It had been three weeks since Amaju Pinnick’s re-election into a new four-year term as president of the Nigeria Football Federation when he agreed to this interview. We met at his upscale Parkview, Ikoyi residence. As we exchanged pleasantries, he asked how long the interview would last for and if he could eat while we talked. I agreed and then he invited me to the dinner table where he instructed the cook to make some food available to his guest.
We began our conversation as he ate while the children played football on the synthetic grass nearby. The matter of Nigerian football was the topic of the conversation in a week when the Super Eagles play twice against Libya in their bid to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. Nigeria has missed the last two editions in what is arguably one of the most financially prosperous periods for the country’s football. While Pinnick, an oil industry businessman and entertainment entrepreneur, has attracted key corporate support to the NFF with the World Cup being a catalyst, the Eagles need to return to the AFCON next year to sustain interest in the brand.
“We’ve achieved 65 per cent financial autonomy,” he began. For an annual budget of 6billion Naira, the sum of N2.5bn is assured from sponsorship funds. The NFF receives the bulk of its sponsorship from energy group Aiteo, its biggest partner from a 2017 agreement. Other partners who came on board after the World Cup ticket had been secured include Coca-Cola (N288m), Nigeria Breweries (N440m), 1xBet and Cadbury (N126m), TGI Group (N100m) and Zenith Bank (N165m) per annum. The NFF is also renegotiating its agreement with kit suppliers Nike that could see a cash injection of $800,000 per annum in grants and royalties following the soar-away success of the national team jerseys ahead of the World Cup. The new Nike deal could stretch up to eight years as the NFF looks to cement a long-term relationship with the US giant after negotiating from a weak position in 2016.
Mr Pinnick is also looking to the CAF AFCON broadcast rights as a potential revenue maker for the NFF. He declared that they will negotiate to have a stand-alone agreement for Nigeria that should fetch more than the $1m they currently receive from the continental governing body. “We hope that in the next two years we will be able to raise N6bn annually so we will not need any money from the government,” he said. While the government will continue to provide infrastructure for football as well as other support like visas for visiting teams and delegations as well as security, Pinnick anticipates that his legacy will be his ability to hand over a financially autonomous NFF at the end of his tenure in 2022. He has insisted that he will not run for office again in order to have more time to spend with his young children.
He hopes that football can become an integral part of the Nigerian economy whereby clubs can become 80 per cent autonomous. “We’re setting up a committee that will look at what can enhance the value of Nigerian football, very practical steps in achieving optimum success. Each club will be given two years to achieve independence to run as a proper company,” he said. “We’re going to come out with very stringent policies that will ensure autonomy for the clubs.”
The NFF still awaits the 2018 World Cup appearance funds from FIFA, according to Pinnick. They received $2m ahead of the tournament in order to prepare and pay players’ allowances to avoid camp disharmony. The sum of $6m remains, which Pinnick stated will not be accessed until the full audit of the indebtedness of the NFF is scrutinised by its Finance Committee and its financial consultants. The World Cup funds will be used in paying hotel bills, travel companies, airlines, federation staff, etc. He does not anticipate that there will be enough left over to save and invest in a fund for the future use of the NFF.
The AFCON will become a 24-team tournament in 2019 with the hosting rights fully handed to Cameroon. Pinnick expects that more matches on TV will lead to increased revenue for CAF, where he is now 1st Vice President and Head of the AFCON Committee. More money for CAF would lead to increased revenue for the participating countries.
Mr Pinnick seems to have his financial expectations for Nigerian football all sorted out. How well the Super Eagles do over the next two games will also determine how much money will come in from potential new sponsors over the next year. However, one expects that his second tenure will create greater value for the entire football industry. A country with a population the size of Nigeria’s can do better than what generally holds at the moment. How much value he is able to create for the NPFL that was brought to an abrupt end after 24 matches this year as well as the rushed finish to the Aiteo Cup that has largely remained uninspiring will determine Mr Pinnick’s true legacy.