While the Premier League has been busy working North American and East Asian markets, Africa has only recently appeared on their ยูฟ่าเบท commercial radar. Manchester United were the first to take note, playing Portsmouth in Abuja in 2008. Hordes of ticketless fans stormed the gates during the game, while the volleys of tear gas from the police blew back into the stadium.
The reason why the Premier League decide to invest in Africa
Undeterred, United have been back to Africa twice since, though not as yet to Nigeria. By contrast, the Premier League is very much on African businesses’ radar. Sunderland were the first club to have their shirt sponsored by an African operation. The oil company Tullow put the slogan ‘Invest in Africa’ on their shirts.
The South African bank Bidvest succeeded them, and the club, in a very rare act of reciprocation, has established the league’s strongest practical links with the continent, running coaching clinics and a supported grassroots facility. The Kenyan government has looked to sponsor a ufabet Premier League exhibition game or two, but the money initially allocated for the Magic Cup’, as the project was fancifully known, evaporated. The private sector has proved more reliable. Everton, sponsored by the Kenyan online betting firm Sportpesa, played their first games in Africa in 2017 at a tournament in Dar es Salaam.
African clubs don’t keep the most comprehensive attendance records in the world, but casual observation of the stands and attention to the debate in the local press make it abundantly clear that the size of the crowds at the local game has, since the arrival of satellite television, plummeted almost everywhere on the continent.
Writing of the national derby in the 1990s between Heart of Oaks and Asante Kotoko, one Ghanaian recalled ‘those days when football fans showed up at the then Kumasi Sports Stadium very early in the morning to stand in long queues to purchase tickets for a game that will kick off eight hours later.
People outside Kumasi had to come a day before matches to sleep at the stadium. Such was the demand that there was even a black market in tickets. Today, there are no queues and the stands are at best half full.21 In Zimbabwe, the crowd at the country’s biggest game, Highlanders v Dynamos, halved between 2012 and 2014. At just 13,000, it was easily the largest crowd of the season, when most clubs would be pleased with four-figure attendances of any kind.
In Uganda, where once Express v SC Villa could command crowds of 15,000, they now play in front of just a thousand people. In the provinces, the audiences are in the low hundreds.