Nigeria’s Adam Mouktar Mohammed was one of the two African representatives at the recent FIFA Fan Focus Group in Zurich, Switzerland.
In this interview with DURO IKHAZUAGBE, he recounts his experience of meeting up with “50 Great Minds of football” at the world football house.
Congratulations on your outing at the FIFA Fan Focus Group forum in Zurich, Switzerland. What was it like being considered among the “50 Great Minds” of world football?
Thank you very much. It was a rare privilege as well as an honour to be considered and be part of such a gathering.
Being considered that I could contribute innovative, valuable and exciting propositions to make the game better, as the world is changing so are the needs, wants and expectations of the fans are evolving.
The experience was second to none, a lifetime dream to visit the home of football, meet the top management and interact and then they will use your proposition to grow the game, it’s amazing and in one word – Unforgettable!
I quote the great coach Bill Shankly
– “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it is much more serious than that”
What would you pick as the highlight of your time at the FIFA house and why?
I would say without a doubt the Q&A with Fatma Samoura, the new Secretary General. She is amazing, unbelievably kind, honest, hardworking and very focused, intelligent achiever.
She represents what the world is now about, evidence that you can be at the top despite your gender, race, sector, background or nationality.
She has swung into action on the need to reform football, she together with Gianni Infantino are charting implementable, achievable reforms and most importantly carrying every stakeholder along by tackling ways to stamp out corruption, nepotism, and most importantly give back the game to the real and true owners, the fans around the world.
In this interaction, I gained an insight into what the plans are and I could sense a real honest person who could be trusted at a time that the whole world sees FIFA as at its lowest ebb lacking focus, direction, integrity, credibility due to numerous scandals.
She answered all the tough questions honestly and in a very articulate manner with a sense of still wanting feedback at every point, which is most critical in making progress!
How well in your opinion has FIFA carried along the fans from across the world?
Honestly, the fans have been neglected and have not been catered for properly in the past as they make the game.
As the saying goes, money makes the world go round, in football the fans make the ball go round!
Without the fans the huge revenue stream coming into the beautiful game would not be, between 2011 to 2014 year FIFA total earnings were from World Cup revenue of $5,7billion and of this amount the World Cup generated $4,8bn. Profits from the 2014 World Cup, net profit was $2.6 billion.
Take for example the Premier League in England, TV rights was valued at £5.1bn for a three-year period and in 2014/15 Premier League clubs generated a record income of about £3.4 billion
The fans deserve more affection and tailor-made products, experiences, to get value and satisfaction for the money they spend.
When you compare how sports franchises in the United States cater for fans then you know that it’s a win-win scenario. So, this model must be even improved and delivered worldwide.
How crucial are fans in football and how is FIFA now trying to carry them along as they try to reform their battered image?
The fan is absolutely critical to the football pyramid – he supports the team singlehandedly financially, morally and physically…
As you see even the sponsors and investors put their money in return for either a profit directly or indirectly as advertising to entice the fans. As they say numbers don’t lie!!
Once a football team has a huge fan base it’s a fertile ground for huge sponsorship possibilities
You see fans buying merchandise, buying match tickets, at times even donating cash into a fund to keep their dear distressed club afloat, there is usually a long family tradition of support. This goes to show you that these organisations and clubs involved must constantly try to find innovative ways to please the fans and grow their brand in order to attract and grow the product – Which is football as a whole.
You were one of only two representatives from Africa. How did you get this nomination?
Yes, I was the only person from sub-Saharan Africa and the other African was South African. They first sent out a survey/questionnaire and I guess depending on the answers they received they made choices on who they thought would add value to the whole programme. They then did phone interviews and then made final decisions based on a number of parameters such as football knowledge and contributions.
What are some of the needs and challenges peculiar to the African fan and how could this be resolved especially by FIFA?
African fans need to be given more value both on TV and in the stadiums, with quality experiences and affordable prices.
In my own personal opinion, FIFA can intervene more to aid develop affordable infrastructure like pitches, so this will help develop more talents.
FIFA can bring more international tournaments to Africa as this has a multiplier effect in job creation, tourism and love for the game.
How can the experience and satisfaction be improved for the ordinary fan?
To create a conducive atmosphere fans can see going to football events at the stadium as a family fun day out where they can eat, watch and play.
The quality of amenities and ease of transportation to events are also important.
The quality of the game and players itself attracts followership from across the globe.
The price of tickets, merchandise and TV subscription to be affordable.
Coming down to Nigeria, there have been some innovations in the Nigeria professional Football League (NPFL). How could attendances be improved at the match venues across the country with the fan in mind?
Yes, the NPFL has done well to improve and turn around the league and make a good product that you can market in order to attract consumers for a range of products on offer.
It’s a constant evolution and one has to keep up and be on top of the game to deliver world-class products and service.
Facilities are a key draw back as you find stadiums are in bad conditions, lacking necessary amenities that would attract all classes in the society to feel catered for, food and beverages, toilets, hospitality boxes, people with disability, security, kids environment, parking, transportation and so on.
But I am sure it’s a gradual process and we will soon be the toast of Africa by being a top league.
Last but not the least and most importantly we also must embrace innovation in technology so as to improve the officiating and monitor match fixing.
The integrity of the game is not negotiable.