The elite football league in Nigeria has undergone a lot of metamorphosis and suffered like many other sports properties in the country. This was due to poor administrative structures, inefficient financial management, and a lack of sustainable funds to grow the asset. The ownership structure of the professional clubs requires a shift to the private sector rather than the present prevailing public sector.
A flashback in history revealed that the elite league was founded in 1972 with six teams doing battle in the maiden edition of the then Nigeria National League. However, on Saturday, May 12, 1990, at the Onikan Stadium Lagos, the league was rechristened the “Professional League” with the goal of modernizing the game and making clubs self-sufficient. Decrees 10 and 11 which codified the introduction of professional football in Nigeria stipulated that professional clubs should be run as limited liability companies, each governed by a regularly constituted board of directors and required to hold Annual General Meetings (AGM), present independently audited accounts, cultivate youth/feeder teams and own their stadium within five years of registration with the Pro League Department.
To assist Pro League clubs in the timely achievement of the aforementioned goals, all 56 professional club-sides that constituted the inaugural Pro League First and Second Divisions were granted a five-year tax moratorium on all income starting from 1990.
From 1990 to 2022, the elite league has undergone several phases of good times and bad times leading to a very low period when prospective partners were no longer interested in the sports property because of the problems associated with the past years. The managers of the elite league could not meet the financial obligations required for the smooth operations of the league. At this level, the centre could no longer hold and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the Nigeria Fotball Federation (NFF) had to intervene for a rescue mission.
All the aforementioned problems created a trust deficit in the minds of would-be sponsors of the NPFL thus necessitating a rescuer or burden bearer for the sinking league. The aftermath of this scenario saw the emergence of GTI Asset Management and Trust Limited into the Nigeria football ecosystem.
(To be continued in Part 2)
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