Mystery UK investors offer $1.5bn for takeover of Nigerian league

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Forever cash-strapped Nigerian football could have a solution to its problems if rumours that a group of UK investors are ready to invest $1.5 billion into the Nigeria Professional Football League are true.

Sports minister Solomon Dalung said that the UK-based sports promo and marketing firm Arabella 21st Century made the proposal during a visit to his office in Abuja.

“Yes, they want to bring in about $1.5bn into Nigerian football, but there is a caveat to it. They are not going to tamper with the constitution, statutes or football article,” said Dalung.

“It is the same thing they did in China and Japan. The league board will operate with the NFF and the Ministry will be involved. They want to set up a Football Development Company that will be quoted on the stock exchange, with the same applying to all the football clubs in Nigeria.”

Quite who the investors are, where the money is coming from and their track record, and what they might have done in China and Japan is something of a mystery.

Otunba Femmy Carrena CEO/President of Arabella 21st Century outlined a deal that will see the supposed UK investors only put up their money only if 30% of the investment comes from Nigeria.

“They want to come to Nigeria and manage our league for the next 20 years.

After a meeting with the ministry and other stakeholders, they’ll set up the company but their Nigerian counterparts are expected to invest 30% of the $1.5bn,” he said.

“They’re ready to put their own money into the stock exchange, but they’ll have the controlling share. They will restructure the league, get the television rights but not before a conference which will explain to everyone how it will work.”

Dalung said that Nigeria’s leading sports must now be private sector- driven. “It will now be stakeholder-defined. You must put your money in it. The days of when government will make huge budgetary allocations for people who have no single contribution is over,” he said.

“We’re only going to invest our budgetary allocation in grassroots sports development. Elite sports should be owned by the private sector. Put your money in it. Manage it and make profit or loss. The era of running sports only on sponsorship without your own contribution is over.”

It would be a brave investor who took his money to Nigerian football with its past record of financial mismanagement, disappearing funds and perennial non-payment of players and coaches. It would be a brilliant investor that risked it and came away with a profit and a healthy organisation.

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