart middleman.
This figure will rise to over a Billion Naira by the time the agreement ended.
“This is a company that cannot even boast of one TV camera,” a top official at that time lamented how the league was being milked dry.
On September 16, 2009, Obaseki extended the contract with Total Promotions for another four years.
The story was that Niyi Alonge, the chief of Total Promotions, had won the confidence and support of the NPL leadership when he put up 24 Million Naira to bankroll the first league season the interim committee headed by Obaseki organised.
Total Promotions also tried its hands on the title sponsorship of the NPL.
That was in 2010, when it attempted to bring in telecommunications giants MTN.
Then acting league executive scribe Tunji Babalola refused against all manner of pressures to sign for MTN to be the title sponsors even when his bosses had.
In the end, Globacom fought back with the help of some very influential Nigerians to remain as the title sponsors of the NPL.
It paid for the first year of the contract and then reneged on subsequent payments.
The NPL dragged the telecommunications company to court before an out-of-court settlement was reached by the parties.
Globacom eventually paid 3.4 Billion Naira and around that same time Shehu Dikko with the full support of then Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi came up with the LMC in the wake of the removal of Rumson Baribote as NPL Chairman.
LMC preferred to deal directly with SuperSport and not through a third party that Total Promotions is.
Not to be outsmarted, Total Promotions dragged SuperSport to arbitration in London and won and it was paid off.
Back in Nigeria the company secured an interlocutory injunction against LMC for denying it the first right of refusal as it concerns the TV rights of the league, which investigations have revealed ought to have ended in 2016 when it was last extended.
LMC appealed this injunction, which meant that the matter is still on appeal as well as nullified any injunction for status quo to remain until a ruling.
LMC therefore went ahead to sign a long-term contract with SuperSport.
Officials of the now defunct league organisers said SuperSport paid $8 Million a year, but further investigations showed the figure was a lot more – $18 Million.
The honeymoon between LMC and SuperSport lasted three years during which a Squandermania of the present and future of Nigeria league further took place.
Till date, why the romance suffered a premature end remains unclear.
But it was reliably gathered that the TV partners were disgusted by the poor organisation of the league – from an unstable calendar to waning local interest– as thiscost them fortunes rather than make money for them.
It was a case of from one Hell to the next Hell.
The main question now being asked with the sudden reappearance of Total Promotions in the current clime is – Could this first right of refusal to this company for the broadcast rights of Nigeria league be in perpetuity even after it ought to have ended in 2016?