Ekiti State Football Association (EKSFA) President Bayo Olalenge said he does not support state ownership or funding of football clubs in the country.
Olalenge made the remark on Tuesday in an interview with Nigeria News Agency on the sidelines of the Lagos Soccer Fiesta at the Maracana Sports Complex, Ajegunle, Lagos.
He said the government’s role in supporting sports, and football in particular, should be limited to provisions relating to sports infrastructure, security, road networks and tax relief for the import of sports equipment.
“For grassroots development to thrive, I don’t believe we need the government to fund the sport.
“The role of government should be to make sport viable by providing the necessary infrastructure and business people will come.
“We have to see that football is a business; so, for me, I don’t support government-sponsored sports; it should be strictly a business. People need to make money from their investment in sports.
“In Ekiti, people hardly go out to watch football games unlike many other states which can have around 17,000 spectators in the stands. In our stadium, we can handle maybe 1,000 spectators.
“So we have to go at our own pace and design the model first,” he said.
According to him, it is necessary to create a sports culture to make it attractive to the people of Ekiti, after which private investors can take it over from there.
Olalenge denounced the huge amount of money spent on the state-run football club, Ekiti United FC.
According to him, this money does not yet bring any return on investment, adding that the structure of the clubs does not allow transparent management.
“The 72 million naira for Ekiti United FC is a waste of funds as they have not yielded any results. Most of the players at the club are non-natives who cannot vote.
“For us in FA State in 20192020, the money we spent for the whole year was 6 million naira, and last year we spent 18 million naira.
“Now we have a club gobbling up N72m and if I may ask, what have we benefited from so far?
“In my opinion, I’m not impressed with the club and I don’t support the government spending money on football clubs,” he said.
He said involvement in government funding would interfere with the running of clubs through the appointment of officers.
“The way forward is for the government to provide the sports infrastructure, good road networks, especially security, so that people feel safe to come to the stadium and watch the matches live.”
Olalenge described football as a great investment platform, which should be left to private companies to operate, a model he said has been successful in other climates.
“Football is a great platform for business, which many private organizations are waiting to tap into. It’s what you can get in established leagues around the world.
“The established leagues have created good content which is salable to investors and also people are eager to come to the stadium to watch the stars on the pitch.
“Live league matches attract corporate advertising and many other incentives. Governments only come up with policies that will allow business to thrive,” he said.