Football players entertain empty stadiums

16 Dec 2015 14:50pm
By Sem Shino
WINDHOEK, 15 DEC (NAMPA) - Football is the most popular sports code in the country but unoccupied seats at football stadiums tell a different story about Namibia's football 'lovers'.
Most Namibia Premier League (NPL) matches take place over weekends when most people are off work, but very few supporters turn up at stadiums to watch the teams play.
The poor turnout of supporters at games could be attributed to the poor marketing of matches.
Namibia Premier League (NPL) Administrator, Tovey Hoebeb said other events - sports and recreation - taking place at the same time is one of the causes of poor attendance at football matches.
“Clubs also have to market their teams individually by mobilising their supporters to come to stadiums and back their teams,” he said.
Hoebeb further told Nampa that games played at midday when it is very hot also contributes to only a few supporters showing up at stadiums. “The non-functioning spotlights at some stadiums prevent organisers to schedule matches during the evenings when it is much cooler.”
In most cases, stadiums are run by local authorities, and the NPL does not have control over the maintenance of such stadiums including lights, pavilions and other facilities.
Hoebeb admitted that the NPL has not done any research to determine the exact cause for the low numbers of supporters at the games.
Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTC), the main sponsor of the NLP, says it has been promoting the league.
MTC's manager of sponsorship and promotions, Joseph Mundjindi told this agency that it has been providing promotional T-shirts for the league.
“It is individual clubs' responsibility to mobilise their supporters. Clubs have to come up with initiatives that entice their fans to attend the matches,” he said.
Mundjindi suggested that club membership packages should include discount on entry fees or tickets.
He said MTC is yet to conclude its research on the poor turn out at the NPL matches.
NPL chairperson Johnny Doeseb put the blame squarely on individual clubs' failure to market their games and lobby their supporters.
“Football is a business and a brand that needs aggressive marketing to attract supporters to stadiums to back their teams. Clubs have to start marketing games like events, make them interesting and bring excitement to the game of football,” he said.
Tigers Football Club manager Mathew Haikali raised the concern that NPL and English Primer League (EPL) matches take place more or less at the same time over weeknds, and many Namibians follow the EPL.
Haikali told Nampa that his club runs competitions on their Facebook page where people can win cash prizes or tickets to their games. He further revealed that early next year the club will start with a strategic marketing campaign that will see them lobbying for supporters on Facebook and Twitter to further enhance the club's popularity.
Tigers’ supporters club is yet to be formalised, but the club is using its Facebook page as a marketing tool to lobby for support.
The club will soon organise a social day when players and supporters can mingle and interact, and also launch the club’s website on the same day.
Haikali however feels that the NPL is not popularised.
“The league is not well marketed at all, hence we are going an extra mile to ensure that our club is well branded,” he concluded.
Black Africa coach Woody Jacobs also cited the competition between the EPL and NPL as a major factor in few people at stadiums.
“The English Premier League is bigger and better managed and is more attractive to many local football followers,” he said.
The coach also said that most NPL matches are played on scorching hot days, discouraging supporters to come to the stadiums.
BA’s supporters club has not been that effective in pulling crowds to the stadiums.
Jacobs suggested a change in the football league calendar to run from February to November, instead of August to May to suit the Namibian weather conditions so that more league matches could be played in much cooler conditions.
“People prefer to be in the comfort of their homes than going to stadiums on hot days,” he said.
He also stated that football matches are better attended in smaller towns, because there are few other sports codes or activities to keep people occupied, unlike in the capital.
Playing in empty stadiums is discouraging for players and it also lowers the standard of the league and football in the country, continued Jacobs.
Tigers’ striker Panduleni Nekundi concurred, telling Nampa that playing in front of a few people is demoralising.
“Players get energy from the crowd, hearing your name from the crowd boost morale and increase your performance, and my performance is always better when playing in packed stadiums,” he said.
Civics goalkeeper Lukas Hashiti also said players feel good when the crowd reacts to their play.
Despite the different issues and concerns raised regarding the low turnout at the NPL matches, it is clear that the NPL management and clubs equally have not done enough to advertise the league in the country.