Headline: English Premier League turns into big business in Africa
Date: 29 September, 2009
Location: Sonesta Hotel, Nasry, Cairo, Egypt
Article synopsis: The English Premier League is fast turning into a multi-billion dollar industry in Africa – with many businesses now depending on it for survival. This in the wake of the shift in focus by more and more African soccer fans to the League. Outlets televising Premier League matches are raking in millions of shillings, let alone the pay-TV stations that hold broadcast rights. Then there is the bloc that trades on apparels and promotional materials of the respective clubs.
Opening paragraph: One commodity appears to have defied the worldwide economic downturn and has remained as valuable as ever. And as media companies around the world continue paying record sums for broadcasting rights, the English Premier League – featuring an array of world-class players – has proved hugely marketable globally, especially in Africa.
Key words: Africa, Cairo, football, Premier League, TV viewership, fans, marketing, revenue. Language: English
Related Media: None
Text: One commodity appears to have defied the worldwide economic downturn and has remained as valuable as ever. And as media companies around the world continue paying record sums for broadcasting rights, the English Premier League – featuring an array of world-class players – has proved hugely marketable globally, especially in Africa.
With the new 2009-2010 football season underway, the Premier League appears to have dominated every other domestic league as the sporting product of choice for international broadcasters and soccer fans alike.
The fact that major companies are still willing to put their money on the Premier League, despite increased global financial uncertainty, is a testimony to the large audiences the competition continues to draw.
The revenue generated by the English Premier League exceeded 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) for the first time last season. And as Manchester United won a third straight title, turnover topped one billion pounds, surpassing the 951.6 million pounds raised in the 2007-08 campaign.
Africa is now one of the major consumers of this commodity – which is turning out to be a multi-billion dollar industry – with many businesses depending on it for survival. These include social clubs televising the matches and traders doing booming business in apparels and other PL clubs’ promotional materials.
TV revenue, half of which is traditionally split equally by the clubs, with a quarter paid on the basis of the final league positions; and the remainder on how often clubs’ matches are broadcast live, is now largely generated from the African continent. And with more and more soccer fans in Africa continuing to shift focus from local leagues to the Premier League, the consumption of the commodity is unlikely to change soon – a trend now causing concern among the local soccer administrators.
The Secretary-General of the Confederation of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA), Nicholas Musonye, pegs the volume of the businesses influenced by the Premier League in Africa as surpassing 1 billion US dollars. He attributes the growing phenomenon to the power of television.
“Soccer fans in Africa have turned to European leagues, especially English Premier League, for various reasons – but the power of television has proved one of the most visible and comfortable mediums of getting information. English Premier League captured this phenomenon many years ago and has really cashed in on it to promote viewership of its matches globally,” he says.
The president of Egyptian Professional Footballers Association, Magdy Abdelghany – a member of the 1988 Egyptian World Cup squad in Italy, says that unlike his country Egypt, many African countries have not invested much in sports, especially football, hence the shift of focus by fans to the Premier League.
He notes that the situation in Egypt is, however, very different. The majority of the players, he says, prefer to play home. “The problems we face in Egypt are different from the rest of Africa – as our players are content with the money and the conditions at home.”
Abdelghany, who is currently a member of the Egyptian Football Association, says the European soccer leagues are exciting and competitive, thus appealing to African soccer players and fans alike. “We have no choice but to pay to watch the English Premier League matches – because of the high quality of the matches and TV productions.”
He views the migration of African players to Europe positively. “They go to Europe and help national teams when they come back.” Leagues in most African countries, he says, are weak, apart from Egypt; hence the desire for most Africans to watch topflight English Premier League matches.
Musonye on the other hand laments that no European player has ever considered playing in Africa due to the poor state of the game in the continent. He says the migration of the talented players from Africa to Europe was depriving the local football leagues of quality players to excite and draw attention of the local soccer fans.
“The factor of buying of good players and putting the stakes high beyond the means of most clubs in Africa is important to note. That’s why we have no European players playing in African leagues,” says Musonye.
“Most football associations in Africa are bedeviled by feuds and factions killing the interest of sponsors and spectators. For example, there are some countries in Africa where feuds and factional parallel leagues have scared away sponsors and driven the local fans and sponsors into despair and hate for their own leagues,’ says Musonye. He says CECAFA estimates that between 70-80 per cent of African soccer fans watch European football, especially English Premier League.
Citing the situation in Kenya, he says: “Every bar in Kenya, including small markets in the far remote areas like Shinyalu, Awendo, Amagoro, have access to Multichoice’s DStv and other international pay-TV channels which televise Premier League matches. This means the majority of Africans and especially in the CECAFA zone have access to Premier League matches.
He adds: “The middle class who drive the economy are the leading members of those who subscribe to Premier League, and they form 70 per cent of viewers.”
Musonye says because of strong viewership, some corporate companies in Africa, especially in the CECAFA zone, prefer to sponsor English Premier League on radio and TV at the expense of their own leagues. “This has denied local football revenue to sustain their leagues and make them more attractive,” he adds.
Ahmed Abou Hegar is a fan of Zamalek Football Club at home in Egypt, and Manchester United in the Premier League. He says it is a delicate act to balance his loyalty to the two clubs. “I and my friends pay roughly 10 to 20 Egyptian pounds to go to a café to watch the Premier League matches. They give us a good package which includes a drink and snacks, while we watch the matches,” he says. He does, however, remain loyal to Zamalek in the domestic league.
The irony however, is that as the demand for Premier League continues to grow worldwide, the company is itself strategising on how to rake in more and more revenue. A spokesman was recently quoted in the media saying: “Currently we have 39 international rights broadcast holders, and we are beaming the Premier League into 211 countries worldwide.”
“Premier League matches are played into more than 600 million homes around the world, with an estimated audience of over four billion viewers and there is no sign that the huge interest in the product is subsiding in any way.”
The spokesman added: “The quality of the Premier League stimulates interest to markets everywhere and attracts audiences from all over the globe. It’s a very polished product. The grounds are full, the atmosphere is passionate and the top clubs attract supporters from every corner of the globe.”
“If broadcasters are going to invest in any sporting property, they are going to choose the one that brings in the biggest audiences, which in turn makes it the most attractive for advertisers.”
An official of the Kenyan Chamber of Commerce says apparels and other promotional materials of Premier League clubs are dominating the markets and estimates that the Kenyan market consumes more that 200 million Kenyan shillings (approximately 2.6 million US dollars) of the same annually.
And the same is unfortunately the trend all over Africa!