FOOTBALL administration in Nigeria has suffered setbacks owing to the hands saddled with the responsibilities. In an interview with The ICIR, Godwin Enakhena, the Chairman of a newly promoted club, Sporting Lagos, from the country’s second division league, knowns as Nigeria National League(NNL) to the top-flight league- Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) spoke on how his club has been making economic fortunes from the league.
The ICIR: What exactly can be done to the football administration in Nigeria to produce quality results?
Enakhena: I always say that the first to do if you want a result is to fix Nigeria. If you do not fix Nigeria, we are just wasting time. In my little way, I make a difference and we can all see it with Sporting Lagos.
The ICIR: Lagos has experienced many clubs who have brought premier league matches from the days of Julius Berger, but they don’t last long, is Sporting Lagos staying for long?
Enakhena: The previous clubs in Lagos were not set for business. MFM FC was not set up for business. Julius Berger was just corporate social responsibility (CSR); things like that do not last, but this (Sporting Lagos) is a business model from the get-go. We are building our stadium inside Landmark in Victoria Island, it is 85 per cent complete, so it means, we will not have to beg anybody for a stadium.
So sustainability was even before the club was formed. The owners knew what they wanted and these guys are tech people in their 30s. They are start-ups kings.
Government clubs don’t have accountability, they just spend.
The ICIR: Congratulations, Sporting Lagos FC just got promotion in the NPFL, are there plans to get new players ahead of the new season?
Enakhena: In football, you can never have enough. Manchester City and United are buying players every day. There is no exemption here.
Just like I said, it is the job of the coach to know where he got challenges and to do what he has to do to ensure that he has a formidable team.
The job of the coach to know where he got challenges and to do what he has to do to ensure that he has a formidable team.
The Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL is not the same as the Nigeria National League, NNL. They are two different ball games, even though I believe that the NNL is tougher.
Definitely, from my understanding of the game, we find that there are some loopholes that we need to fill and I know the coaches are working on that.
Yes, we are going to recruit more players to fortify us for next season.
The ICIR: What has been the magic of your success as a football administrator?
Enakhena: Like I have told people there is no magic, it is putting God first, and number two, the experience will always come to bear. My attitude toward doing things is never to say fail.
Commitment and dedication you can never buy with money. I always believe that whatever I set my mind to, whatever I do and put in every of my dime, knowing that God makes everything perfect. So my secrets are hard work, dedication, commitment, focus and asking God to take control.
The ICIR: How do you discover talent?
Enakhena: Discovering talents is not the job of a club chairman. The job of a club chairman is purely administration.
Well, the first to do as a club chairman is to get a good coach and get maybe a good backroom staff. When you put these together, it is now the job of the coaches majorly to get quality players. So, the coach gets the credit because if you get a bad coach, you are going to get a bad team.
The ICIR: Sporting Lagos home matches attract fans to the stadium. What is the brain behind it?
Enakhena: You know football is about entertainment but, sadly, in Nigeria’s football league, most of the clubs are run by governors for CSR, and sometimes publicity.
So, government, we all know is not in the business of making a profit. It is in the business to render services. We have some young people who have come together to say they want to do business with football and to engage in the business of football, so you must think of what can bring the fans to the stadium, what can make them choose you ahead of every other thing.
So, each time fans come to watch Sporting Lagos, they do not know who is going to be the musician or performer, and there is also the kick about. Different things that will put money into your pocket.
Imagine a fan coming to the stadium to watch football, and he or she goes home with N100,000; that is a big deal. So, you come to the stadium, and you are going back with a vuvuzela and flag for free.
Also, when Sporting Lagos plays, there are no areas for thugs because security is top-notch. Football is big business, and it is about competition. You must give something to the fans. Nigerians want to watch football. You have to give them a reason to come to the stadium; a value for money and their time.
The ICIR: In 2016, Mountain of Fire Ministries (MFM FC) brought the Premier League to Lagos; fast forward to 2023, Sporting Lagos is doing the same, and you were involved in the two clubs; what does that mean to your career?
Enakhena: I do not know what is my career. I am a journalist first and foremost, and that is what I will do until I die. Sports administration is a side hustle for me. What gives me money is journalism, not administration.
Before MFM, I organised a lot of grassroots competitions. MFM just gave me the platform to move a lot higher, and one thing I can not throw away is the experience I gathered from that top-level managing MFM football club.
So that stood me in good stead when I got the Sporting Lagos job. There are two different propositions. MFM was just youth repositioning, non-profit, while Sporting Lagos is strictly business.
There are two different propositions. MFM was just youth repositioning, non-profit, while Sporting Lagos is strictly business.
So that is the difference between MFM and Sporting Lagos but the truth is both of them are getting the youth engaged in profitable ventures, giving them opportunities to play football.
I always try to do things differently, my mum taught me something, she used to say, “The moment you can do what everybody can do with ease, that means you are nobody.” So I try to do what people can do, but I will do mine in one day, and they will do theirs in one week.
You know that it takes a lot of effort, commitment, and asking questions which is one of my strong points. I love to ask those who have been there before me. I used to call Rasheed Balogun, the late General Manager of Shooting Stars Sports Club(3SC) in Ibadan and Dominic Iorfa. So I marry everything I got and take the ones that I like.
So that is one of the things that I have been able to do.
The ICIR: You talked about the football business. Can you share how the business acumen of sporting Lagos?
Enakhena: Sporting Lagos is a baby of 16 months. You have to crawl before you start running. The good thing about it is that Shola Akinlade (owner of Sporting Lagos) has bought a club in Denmark, which means every year, as a matter of policy – has happened this year – a minimum of 2-3 best players in Sporting Lagos will be going to Denmark.
As a matter of policy – has happened this year – a minimum of 2-3 best players in Sporting Lagos will be going to Denmark.
This is the beginning of a bigger window to a bigger European market, so this is the number one side of the business.
Number 2, during match day, I never thought it would happen in my lifetime in the NNL, not even if in the premier league, some person would come and pay N500,000 to come and see our games.
I never thought that some person would pay N500,000. We have seven booths at the Onikan stadium. Inside the booth, there is a TV, AC, choice of wine and food. If you put N500,000 by 7 booths, that is N3.5M from the booths, that is minus sponsorship, gate tickets and souvenirs. It is one step at a time, and we will surely get there.
You can only sustain it (football club) by doing business. You find out that government club if they play, you will not find anybody at the stadium; they don’t care, but Sporting Lagos, without people at the stadium, then what are we doing?
The ICIR: Are the Nigeria Football Federation and League Management Company, LMC tapping your brain when it comes to football administration?
Enakhena: Let me say to you that the NFF and NPFL know what to do. They don’t need me. I am sure they know more than me, but the system has a way of handcuffing one when one is there; that is what they are battling with.
I always tell people that the problem with Nigeria does not mean that we do not know people who can fix things when you get in there; there is this thing that will teach you a lesson that this is not your property, that you are running it on behalf of the populace but this how you must do it.
So, you find the administrators struggling. Look, if a football administrator goes in front of a governor that appointed him or her on a Monday and you request for 72 months to give a result, the governor will sack the person.
So those who are appointed by the governors promise to give results quickly. So you find that the ‘win at all cost’ is caused by the governor. There is too much pressure placed on administrators to win.
At Sporting Lagos, we don’t have that. It was a youth repositioning agenda. I am boastful and said when I got the Sporting Lagos job that I would spend two years in the NNL, so it is about the person and the enabling environment to work.
The ICIR: Considering the environment you talked about, will you accept the tough NFF job?
Enakhena: The tough NFF job is not giving to anybody on a platter. I do not have billions of naira to spend. You cannot become NFF president without money. I won an election as the General Secretary of the Clubs Owners Association in Abuja. I didn’t spend one naira. So anything that will make me beg people, I won’t do it. If I think I have what it takes why should I beg anybody?