We thought we’ve heard the last of Aliko Dangote’s talk about his dream of becoming Arsenal’s owner but the richest man in Africa always find a way to bring it back to fore. However, he knows like we reported, that his dream of buying North London club Arsenal FC may be over since Stan Kroenke bought Alisher Usmanov’s 30.04 percent share. However, he says if Kroenke refuses to sell, he will buy another football club.
“I’m very attached to Arsenal but if he won’t sell, I might have to change,” Dangote told Bloomberg TV at the New Economy Forum in Singapore.
The 61-year-old Nigerian billionaire who has been supporting Arsenal for decades could have bought Usmanov’s stake when the Russian put it up for sale but Dangote wasn’t ready at the time. He said he wanted to complete the construction of Africa’s largest refinery which he is currently building in Lagos. He also wants to invest more in sugar, rice and dairy production, as well as list his company on the London Stock Exchange. Once he’s done with those, he’d be ready to buy Arsenal or any other club he fancies.
“By the time we’ve finished, we’ll be a $30 billion company in terms of revenue. We’ll have an excess amount of cash to start playing around with,” he said. Although Dangote is worth about $6 billion more than Kroenke and can conveniently pay him Arsenal’s current valuation of $2.238 billion, he knows the American whose main business is sports will not let an entity which brings in revenue in excess of $500 million go. The Nigerian businessman is, therefore, considering other options.
“I’m very much a fan of football. I have to have a club,” he said, but conceded that he doesn’t have to own Arsenal.
If he must buy a club in England, Dangote might be pleased to hear about rumours Liverpool’s principal owner John Henry is willing to sell the Merseyside club. However, if Aliko Dangote wants to own a club just because of his love for football, maybe he should consider Kano Pillars FC for a moment. The club based in his native Kano, the commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria, currently plays in the top division of Nigerian football. The club, which recorded a 12-year home unbeaten run between 2003 and 2015 has produced players like Nigerian international Ahmed Musa, is currently sponsored by the Kano State Government, and is a four-time winner of the Nigerian Professional Football League.
If men like Aliko Dangote own football clubs in Nigeria, it may bring about the renaissance of local football in Nigeria. Several successful clubs in Africa have enjoyed the backing of communities and wealthy individuals and have been successful. The influence of money on football cannot be overemphasized.
This has been proven from Manchester to Paris. Even in Nigeria, Ifeanyi Ubah FC shot to limelight after Nigerian businessman acquired Gabros international Football Club and situated the new club in his native Nnewi, southern Nigeria. Fondly called the Anambra Warriors, Ifeanyi Ubah FC has become a major part of the Nigerian top flight, winning the Federation Cup in 2016. In the same year, the club signed a deal with English Premier League club West Ham, that will among other things, see FC Ifeanyi Ubah going to England to play friendlies with West Ham United. The deal happened after Ubah visited West Ham in London. Influential owners can have immense impact on their clubs’ fortunes. Just like Ifeanyi Ubah, a Dangote ownership of Kano Pillars FC can open up a new world of possibilities in the Nigerian football league.
Sadly, the management of the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) leaves a bad taste in the mouth of those that have invested their lives in the league, especially when frequent issues in the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) affects the league. In July, the league was postponed indefinitely following crisis in the NFF. Before then, the League Management Company which was incorporated in 2012 to manage the Nigerian football league, was doing well, entering into international partnerships such as one with the Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) organizers of the La Liga, but like the English Football Association, the NPFL has to show some stability and promise to encourage people who want to own clubs because they love football, consider investing in teams playing in the NPFL. Also, make the league lucrative. Arsenal’s revenue in 2017 was in excess of $500 million; even if Dangote has “an excess amount of cash to start playing around with”, he’d rather invest in a $500 million revenue club than one whose revenue in 2017 was what?