Nigerians Favour Manchester United FC to win 2017/2018 English Premier League

Abuja – September 19th, 2017. Latest poll released by NOIPolls has revealed that the English Premier League (EPL) followers (41 percent) in Nigeria have tipped Manchester United Football Club as favourite to win the 2017/2018 EPL competition. Manchester United is one of the big clubs in the league and is currently managed by Jose Mourinho, who joined Old Trafford last season. Mourinho is known for winning the league in the second season of every one of his managerial stints, although he’s won it the first time on a few occasion, his second bite at it has worked every single time. Therefore, given his history of second-season wins, there is a very high likelihood that he will do it again. Also, the club made some strong additions to their squad at Old Trafford during the summer transfer window and many lovers of the round leather game have suggested that these additions (Romelu Lukaku,Nemanja Matic,Victor Lindelof etc.) are assets for the club to make great wins this season. 

The drama that the EPL has brought to TV screens around the world has made the competition endearing, this is evident in the country as 78 percent of the respondents acknowledged that they follow the EPL. The poll also revealed that the EPL clubs with the highest number of fans in Nigeria are Chelsea Football Club (34 percent), Manchester United (33 percent) and Arsenal FC (23 percent) and this is mainly because Nigerians believe that they play good football and that they have good players in their respective clubs as stated by respondents. 

Findings also revealed that the low followership of the Nigerian Premier League witnessed over the years seems to have improved as slightly less than half (47 percent) of the respondents acknowledged that they follow the domestic league games. This indicates a significant 14-point increase in the proportion of Nigerians who currently follow the NPL compared to 2016 findings. On the other hand, Nigerians (53 percent) who do not follow the NPL  claimed that it is not interesting and (18%) suggested that ideas should be adopted from foreign leagues to make domestic games more attractive to Nigerians. 

Furthermore, although a larger proportion of football enthusiasts (35 percent) picked Plateau United FC as the favourite to win the Nigerian Premier Leagues this season, Enyimba FC accounted for the club with the highest fan base in Nigeria as indicated by 18 percent (which formed the majority) of the respondents. This could be attributed to their fantastic performance at the African Champions competition in 2003 and 2004 when they successfully defended the title. In addition, the club also won the trophy in the 2016 NPL games hence, the fan base the club has around the country. 

Finally, the League Management Company (LMC) and other stakeholders should introduce more creative content around the domestic league matches which could in turn convince Nigerians to follow, enjoy and support their own domestic league while they still patronise the English Premiership League. Also, the methods employed in making the EPL such a well-packaged, well-televised, well-promoted, well-marketed and well-publicised and an irresistible product should be emulated and used as a scope to create our own domestic football league. More funding could be solicited by creating an enabling environment for private investors to venture in, and player’s welfare must be improved as well. Additionally, referees should undergo retraining to avoid poor officiating to ensure we have a brand of football that will captivate all those watching at venues or on television. These are some of the key findings from the Football Poll conducted in the week of August 21st, 2017.    

Brief Background

The English Premier League (EPL) is one of the most exciting football leagues in the world and it has gained a lot of popularity globally. This is partly due to the suspense, intrigue and unpredictability that accompany every football match in the league. It is not surprising that love for the EPL has come to stay in Nigeria despite the fact that Nigeria has an established Premier League of its own, with about 20 teams in it. A lot of people, especially the young at heart, who are supporters of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City among other EPL clubs, throng to viewing centres to catch a glimpse of their favourite players and teams in the EPL football matches every weekend.  

What has also distinguished the EPL from other football leagues in the world is the intense competition for the title because in other popular European leagues, the title is often a matter of interest for two rival clubs, or maybe three, but in the EPL there are often several clubs who could realistically be crowned champions. In the EPL no club is to be underestimated, just like Leicester City, which was perceived to be a weak club, written off as relegation candidates at the start of the 2015 / 2016 season, yet won the title that same season. How did that happen? It could only be the EPL and its magical unpredictability, all these and some other factors make the EPL the most sought after league in the world. 

The Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) the home base football league which enjoyed huge followership back in the 1980’s, is currently faced with multiple challenges that have affected its growth and development. The league is gradually losing followership due to the various problems plaguing it which range from a lack of investment, to limited coverage, low visibility on cable TV as well as in the local media, poor management and poor playing facilities as well as bad officiating among many other issues. Hopefully these impediments will be addressed with the current leadership of the League Management Company (LMC), which is saddled with the core responsibility of organizing and promoting the League to meet global technical and commercial standards. The recent turnout of football fans at various stadia scattered across the country during Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is a yardstick to measure the renewed love of Nigerians for their domestic league. In light of the above, NOIPolls conducted its annual football poll to gauge the perception of Nigerians regarding the EPL and the NPFL.

Survey Findings

The first question sought to gauge the proportion of Nigerians who watch football and the poll revealed that a significant number of Nigerians reported that they watch football. Yearly trend analysis, indicates that the fraction of Nigerians who watch football increased by 14-points when compared to the figure obtained in 2016. This increase could be as a result of the high prevalence of football betting in the country as revealed by a poll conducted by NOIPolls in July, 2017.

 

Similarly, the poll has shown a 6-point increase in the proportion of Nigerians who follow the English Premier League games when compared to the 2016 results and this could be credited to the strong media promotions of the EPL games as well as the increasing number of viewing centres found across all zones in the country.

 

In terms of fan base, the poll revealed that the EPL clubs with the largest fan base in Nigeria are Chelsea FC (34 percent), Manchester United (33 percent) and Arsenal FC (23 percent). It is worthy to note that Manchester United gained a 2-point increase in their Nigerian fan base from the preceding year; this could be attributed to the appointment of Jose Mourinho as head coach in May 2016 and also clinching the Europa Cup in May, 2017. This increase in the club’s fan base clearly shows that there is a renewed optimism among fans of the club as the club currently stands at the top of the EPL Table.[1] Also, Chelsea FC recorded its highest support (42 percent) from the Nigerian fan base in 2014 when Jose Mourinho returned to the club as head coach and their current fan base stands at 34 percent representing a 1-point decline in their fan base from the previous year.

Subsequently, irrespective of the EPL club Nigerians support, the most common reason stated for supporting their various clubs is that the EPL clubs play good football and this represents a 6-point increase from the responses given in 2016. Respondents in this category could be basically referring to the tactical formation or playing style of their various clubs. In addition, 14 percent disclosed that they support their respective clubs because they have good football players.

When respondents were asked to predict which EPL club will win the 2017/18 trophy, the poll revealed that most Nigerians (41 percent) picked Manchester United to win the trophy at the end of the league. Their predictions were centred on the fact that Manchester United has resumed the current campaign on a high note as they are currently topping the league; with four wins and one draw out of five matches, scoring fourteen (14) goals in the process and not conceding any goal so far as at the time this report was written.[2] Other teams that were tipped to win the League include: Chelsea (35 Percent), Arsenal (16 Percent), Manchester City (6 Percent) and Liverpool (2 Percent).

 

The yearly trend analysis on the proportion of Nigerians who follow the Nigerian Premier League from 2012 to 2017 shows that the NPFL enjoyed its highest followership (51 percent) in 2013 and its lowest followership (25 percent) in 2014. Currently, the followership of the NPL stands at 47 percent, a 14-point increase from the previous year.  A close look at the yearly trend analysis on the followership of the NPFL from 2012 to 2017 showed that there is a steady increase in the ratio of Nigerians who followed the League over the last four years, precisely from 2014 to 2017.

 

In a bid to ascertain why football lovers do not follow the domestic league, respondents were asked to state their reason. Analysis revealed that 25 percent of respondents nationwide stated that they do not follow the Nigerian Premier League mainly because ‘it is not interesting’. This is closely followed by those who opined that there they do not have enough time to watch league games (19 Percent), and respondents who lamented over the ‘poor quality of officiating’ (18 Percent) in the league games amongst other reasons.

The survey also sought to measure support for the Nigerian Premier League clubs and analysis revealed that Enyimba FC (18 percent) emerged as the club with the most fan base in the League and this proves that the club’s football history of successes has garnered huge support for the club both home and abroad. Enyimba FC rose to prominence since the year 2000 and is considered the most successful Nigerian football club as they won two African Champions League titles, seven Nigerian championships and four Federation Cups since 2001. The club has also won several awards in Africa which has given it an added advantage over other Nigerian clubs.[3] Other clubs mentioned are Kano pillars (16 percent), Plateau United FC (10 percent), closely followed by defending champions Enugu rangers FC (8 percent).

 

Following the support for the Nigerian Premier League clubs, respondents were further asked to state the various ways in which they support their clubs and findings revealed that most fans (67 percent) disclosed that they watch their games on television. This was followed by supporters who said that they watch their games in the stadium (40 percent)  and purchase the clubs’ jersey (7percent) amongst others.

 

Furthermore, the survey asked respondents to state which NPFL team they expect to win the 2017 Nigerian Premier League season and analysis revealed that Plateau United FC polled about 35 percent of the Nigerian football fan base which clearly puts the club as favourites to lift the NPFL trophy, this inclination for Plateau United FC is likely drawn from the fact that the club currently sits at the top of the league table.[4]  

Consequently, the poll also revealed that 16 percent of respondents nationwide affirmed that they engage in football betting, while 84 percent claimed otherwise. Experience has shown that some respondents do not disclose such information due to the perceived stigmatization associated with betting, however, a study conducted by NOIPolls in July 2017revealed a high prevalence (77 percent) in the proportion of Nigerians who engage in betting.

 

37 percent out of 16 percent who acknowledged that they engage in football betting disclosed that they also bet on the Nigerian Premier League games. It is worthy to note that during the course of this survey, respondents stated that the reason for not betting on local NPFL is due to match fixing, poor pitch conditions, small odds on the matches, inconsistency amongst the teams and poor officiating by the referees.

 

Lastly, Nigerians were asked to give recommendations on how the Nigerian Premier League can gain more followership and majority (18 percent) of the respondents opined that the league managers should emulate foreign leagues by adopting and replicating their system in managing the NPFL. More so, 10 percent of the Nigerian Football fan base stated that ‘the welfare of players should be improved’, while another 10 percent mentioned that ‘politics and corruption’ in the League should be eradicated amongst other reasons.

In conclusion, 63 percent of Nigerians indicated that they watch football and 78 percent of this proportion specified that they follow the English Premier League (EPL). The poll also showed that although Chelsea FC has a larger fan base in Nigeria, Manchester United is tipped to win the 2017/18 EPL trophy. 

At home in Nigeria, it is quite sad that most Nigerians do not follow the domestic league matches as only 47 percent claimed to follow the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL). Although Enyimba FC had the majority (18 percent) of football enthusiasts who mentioned the club as their favourite, the NPFL lovers identified Plateau United FC as the strongest contender to win the current season. It is worthy to note that the NPL had concluded its leagues for this season as at the time of filing this report. Conversely, 53 percent reported that they do not follow the NPFL mainly because the matches are not interesting hence 18 percent recommended that stakeholders in the Ministry of Sports should adopt ideas from foreign leagues. 

Finally, in order for the domestic league to enjoy followership like the English Premier League, the League Management Company (LMC) must ensure that match day television coverage is improved and refereeing should also be properly organized for credible and reliable officiating during the games. Also, the football facilities should be revamped especially the pitches while the government could use tax waivers to woo private investors in to the NPL. 

Survey Methods

The opinion poll was conducted in the week of August 21st, 2017. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise - within a range of plus or minus 3%. NOIPolls Limited is the No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa. We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at www.noi-polls.com or download our mobile app NOIPolls on your smartphone.

Disclaimer

This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published. 

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking. 

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[1] http://www.skysports.com/premier-league-table

[2] http://www.flashscore.com/soccer/england/premier-league/standings/

[3]   http://punchng.com/nigerian-clubs-impress-in-champions-league/

[4] http://www.goal.com/en-ng/results-standings/345/nigerian-premier-league/table