As soon as the news filters-in that FIFA released an amount to the Nigeria Football Federation ( NFF ), it generates so much attention within the football fraternity and the entire nation.
FIFA’s grant to member associations are not new gestures, but it began to generate interests since questions about transparency, good governance, and accountability in the federation back in 2015. At the time, the House of Representative had requested the federation to provide detail about what was received fro participating at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and its expenditure. But the federation in its report presented only how it spent the monies received from the Federal Government.
In light of the above, it is important to state that asides funds received from FIFA, the NFF also gets funding in terms of subventions from the Nigerian government to execute its proposed annual plans since the federation is a non-profit organization just like its parent body FIFA.
FIFA is a non-profit organization but makes money through the sale of television, marketing, and licensing rights for football events like the World Cup. Infrastructure costs for World Cup events are left up to host countries, keeping FIFA’s expenses low. In 2018, FIFA generated more than $4.6 billion in revenue. (According to Investopedia)
Why does FIFA release these funds to member nations and does it really care how it is used? According to the official website, FIFA aims to “promote the game of football, protect its integrity, and bring the game to all.” FIFA pays the local organizing committee for organizing and conducting the World Cup. It also pays prize money to the participating nations, accounts for the travel and accommodation of players, and supports staff and match officials. Also, it makes available for the host country a FIFA World Cup legacy fund to be used in the future for the development of the game in the country.
Bringing it home, have we been able to understand how the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has judiciously expended allocations from FIFA? Do we even understand the purpose of these funds? What are the noticeable projects we can identify as justification for the expenditures?
Earlier in the year, FIFA’s Chief, Gianni Infantino attended an event held in the Mohammed VI football complex in Rabat, the brand new Moroccan center dedicated to promoting high-level football practice. Infantino said that the continent would receive one billion euros from its reserves to develop African football while stating that African football needs upgrades in three areas, namely arbitration, infrastructure, and competitions.
The NFF was established to promote, administer as well as develop football in the county. To be fair on the federation, it has discharged its obligations in terms of administration and promotion of the game within the country and beyond its shores to an appreciable level over the year. We have seen the nation’s national team succeed in global and continental competitions at different age stages with a large chunk of the federation’s money expended on competitions involving the senior national side, being the most attractive property.
We have witnessed complaints and protests from the women’s team in the past citing 2004, 2016 up to and 2019 over unpaid allowances. The women have also tried to push for equal pay as their male counterparts enjoyed being the most successful national side. Meanwhile, this is a discussion for another day.
Kudos to the NFF on its recent set up of the U15 team to serve as a breeding ground to the U17 who would thereby progress to the top level.
In terms of infrastructure development, apart from the FIFA Goal Project in Abuja, how many have we seen bankrolled with FIFA grants? With thousands of young footballers scattered across the country, the football federation in recent times cannot boast of any facilities anywhere in the country. Let us take a look at Morocco’s rehabilitated Mohammed VI Stadium in Rabat, it was given a face-lift and can now compete with any stadium in the world. They did not have to wait for FIFA, but to collaborate with its government to achieve its objectives. What they have now is a football museum. A center that houses all its national team whenever they have a competition at hand rather than lodge in a hotel.
The Mohammed VI Football Complex in Rabat required a budget of around USD170 million which is part of the implementation of the national program for upgrading national football infrastructure, which provides also for supporting the establishment of National Club Training Centers (RCA, FUS, MAT, WAC, RSB), and constructing 5 federal training centers. The project also included a renovation of 138 artificial turf football fields (98 completed) and 13 natural grass pitches.
South Africa Football Association, for instance, has SAFA Development Agency (SDA) which teams up with NGOs and corporate bodies to build football pitches across the country. SDA partnered Totalsports to build a SAFA Safe-hub in the township of Alexandra back in 2015 which cost the company about USD500,000 to complete. The aim of the project is to build football pitches and development centers across the entire country.
In England, St Georges Park is a center used as a base for all coaching and development work undertaken by the FA, and to be the training and presentation ground of all 28 of the England national football teams at the same time, including disability, futsal and those who compete in UEFA and FIFA competitions.
Clairefontaine, built for footballers of all ages is an absolute football development center. It was the brainchild of longtime French Football Federation (FFF) President Fernand Sastre, and inspired by the methods of the legendary Romanian coach Ștefan Kovács. (These Football Times Magazine) It is an academy where coals are turned to diamonds as we have seen in the cases of Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, and recently Kylian Mbape in recent times among other players who have passed through the system.
It is understood that Latvia, Turkey, Qatar, and most famously Belgium are also adopting the Clairefontaine methods. These are long term football plans that offer immense benefits to the nation in a matter of years, and it would be interesting to experience similar or the same in Nigeria.
In a recent development, FIFA promised to help its member nations with the release of USD500,000 (around NGN180,000,000) to help mitigate financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic. FIFA said that “all operational funding” for 2019 and 2020 would be distributed amongst the 211 member associations “as the first step of a relief plan to assist the football community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic”.
The NFF would alongside other member nations benefit from the largesse which would normally be delivered “upon fulfillment of specific criteria”, but will release those funds and any “remaining entitlement for 2019 and 2020”.
The Nigeria Professional Football League, Nigeria Women’s Premier League, The Nigeria National League, and the National League Organization are all beckoning on the attention of the NFF since the news filtered in that “FIFA Money” is coming. Can we simply assume that the money when received would go as usual on funding competitions without any investment in infrastructure or development projects in any part of the country?
Should we also expect to hear how the Nigeria Football Federation would assist the football community as seen in Mauritania FA’s gesture who was reported to have earmarked over USD3 million to support football community in light of the coronavirus pandemic. We also understand that the Mauritanian Federation are also contributing around USD265,000 to the country’s fund to combat the global pandemic.