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Sports > Barons of sports journalism business > Dolapo Sowunmi > July, 2015.


The trio of Paul Bassey, Linus Mba and Godwin Enakhena are showpiece of the enterprise of sports journalism in Nigeria. They know sports to be an all comers’ affair with activities unique and unimaginably vast, deep and with unending potentials for business, so they pitched their niche as sports journalism entrepreneurs. Sports contribute more than one percent to the global Gross Domestic Product, GDP, and does not discriminate to enrich all participants, winners, losers, officials, patrons, spectators and even the speculators are able to create linkages to the games. Sports betting alone hit the $1trillion mark a year at the turn of the century, with football contributing 70%, even as arbitrage or risk free betting flourished.

In Nigeria, the myriad opportunities in sports business are unexploited and the few tapped are at best not fully used. Paul Bassey, 57, sports journalists turned sports journalism magnate affirms “sports is an activity that can be used to market any product and its potentials for this purpose remained largely untapped in the country.” 

paul bassey
Unlike sports journalism, sports journalism business yields mind blowing returns and allows practitioners have scheduled times with their families, even at weekends and evenings which most sports journalists spend at the various sporting arenas covering the events. In Nigeria, it costs the government nothing less than =N=150million to host a Super Eagles match and a player gets at least =N=5million for winning a match.

Federal Government spends =N=900million yearly on the Nations Cup and it is paid $1million, =N240million at today’s rate, by FIFA every year for football development while CAF gives Nigeria $250, 000, =N=60million, for coaches, referees women and youths developments in football game every year. But the big money comes from sports sponsorship, the activation of the featured Star Lager brand on DSTV is at a fee of =N=3billion and the Heineken Lager brand spends more that the figured amount in dollars on its sponsorship of the European League.

MTN Nigeria’s bid on the Challenge Cup comes at =N=400million for three years and though only about six of the more than 22 football clubs in Nigeria are branded, it costs between =N=20million to =N=30million for a complete package of the home and away kits. Title sponsorships of the various games of table tennis, volleyball, taekwondo, wrestling, boxing, swimming, various school and club games, etc. also attracts large sums, for instance, Mobil Nigeria pays nothing less than =N=40million yearly just on the arrangement part of its track and field events in Akwa Ibom State.

The sports journalism entrepreneurs when consulting take nothing less than 15% of the total bill of the events they consult on and when they initiate a major project or programme determine their cost structures to harness good profits from the patrons, spectators, sponsors and other stakeholders at the end of the day. For example, permits to major vendors of mementoes, food, drinks, etc. permitted into sporting event arenas during games is another cash line, apart from tickets sales, advertisement lines, etc.   Annually, cost of sporting activities run into trillions of naira yearly and those who broker its media coverage, planning and organisations are darling of their bankers, despite the claims by experts than less than 25% of the business in sporting activities are currently tapped into in Nigeria.  
  
Paul, member of the Confederation of African Football, CAF, International Federation of Association Football, FIFA and Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, has the moniker Sports Bassey and The Master from many of his colleagues. He started sports journalism from St. Finbarr’s College, Lagos where he edited school’s magazine, lacing it with a lot of the sporting events the school was renowned for in the 1970s. Eager to cross border in his sports writing dream, he advisedly studied French Language at the University of Calabar, so he could freely communicate sports across borders.

He joined The Punch newspapers as sports writer after school, rose to be sports editor and was invited to midwife team of the Daily Champions newspapers, which used the strategy of sports coverage to penetrate the market. He later founded Todays Sports newspapers, ran it for eight years before resting it to run Paul Bassey and Associates, a sports consultancy and sports journalism business outfit. Both Linus Mba and Godwin Enakhena say he gave them, like many others, the head start in sports journalism business.




 

 

Godwin Enakhena, CEO of Global Media is 45, before he found his foot in sports journalism business, had shunned becoming an iron bender and electronic gadgets repairer in Kano in 1986 but opted to be a loader at G.M. Morrison Company in Benin City, where he was promoted to an accounts clerk in 1990.

ena godwin
He, like many Edo boys, wanted to go overseas and in 1993 moved to Alagbado, in Lagos, squatting in Raymond Dokpesi’s wife’s uncompleted building, seeking opportunities to pursue his dream, before he was ejected. He moved to Otigba Street, Computer Village neighbourhood in Ikeja, sleeping under the Ikeja Bridge for three weeks before he retraced his steps back to Benin. Godwin’s in-law, Andrew Agbokahode, and friend of Paul Bassey, brought him back to Lagos and the day Paul visited made acquaintance with Godwin over games of the Monopoly and Scrabble.

Paul was impressed with the young man’s interest and knowledge of sports activities in Nigeria and fortune soon smiled on him.  One blessed day as he recalled, “Oga Paul just came to the house and said ‘Godwin, get ready you are going to Master Sports with me on Saturday’. It was like a dream.”

Reality of the invite hit Godwin with a big problem; he did not have a dress for the occasion. “I had no suit, no tie, not even shoes” he reminisced.  Though his friend got him some black clothing material to make a suit, Godwin did not have money to pay a tailor. To raise some, he went round the neighbourhood picking bottles and gathering old newspapers to sell. His effort earned him a little more than a thousand naira he used to buy “a pair of shoes and an okirika shirt.

I told the tailor I needed the suit for a wedding on Friday, so I got that suit made in two days. I got to Paul Bassey’s house on Saturday without a tie and he gave me one. He took me to NTA studios in Victoria Island for the Master Sports and the rest is history. Master Sports then was the only sports programme on television; we all wore suits and ties like bankers. No matter how dirty or old your suit was, it would come out nicely on TV and we carved a niche for ourselves. I was a little boy, the youngest among the veterans that were there, including Paul Bassey.”

Godwin who eventually read Business Administration at Edo State University, after running away from reading accounting at the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro and the University of Benin was a pioneer staff of Today Sports, reporting basketball.

Linus Mba, the veteran referee, is more than a sports journalist; he coasted from journalism to economics and refereeing before settling into sports journalism business. He had worked at the Eastern Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation as a reporter; from there he went to study journalism at the famous Regent Street Polytechnic, now the Polytechnic of Central London.

He was in the British civil service before moving to the University of London where he read economics. He returned home to be a research economist at the Central Bank of Nigeria and left the job, without regret, to Business Times as an economic writer in 1977. From Business Times he joined Volkswagen of Nigeria as press officer, publishing the company’s magazine and writing many stories for Business Times. He maintained his refereeing pastime which he started in secondary school and got trained by the best instructors while in London, as one of FIFA referee in Nigeria.

He met Paul in 1987 and the encounter led to a major story on him in The Punch. From then, Linus became a regular feature in the newspapers and when Paul started Today Sports, he was given a column to run on refereeing. He has been in sports journalism since 1994 when he left Volkswagen of Nigeria writing about refereeing and interpreting the laws of the game of football, now he is fully into sports business with Paul as partner.

Unlike Paul and Godwin, Linus married late in his sixties, having to first train his siblings from his late policeman father’s 10 wives and taking his time to search for his heartthrob. Unless he is out of the country or Lagos, he spends all his spare time outside the arena of sports and its business with his young family. Enjoy their direct takes on their businesses, occupations and how they joggle to balance the cash takes and their family lives.

linus mba

 

 



 

 

       
       
       
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