The end of the last European football season did not provoke fears of a slump in revenues among pub owners and viewing centre operators. Matches of the prestigious European football leagues like England's Barclays Premier League, Spain's La Liga, Germany's Bundesliga, Italy's Serie A and the European Champions League, all exclusively broadcast by SuperSport on the DStv platform, are the geese laying the golden eggs.
While they realised that, the absence of fear within the ranks of pub owners and viewing centre operators was the belief that the World Cup would adequately cushion losses arising from the three-month break of club football. It did not turn out that way.
The World Cup, no doubt, enjoyed great following while it held between June 12 and July 6. However, it was broadcast on terrestrial channels, a development that made many fans to watch in their homes or some other locations where they did not have to pay entrance fees as they do in viewing centres or spend on drinks and accompaniments in bars around the country.
Naturally, incomes of viewing centre and pub owners plummeted. Idoluyemi Toritsheju, a viewing centre operator in Ijede in Ikorodu, Lagos State, described the end of the last European football season as a lean period. "The World Cup did not bring money. Only very few people came to watch. Most of those who came to watch are those without generators at home. A few came because my viewing centre is on their way back from work. World Cup was on local channels and people just watched at home. Rarely did I make more than N2,000 per day throughout the duration of the World Cup.
I believe that what contributed to this was that some games were shown very late at night," he said.
Toristsheju said he prayed for a quick return of the European football season. According to him, on matchdays, especially those featuring clubs in England play, he makes an average of N20, 000. Those days have returned with the resumption of SuperSport's live broadcast of matches in the most followed European leagues.
Toritsheju's experience is similar to that of Tunde Areoye (not real names), a civil servant who operates a viewing centre in Iju , Lagos. Areoye's viewing centre, made of wood and covered with a sack-like material that makes it look like a Bedouin tent, is big and has four 42-inch LED television sets. During the World Cup, he said, it was a struggle to pay the boys he hired to run the place, fuel the generators and have a little extra in profit.
But the tide has turned with the start of the European football season. On 16 August, the Barclays Premier League resume-to his predictable delight. "I had a full house for the Manchester United/Swansea game. I was there to monitor things because I cannot claim to fully trust the boys who work for me. From that game alone, we made a little over N20,000. The West Ham/Spurs game was not watched by a similar crowd, but the Arsenal/Crystal Palace game made up for it," Areoye said.
Juwon Ademiluyi, another viewing centre operator said the start of the Spanish La Liga has boosted business. It is the same feeling that is being experienced by pub owners. Joy Ndifreke, a waitress at O2, a pub in Iju, said sales in her place of work were dull before the season started. "People did not come as they used to. We have DStv but because what was bringing people was Premiership and it was on break, not many came to buy beer or pepper soup," she said.
With O2, the situation has also changed. The season in England is in its third week and fans have been seized by its spirit. "We are selling well now. We will sell more when the Champions League starts. People watch the Champions League a lot and when watching, they like to drink and take pepper soup, nkowbi and asun," she said confidently.
Sports betting companies, which depend mostly on football for their revenue, are similarly back in business. A staff of a betting firm disclosed that his company could not wait for the new season to resume. Business dipped when weekly club football went on its three-month vacation. "The World Cup does not have the appeal of club football. The Champions League, I believe, is more attractive to fans than the World Cup. Fans connect more with clubs than the national teams. They actually think they co-own the clubs. It is good for our business. All our betting shops have DStv and customers watch games for free. It is a way of attracting them," he said.
On the opening weekend, he said his company made N10million after paying out winnings. The boomtime is back.