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24 May. Arsenal in Nigeria, and the return of something that never happened

By Tony Attwood

4 May 2010. Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote denies moving to buy a 15.9% stake in Arsenal.

It was a story that was all over the blogs and some of the newspapers – the shares in Arsenal that were up for sale (the Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith shares, or the Lady Penelope shares as they started to be known) – were going to a Nigerian.

We’ve never had a non-event as an anniversary before – in fact I think it is the only non-event on the ever growing anniversary list – but there are reasons to explore this one.

For a few weeks back Arsenal Football Club has announced that the first-team squad will travel to Nigeria this summer for a pre-season match in Abuja on Sunday, August 5.

This will be our first match in the country, and will be held at the 60,000 capacity Abuja National Stadium.  Quite who we will play is not known – but it seems likely to be a national side – although curiously not the Nigerian national side.

So, why?  Arsenal’s web site is quiet on the topic, save to celebrate Kanu, quite reasonably, and to contain info about Emirates Airline who are “presenting” the tour.

Arsenal‘s Chief Commercial Officer Tom Fox said: “Arsenal Football Club is delighted to be expanding our long-term partnership with Emirates through our 2012 Tour. We are fortunate to have such a strong global partner who is as committed to these key markets as we are. We are all excited to be visiting Malaysia, China including Hong Kong, and Nigeria, countries with many loyal Arsenal fans, who will now have the opportunity to see their team play live in the summer.”

So what is going on?  Is it the return of the fabled Alhaji Aliko Dangote with a  net worth thought to be of $11.2 billion.  Or is it about selling shirts?  Is it about TV rights, or a pan-African campaign.

Or is it about the Dangote Group, which has interests in commodities with operations across Africa in food processing, cement manufacturing, freight,  sugar et al.

Dangote played a prominent role in the funding of Obasanjo’s re-election campaign in 2003, gave half a million dollars to the National Mosque and another load of cash to the Presidential Library.

Of course there is nothing to say that Dangote is back on the scene – but if not, why are Arsenal playing in Nigeria?

Well, Guinness Nigeria Plc has announced that Arsenal has chosen Malta Guinness to be the Official Malt Drink of the club in Nigeria for the next three years and for Malta Guinness Low Sugar to be the Official Malt Drink of the Arsenal trip.

Arsenal’s Head of Global Partnerships, Vinai Venkatesham, went a little further, saying: “We have a huge following in Africa, and Nigeria in particular. We are looking forward to working with Malta Guinness and Guinness Nigeria to connect with our many millions of fans in the region during the tour and beyond.”

So there we are.  Two years on from the suggestion that a Nigerian businessman was supposed to buy Lady Penelope’s shares, we are associated with the official malt drink.

23 comments to 24 May. Arsenal in Nigeria, and the return of something that never happened

  • sambo

    And Tony what is wrong with Arsenal playing in Nigeria? You will be surprised that Arsenal has more fans/supporters in Nigeria than she has in England.

  • Tony Attwood

    Nothing at all wrong with Nigeria. And I am certainly not an expert in the country, for although I have lived in Africa it was a different part of the continent.

    But I am a little surprised. There is talk that the pitch is not very good (I can’t verify that either way) and I would be surprised if there is a lot to be made out of shirt sales, as I get the impression that there are a lot of shirt sales that use copied rather than genuine products. I am not sure how much AFC will make from TV rights… I would have thought there was more of a market in India.

    But no, nothing is wrong – I was just reflecting on this being the anniversary of a deal that didn’t happen.

    If you can find me a better anniversary for today, please send it in. Summer anniversaries are tough.

  • Ejiofor

    I assure you Tony, if shirt sales are sold at same 40-45 Pounds it goes for in England, The Arsenal will make double the sales they’d make in India as you suggested.. Problem is The Arsenal might subcontract the shirt sales to an agent who will then hike the prices out of reach of most Nigerians.

    The National Stadium Pitch is not in a good shape but I’m confident it will be ready for the boys, I live in Abuja and can’t wait to see The Arsenal even if its the under 18s.. COYG!

  • Timmy

    Actually I don’t think there should be any problem in Arsenal coming to Nigeria as long as security is ensured for the team. It is obvious the venture will be beneficial mutually

  • Pius G. Chomo

    So, what is the conclusion? What’s the long and short of this story? I’m lost!

  • Dstar

    Tony, do you we have over 15million arsenal fans here in Nigeria who are desperate to see their stars and idols play live in Nigeria. We deserve it Tony and i m even sure that having Aliko Dangote on arsenal board will be beneficial to arsenal compare to the silent stan

  • nova

    hi,

    As a Nigerian I can understand why Arsenal are in Nigeria, as Kanu seemed to have recruited most of the country as fans when he signed and of course Henry kept them on.

    I would go as far to say there are more arsenal fans in Nigeria than in the UK; 90% (out of 200m people)of the country love football and we have no 2nd sports, it’s just football. Considering our national team is rubbish, Arsenal Chelsea and Man utd are now the defacto national teams.

    The one thing I am curious about is, the part of the country Arsenal will be playing the game; I thought Arsenal will be heading to lagos because that’s where the more passionate fans are based and actually where the most of Arsenal fans who will pay to see Arsenal.

    Abuja is nice and with our best stadium but I can assure you that the stadium will not be full (if possible half empty). Brazil, Man utd and Argentina couldn’t fill the stadium; I doubt Arsenal (espcially with extended hols after the euros) will be able to fill the stadium.

    Also, it seems people at Arsenal don’t watch the news – Abuja is probably not the safest place to be having large gatherings at the moment.

    Teams don’t sell individual Tv rights there so I don’t see how they will gain from that; in Nigeria you tend to get all the games live on 10 sports channels on supersport simultaneously.

    For shirts sales – this could be a huge market but the price has to be slashed, £40 – £50 is too much for africans; but Nigerians are content with any merchandise from the club they support, so could be a plus for merchandise

    If Guiness and emirates do their marketing right then, it would be hugely advantageous; I’ve been waiting to see a clever marketing strategy to capture Nigerian football fans

  • Cent

    @tony i get your drift about what Arsenal stand to gain,am a Nigerian,i think the main income will come from corporate organistions,public/private businesses who will want their brand to be associated with The Arsenal brand,E.g. Guinness obviously paid a handsome amount of money to be recognised as the official drink of the tour (RvP has already done an advert for them),gate takings for one game played in Nigeria can raise up to a million dollars (Arsenal fans are the richest fans in Nigeria and will pay anything to watch the team in the flesh),the above goes for merchandise as well,so i think our club will make a lot of money off this tour.

  • elhadjkoko

    Tony, am a Nigerian & to be realistic the venue(abuja stadium) is the flop though its d best stadium in Nigeria, but dnt expect the stadium to even be half filled not to talk of shirt sales, but talk of Lagos city(d largest commercial city in Nigeria)? Raise ticket price to heaven, it will sell out within hours, shirt sales will blow ur mind, u’ll be awed at d crowd, at least i can say we can boast of almost 10million arsenal fans in Nigeria.
    So to me, Lagos would have made the best of venues, fact wenger wuld wana be bringing d team yearly 2 lagos after a first experience.

  • Tony Attwood

    I have no conclusion – I am asking the question.

    Arsenal has a duty to its fans worldwide – I agree with that totally.

    But Arsenal also is a commercial company that seeks to make a profit in order to survive – it is not Man City or Chelsea.

    So, admitting fully as I do that I do not know Nigeria, I am wondering why Arsenal chose Nigeria for such a game. I would expect the club to do it for commercial reasons… and my lack of knowledge of Nigeria means that I can’t see what the commercial reasons are.

    But thanks to the contributions I am starting to get a clearer picture.

  • Lawrence

    I am presuming this write up is as a result of your lack of information on the support base Arsenal enjoys in Nigeria; Dangote or no Dangote. Let me give you a brief on Nigeria first; Nigeria’s population is 160m people and growing and out of that figure about a 110m are Male who support 4major clubs in the EPL[ Manchester united, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool] presumably in that order.

    Man U and Arsenal having over 70% of the share of the 110m people at a ratio of 51%:49% which as you can see is pretty even and that leaves an average fan base for Arsenal in Nigeria at 38m. Now that is minus the number of Nigeria’s in diaspora as well as the female supporters in the country, give an additional 10m people that gives you 48m fans.

    Now premiership matches are watched via a DSTV a satelite cable company which has maority of it’s subcribers because of the football channels so imagine if 48m people are paying monthly $1 to watch arsenal’s matches that comes to $48m dollars every month.
    Lastly Kanu is regarded as a King here and well respected al that has rubbed off on Arsenal followership in Nigeria.

    Hope this answers someof your questions.

  • mwo remy elemamba

    Gunners 4 life let the show begin and the world will know that there more gunners in naija than uk remember that dandote is a nigerian atrue gunner

  • nwite c.

    nova just said it all i can bet we have a greater number of arsenal fans in Nigeria than in england.Tony quit asking why Nigeria,if arsenal FC must come 2 Africa definitly it must b Nigeria,reasons,they are more popular stinckinly richer in the continent, more importantly has greater number of arsenal fans when compared 2 other countries across the globe.i believ AFC will make a lot of sales in terms of shirt sellings most of us wil now hav the advantage of geting more genuine shirt dan copied ones dat are more rampant.i sugest they should shift the visit 2 LAGOS than ABUJA,,do not get me wrong i stay far away 4rm d 2 places,which is where ever they visit i wil strugle 2 b there,but i chose lagos bcos is more secured as of the moment & we hav more passionate fans there than any other place in the country.one thing dat is certain is dat AFC wil never regret their visit 2 this land call NIGERIA.

  • Timmy

    I am very much certain should Tony confirms the IP addresses of visitors on this site, you would have noticed heavy presence of Nigerians.

    I also think at this time it may not be possible for the match to be shifted to Lagos. I sense very strongly the fixing of the match to be staged in Abuja is actually by those supper-rich folks in Abuja.

    However, with good marketing and campaign, Fans can turn up to make the match memorable.

  • kehinde fela ibrahim

    @Tony and others- Nigeria has more fans and only uk fans are more than the gooners we ve in Nigeria. Aliko Dangote is a few thousand richer than chelsea owner ,I don’t know what and why the deal did not work out,am not sure but I think he loves Arsenal .Tony I hope you are coming to Nigeria,you won’t believe how Nigerians love our Great Arsenal *big hug* I have cried twice when the great Arsenal lost the final,Enjoy your day.

  • charles

    Hello Tony
    you are one of my favourite arsenal blogger. I would have expected you to do your home work before writing your article. Ignorance is no excuse. Also I would have expected Arsenal to do their home work before planning their trip. There is no doubt that Arsenal will gain a lot commercially from this trip. I would counter Lawrence post above suggesting Manu has a bigger fan base than arsenal. its not true. Arsenal has the biggest fan base in Nigeria. check out http://www.cybereagles.com and see how many pages of post arsenal generates when they are playing compared to Manu. If well planned, they can sell over 1 million arsenal shirts. I am sure by now, a company would have bid for 1 million shirts because he is sure he will be able to sell them at 2 times the price. If they were to sell the the shirts directly with no middlemen, arsenal will sell more. Their choice of Abuja to me is lack of planlessness from Arsenal. Lagos would have been the place to play that match. it would have been like a national holiday. the stadium will be filled before 10 in the morning. I was also expecting Arsenal to buy Ahmed musa from VVVvenlo that cost the russian club just 3 million dollars. you can imagine the effect the visit would have had if we had a Nigerian player on showcase, the trip would have paid for the transfer fee and the gentleman is a fantastic player and was cheap. I know Indian has population and soccer is hardly amongst the top 3 sports in India but Nigeria is soccer crazy. i mean soccer mad. You cant beat the passion here. If i were you Tony, I will use this opportunity to explore Nigeria and you will be the one running and clamouring for arsenal to visit year in year out. Dont be sceptical about the Nigerian visit, it will go well. thanks

  • fASH

    I’ll be in Abuja for that game though i resident in Lagos.

    About the shirt sales, N10,000 is a fair price for the original Arsenal shirt the problem is the fake ones cost N1,500 and you can hardly distinguish the quality.

    No! I don’t expect the stadium to be filled, 60,000 is a lot to ask for but fingers crossed. Abuja is about 10hrs drive from Lagos, 45mins by flight which is expensive. I don’t expect fans from Lagos to go by road, by air is more like it.

    I expect the stadium to be 100% ready in time, i don’t doubt that.

  • Aikhuemelo,Osa

    Hi Tony, Trust you would have been overwhelmed with barrage of opinions regarding your article, believe me when i say we mean no disrespect to you or your article but this is just a snipe preview of the level of followership Arsenal enjoys in Nigeria. You are right, Abuja is security risk. I would have loved it if the match was to be in Lagos, where we have humongous Arsenal supporters;clearly over 10 million . In my office for Instance, we have very large number of passionate fans who are usually seen very early in the morning checking Arsenal site and Arsenal news before getting to work and the last thing they check before leaving work…..just like i am doing now. I believe the choice of Abuja is more of political choice than commercial choice for those collaborating with Arsenal to bring Arsenal to Nigeria otherwise it makes a whole lot of commercial sense to stage what i would term the “Biggest show to come to Nigeria” in Lagos where you have more sophisticated and wealthy Arsenal Fan. I was recently in the UK, I actually watched Arsenal VS Sp*rs at the Emirate, it was fun and there after, the following week, i did a tour round our magnificent stadium. Lots of pleasant sights i must confess, i was also proud to see Kanu’s painting on the wall at Arsenal, it was love at first sighting of the stadium. Tony trust me, even sky sports would not regret doing a live broadcast. I am based in Lagos but i have already booked my stay in Abuja for 5th August . Though i still strongly have the feeling the venue would eventually be changed to Lagos, if not Abuja here i come!!!

  • Jacobite Gunner

    Dear all nigerian/ foreign supporters who have posted,

    The extent of your passion is heart-warming inducing me to laugh and smile. It’s great to hear from you and hope that when arsenal are over there, they put on a great show for you.

    It would be good if we could do a post-analysis of the success of the tour in nigeria in terms of fan atmosphere on the day, enjoyment factor and also look at what quantifiable commercial aspects that arsenal have gained (as I agree with most of you, this is the driving factor of arsenal visiting), eg. what is the value of the deals allready signed (Guiness Malt)? What future deals are in being ironed out-what would be their value? It would be nice to know if arsenal has any involvent in nigeria allready ie. in terms of grassroots football development/coaching?

    My general assumption is that arsenal will use this match as a brand showcase to create more commercial partnerships…

    regards and thanks all

    (oh, and “Jacobite” is just a tongue in cheeck reference to my Scottish nationality)

  • Tony,

    You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. Just you wait till August.

  • Cent

    @My fellow Nigerians the team will not only visit Abuja,it’s a “tour” they will definitely come to Lagos,they will be in Uyo, and maybe one other city,the plan is to bring the youth team players and other outside members of the 1st team to Nigeria by the ending of july then the 1st team proper will come by August and play the match in Abuja which will probably end the tour.

  • Desert Gunner

    Why Nigeria? Nigeria matters. It has the largest population in Africa and MTN (telecoms company out of South Africa has Nigerian as the group’s most profitable market to corroborate this fact). I suppose the logical choice would have been to take Arsenal to South Africa: Africa’s biggest and most sophisticated economy by a long mile, hosts of the World Cup and the ‘S” in BRICS). But merchandise and TV rights are handled well here and whilst a ‘site’ visit could be welcome, you feel Arsenal will gain more out of Naija. The commercial deals signed with regional brewer will boost Arsenal’s coffers, but the long term effect is on TV rights. Nigeria despite their itinerant problems, has a growing middle class (reflected across most stable parts of Africa and a generational change). It is however, TV revenue earned from small taverns, bars, shebeens (southern African pidgin), kuka shops and nyama chomas (East Africa) that the real money comes in from Africa. They love the EPL in Africa. Hundreds are huddled around TV sets on Saturday afternoons to watch their favourite teams. According to a survey by DSTV in 2010, Arsenal was the most supported team in sub-Saharan Africa. My assumption is that it would have been Man U because of their decade long success or Chelsea with their number of African players. You can see Kanu’s influence on African supporters. South Africa’s DSTV have the EPL rights across the continent.

  • Cent

    @jacobite gooner @desert gooner your respective understanding of the situation is appreciated

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