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CAF Must Move The African Cup of Nations to June/July and Improve Marketing Too!

160865_heroaWhen African  football experts gather in Morroco on July 19th and 20th 2017, for an extraordinary football symposium organized by the Confederation of African Football, CAF, the biggest elephant in the room would be the decision to leave the African Cup of Nations’ schedule as it is (January – February) or for it to be moved to June-July. National teams and European clubs have fought again and again at each edition for the release of players.

European coaches have a problem releasing their African stars during a demanding moment which could make or mar their season. This is coupled with the fact that many Africans plying their trade in Europe often return after the competition with an injury or very tired. CAF during the Issa Hayatou days claimed that in June and July each year, weather conditions are unfavourable because the west is too wet, the North is too hot, and the South is too cold. Thus the competition has remained as scheduled for many editions.

While CAF has a point, we all know that according to the old English adage: he who pays the piper, dictates the tune. Even though the African cup of Nations has remained in January, some African stars in Europe have remained loyal to their clubs and snubbed the national team call. So even players seem to be unimpressed by the timing.

It just makes sense for the competition to be moved. As for weather conditions, man can do little to change it however with technology and infrastructure, we can make a fair attempt to have our way against nature. For example, the English Premier league refuses to go on break in December, during a very crucial winter period when many European leagues decide otherwise. In turn many pitches have under-soil heating to keep players warm. There are sprinklers to water the ground before and after each game and in-between halves. In some instances however, when the conditions are unfavourable, games are postponed, and the world does not end. In Tennis, when the organizers of Wimbledon realized that the rain could be a menace sometimes in big matches, the added a retractable roof to the center court in 2009. If weather is a problem, we have to build better stadiums with covered roofs in the West and under-soil heating in the south. If we don’t have the money, well we just play football. Sporting competitions with a twist added by nature has always been a spectacle. However if we really set our minds to build better infrastructures, we could.

If the competition is moved, then the African Cup of Nations will need to have better organization and marketing to hold an interest of the public in the summer. It is true that many league competitions across the world will have been concluded but we know that there are still many football competitions which could reduce the significance of the premier CAF competition. For example the Euros which happens every four years, the many Pre-season tournaments, and the FIFA Confederations Cup. Although schedules in terms of date would avoid a clash however it only makes sense that marketing and organization be improved for a total rebranding which could increase revenue drastically. This is where we could learn a lot from COPA America. The COPA America is of huge importance to the world because of the big footballing names i.e. Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Paraguay, Uruguay and a host of other teams however asides television rights, the revenue base comes from the fans within that continent who patronize the competition in ticket purchases, and merchandise. The math is simple, huge populations in member countries hold a potential market if prices are affordable. This is the same model for Europe, however the argument that the economy in Europe is by miles better than Africa, makes the COPA America a more appropriate example. COPA America in the last edition was witnessed by fans in over 160 countries and the nerve-racking final drew almost 100 million views yet attendance to games was great as well, cumulatively 1.5 million fans saw the game live. Which means an average of 46,875 fans saw each game. Multiply that by ticket prices and merchandise, that’s good money for a competition which Forbes says was hurriedly put together in six months. January or February, June or July, the African Cup of Nations has a tradition of empty seats across several games and this has to change. For starters, the ticketing channels has to be better. And the transportation networks across cities when you have to travel between countries sometimes can be really funny. In many instances connecting flights to shorten travel time can be a pain and come at premium price in an era when the rest of the world talks about low-cost air travel options.

A re-brand is necessary, and the standards of organization has to be more rigorously supervised. Television isn’t the problem anymore, neither is the standard of the pitch, these problems appear to have thankfully been overcome. However the natty-gritty of organization and getting fans into these competitions with a jamboree and fanfare beyond the host country places a question mark on how much of tourism and hospitality, organizers of CAF competitions can harness. In the case of FIFA, marketing the world cup is big business and the revenue is mouth-watering. CAF may never be able to match the same figures revenue-wise, however with great organization and marketing, a fair attempt can be made despite Africa’s economic woes.


Media Coverage: Unmasking Boko Haram with the Boston Bombing Clue

Boston Bombings

I was lying on the rug in the living room, watching flashpoint, then a message came to my sister’s BlackBerry saying something about a bombing somewhere in the US.

So we saw it….BREAKING NEWS…….2 bombs had gone off simultaneously at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It was shocking and you just kinda freeze for a moment and take it all in.

A torrent of  questions come in at once: why,how, what motive, who did it, what do they want, how many people are dead?   This is why we’ve got the media right? So I began to comb through social media, while watching news reports for an hour plus.

Now when you’ve never been to Boston Massachusetts and never run a marathon before, imagining the scenario may be hard. But when you see live pictures from the scene, view pictures and listen to all of what has just taken place, it’s a lot easier, you draw parallels as the story begins to unfold and appeal to your humanity.

That’s  why these stories are called Human Interest stories.

When you think and imagine losing your life or a loved one in such circumstances, you get the story at once and begin to feel bad. The emotion makes you demand justice and it suddenly doesn’t matter if you are American, Nigerian, Australian or polish, lives have been lost, victims would never remain the same, fear has been instilled into a nation, and overall there is a sense of loss. This infuriates you all the more and drives you to react or respond all the more as the media stays with the story.

One of the first things I observed from the Nigerian ‘Tweetosphere’ was that so many people were thrilled about how quickly victims were rescued from the scene. It was just glaring: lives are valued.

Then it didn’t take long before an estimated number of casualties was released. Just like that? Wow!

Of course Nigerians began to compare the response and organization around the tragic Boston incident against the multiple Boko Haram incidents that happen in Northern Nigeria almost everyday.

Needless to say that the difference is clear, WE ALL KNOW THAT! But what is the difference? The quickest answer anyone would give is  that the US government is committed to its people, while the Nigerian government appears not to care at all.

Perhaps we need to add one more answer: the US media coverage of a tragedy is excellent and realistic enough to make the world listen, that has not been the case for the Boko Haram incidents.

The power of the media in these matters is priceless. Earlier I tried to establish that human interest i.e. putting a human face on the story and presenting it in excellent fashion would draw attention to the situation. This attention makes everyone sit up. Public officials perform, medical people perform but most importantly the government is not at rest until answers are provided and justice brings some form of closure to the incident.

That may very well be one of the things we need in the Boko Haram situation.

It is clearly not enough to  report for example, that 100 people were killed in a Bomb blast, but to tell us who these 100 people are.  if a Bode, Yusuf or Eze was killed, telling us how old they are, being on the scene to re-enact the incident and a deep analysis of the issue, all done excellently brings attention to an issue.

In the wee hours of the morning, I Tweeted an opinion of mine around this issue, mentioning Japheth Omojuwa, one of Nigeria’s most influential Twitter personalities:

“The media in the United States would stay on the Boston bombings story for a very LONG time. In Nigeria, we move away from such stories too quickly.”

I got an interesting frank response:

“We move away too quickly because terrorist attacks are no longer a novelty here. It’s a novelty in America.”

Twirrer interaction

Gbam! This is very true. perhaps that’s why our media might be losing some steam over the Boko Haram issue, but we need to get a concrete stories on the issue with a human face on it.

It might be extremely risky to put our journalists in the face of danger, but there is a story there, and we need to get the attention of the world. Perhaps we might all just sit up with the attention of the world fixed on us rather than the glare we get every now and then.