By Chimezie Anaso
Awka – Odi Ikpeazu, proprietor of Anambra United FC of Onitsha has supported the argument of Tony Oli, chairman of Anambra Sports Development Commission (ASDC) that government had no business owning football club.
Ikpeazu said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Awka on Sunday.
It will be recalled that Oli said during the closing ceremony of Anambra Independent Football League on Friday that Anambra could not float a club because football is a private sector-driven industry.
He said at best, government could only provide an enabling environment for the private sector run football business to thrive.
He noted that what was important was for the people in a locality to be loyal to the clubs in their area, support them and patronise them.
Oli said football was thriving in Europe and other parts of the world because of the high support base they enjoyed.
“I do agree that governments ought not to own football clubs, clubs should be private sector-driven in accordance with solvent demographics.
“For instance, there is no reason why Onitsha should not be capable of having a top club, with a population of about 2 million, 50,000 fans per home match should be a reasonable expectation.
“Manchester, UK, with a population of 650,000 has 70,000 watching every Manchester United home match, even a town like Ihiala should be able to have 15,000 people watching home games if people are loyal and patriotic enough.
“Football club support all over the world is parochial, in South America and Europe, it is hometown people who ultimately support their hometown clubs.
“If they do so conscientiously and buy match tickets and other memorabilia, most clubs will be solvent while the local economy will be reasonably boosted through the activity,” he said.
Ikpeazu further said that government was ill equipped to ensure club support due to limited loyalty it enjoys from the citizenry and the transient nature of its tenure.
He also said that football club was largely a conduit for corrupt officials to siphon public money.
“Governments are largely unpopular with everyday people and therefore loyalty to government clubs have no emotional or passionate basis.
“Football is a product of emotion and passion, government administrations often change, as do their policies and therefore, there is no guarantee of security or continuity in respect of the priority given to state-owned clubs.
“The reality is that state-owned football in the final analysis are largely avenues for money-siphoning for the benefit of corrupt public officials, football is neither a charity nor a social security programme.
“It is best suited to private enterprise but the ultimate power to create successful clubs lies with the local populace.
“The most the government should do is provide support to enterprising private clubs with assistance such as infrastructure, monetary grants or loans and fiscal exemptions and reliefs,” he said.