by Adedammy Adedotun

Since the corona virus epidemic hit earlier this year, it has impacted the entire global economy including the sports industry. Major tournaments has been postponed including the Summer Olympics while professional leagues have been forced to make the tough decision of either postponing or outright cancellation of ongoing sessions as in the case of Eredivise.  

Professional sports league in Nigeria are not exempted. The Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) suspended the league till further notice in March, and now, the Management Company and the club owners are considering ending the season. There might be hope for basketball.

Over the years, the calendar for the Premier Basketball League in Nigeria runs form March to July/August. The women`s league tips off much later. This give the league an advantage (similar to NFL and WNBA) to push tip off to later when, hopefully, the epidemic would be over. Since we have had tournaments hold much later in the year - CBL, Eko Basketball League, and abridged President`s Cup, this should not be a problem. 

This indicates that the league can have a full season after the crisis. But before this can happen, the basketball community needs to HEAL!!!

Things have not been the same since the Federation elections in 2017 and the subsequent communications from the world governing body, FIBA. This has led to division in the basketball community and among professional basketball teams as two separate leagues were held in 2018 with the respective clubs playing the league organised by the set of administrators - Musa Kida & Tijjani Umar - they associate with.

This led to the court case where Gombe Bulls and Kwara Falcons sought for an Order of Interlocutory Injunction, and questioned the legitimacy of the country`s representatives at the continental tournament for clubs. Subsequently, the court ordered both parties not to organise any league in the country pending the "determination of a substantive case". This is why a President`s Cup was held late last year instead. The nail in the coffin is that the league does not have any known sponsor at the moment as Econet Media shut down Kwese TV last year. 

Without COVID, the Nigerian basketball community has a lot of work to do in getting the league back on track and building on the progress it has made, albeit slow, and success it enjoyed up to the 2017 season. With COVID, the task becomes harder, and one that can only be achieved if the league clubs come together to bury old hatchets and commit to moving on together on a united front. This will mean out-of-court settlement of all existing court cases, and placing the interest of the club and league above any individual political ambition, and personal ego. 

We need to HEAL!!!

In his article, Sebastien Audoux predicted that corporate organisations will cut expenses one of which is sports sponsorship. patronage will stop and leagues will have to provide evidence of the direct value they create to retain their sponsorship. For the Premier Basketball League, the potential value must be demonstrated to attract any sponsor, and that will not happen if there are pending court cases, disgruntled club owners, and warring sport administrators.

Post COVID economic realities also means that it will be difficult for a single organisation to provide enough sponsorship revenue to fund the league. Therefore, the league has to consider multiple revenue sources including media rights, headline and category sponsorship, shirt sponsorship, ticket sales etc. Again, this cannot be achieved with the current state of the basketball community. 

The future of sport leagues is said to depend on their ability to generate new experiences and capture a new kind of fan loyalty. Sadly, the Nigeria league has not given its fans much to desire for a while now, and its continuous inability to organise a proper league means it will continue to lose it fans to other basketball leagues around the world, and perhaps to other sports.

To retain and engage these fans, the league must get back on track with its games across the country, get the games back on our television screens, and give the fans something to hold on to. Because, now more than ever, the league needs it loyal fans. It makes marketing easier. 

Sebastien Audoux concludes that for sports to be big winners after the COVID crisis, leagues will be forced to undertake the change they kept postponing, enemies will start working together, weak leagues/sports will die and be reborn under better leadership. For professional basketball in Nigeria to come out of the crisis better, the basketball community must HEAL!!! 


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