NPFL, La Liga sign partnership deal

The organisers of the Nigerian and Spanish elite leagues have entered into a long term relationship to exchange ideas and experiences with each other

The Nigeria Professional Football League sealed a five years memorandum of understanding with La Liga of Spain for capacity building and idea exchange at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja on Tuesday.

The long term agreement was signed between Shehu Dikko, chairman of the League Management Company and La Liga president Javier Tebas, with Spain Ambassador to Nigeria, Alfonso Barnvevo and Nigeria's sports minister Solomon Dalung counter-signing as witnesses.

On Monday, Barnvevo and Dalung had received officials of the LMC and the La Liga at their offices respectively, giving their blessings on the cultural and trade ties strengthening partnership before obliging to attend the historic signing and unveiling ceremony. 

The event had in attendance some former Nigerian international players who had previously played for La Liga clubs which include Real Betis' Victor Ikpeba, Mutiu Adepoju of Racing Santander and Real Sociedad as well as former Barcelona duo Gbenga Okunowo and Haruna Babangida.

In simultaneous opening remarks, Dalung said the event was a new page in the history of the country's football administration, while Barnvevo described the partnership as a win-win occasion for Spain and Nigeria.

Barnvevo said: “I know how Nigerians love football and I can tell you that in this relationship, Nigeria and Spain win. At the moment, Spain is the third biggest buyer of Nigeria’s crude oil.

He continued: "We already have strong social and economic relations and this MOU will further strengthen our sports. We take this relationship as serious because La Liga is one of the most important companies in Spain.”

According to Dalung, "It will transcend beyond football to other areas as we shall rely on the expertise of the La Liga to improve our league and while we also have something to offer.

"A mark of confidence and trust in Nigerian football and we look forward to more robust engagement in future,” he said.

However, Dikko, chairman of the LMC believes the partnership between the NPFL and La Liga was a sweet beginning that will raise the brand of football in Nigeria.

He said that the implementation of the agreement adopting international procedures with the support of the Nigeria Football Federation will bring unprecedented turn around for the game.

"It is a beginning of a journey through a new road less traveled in an effort to deliver on our mandate to move Nigeria football forward along international best practices,” elated Dikko began at the event.

“We are pleased to be leading reforms and to achieve that, we decided to align with global best practices by emulating those doing things well and right.

"We have a lot from the La Liga and we believe that the La Liga also has some things to learn from us. Our objective is to be able to move with the times. We need to get our league to conform to international standards and best practices. LaLiga is one of the best leagues in the world. 

"They have some of the richest clubs in the world, and they have a system which is very attractive to us. The structure and management of their clubs is fantastic as well as the way the government and the clubs relate to each other.

They also have legislation from the government to ensure that the league is developed. We need to learn how they do that. There is a fight for the heart and pocket of Nigerians to love and buy into Nigeria football and La Liga is ready to work with us on that.

"Stakeholders are already getting interested as they see the best league the world associating with us. This will help us move forward and many more good things will follow.

"We shall move from this point to a point where we will in turn begin to support other leagues in Africa,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nduka Irabor, the pioneer chairman and current Chief Executive Officer of the LMC assured the stakeholders of NPFL of a robust benefit from the newly ratified relationship with the La Liga.

“No doubt, we have witnessed remarkable improvement in the league in the past few years that the the LMC came on board," Irabor said in his closing remark.

"This has been due to the efforts and contribution of the club chairmen and managers and other stakeholders working together.

"Now is time for all of us to commit even more to the development of the league to be able to harvest the benefits of this partnership with the La Liga,” he concluded.

The five year deal will open doors for Nigeria in major areas of capacity development, training for coaches and club administrators, inter club exchanges and commercial activities including joint marketing.