It’s a hot Saturday afternoon in Lagos, and as you drive down the narrow street lined with cars to partake in the naming of your colleague’s newborn son, a horde of young men stormed the street from a nondescript building on the corner .
Your first reaction is to slow down and watch the next step. Another part of you wants to get out of the way quickly to avoid adverse events. There is a brief and palpable fear in the car as you scan the faces of the passing crowd and try to recognize their words and expressions. Suddenly your eyes light up. Oh! The excitement is a simple soccer joke.
Scenes like the one described above occur regularly in Lagos and most parts of Nigeria. Welcome to the weekend ritual and the fascination of the Football Viewing Center.
From noon on the weekend and some midweek evenings during the European football season, you will find young men in halls, rooms, makeshift theaters, sports lounges and all available spaces to watch football, mainly in the English Premier League (which is the most) popular league), the Spanish La Liga and the UEFA Champions League. It’s a thriving multi-million dollar naira industry that grew out of Nigerians’ love for football and the widespread broadcasts of Multichoice (DSTV) in Nigeria.
The public image of soccer games picks up on the community character of Nigerians, which makes watching games by itself uninteresting and very “unNigerian”. The time DSTV entered Nigeria coincided with the height of Nigerian football when the Super Eagles were African champions and qualified for their first ever World Cup. The stadium visits were very high. The Public Viewing Centers became an extension of the stadiums and sprang up in locations across the country.
A typical viewing center is a bungalow-like structure or shed with rows of wooden benches arranged to face the various television screens with the matches on offer. Outside, a handwritten display on a board shows the scheduled games and their display times for the information of potential participants. To keep the prying eyes of those who wish to watch free games away, a tarpaulin cover is placed around the structure to ensure that only paying customers can see the games.
As a result, huge fans are provided to relieve the inevitable heat of a mass of bodies all crammed together. Nowadays UPS and inverters are installed to keep the decoder running before the generator is turned on. when the inevitable power failure occurs. This ensures that the audience does not miss any exciting moments of the game while the decoder restarts after a power failure.
Payment is made at the entrance to the hall, usually per game. However, regular guests can prepay for the total number of games they might want to watch. Customers receive a ticket as proof of payment. The average cost of displaying a game is N100, while games that are displayed at the same time are charged N200. The average occupancy is between 50 and 100 people. In the case of highly anticipated games, the number of spectators may even be higher than the center’s original capacity. In a typical Saturday list in the EPL, the games are scheduled one after the other and customers are asked to pay a flat rate of N200 for 3 games in a row or N100 for each individual game. At the end of each game, the center is emptied and paid customers are let in again before a new game begins.
The display centers have evolved from single screen locations in the early 2000s to multiple screen locations over time. Some of them offer other forms of entertainment, e.g. B. Snooker tables and video games like PES and FIFA to maintain patronage. In the age of sports betting, many observation centers have also included betting shops as one of their offerings. People place their bets and are encouraged to stay behind to watch the games and see the progress of their betting cards.
Once the user has made the required payment and is allowed entry, they can sit in a number of seats (mostly made of wood as rowdy fans are known to occasionally destroy plastic chairs) and usually accommodate up to 5 people. The screens are arranged in such a way that the impression arises of being able to see several games at the same time. However, over time, the user finds that it is easier to focus on a game.
It’s a loud, stadium-like atmosphere with jokes, laughter, pre-game and post-game analysis that get hot at times. As is typical of any place where young Nigerians congregate, there is always the inevitable shift to politics and other burning national issues.
The observation centers do not sell alcoholic beverages, but rather other types of beverages in order to refresh guests and provide additional sources of income for the owners. On a typical weekend in the middle of the football season, a normal-sized observation center, which can accommodate 50 to 100 people with an average of 4 games per day, can save up to 56,000 N on a busy weekend before the cost and expenses are deducted without income from beverages and other refreshments.
In most middle-income and affluent areas, sports lounges have emerged as both an alternative and another form of observation center. The sports lounge is basically a watering hole that holds drinks, food, and other groceries in a cool and comfortable environment. Here the guests do not have to pay an entry fee, but have to buy drinks or food.
The typical user is a young, cosmopolitan and aspiring professional looking for fun and an alternative way to relax. The attraction for customers is the ambience, comfort and the ability to chat with friends while they watch their favorite team play. Due to the availability of space, the layout of a sports lounge differs significantly from that of a viewing center. The seats are plush and more comfortable, and are arranged in small groups around tables with a television screen at the center.
The drinks are usually expensive with alcoholic beverages starting at N1000 per bottle and high-end spirits starting at N16,000 per bottle. In the absence of a gate fee, the sports lounge operators need to find new innovative ways to attract more customers and increase sales of their various offerings.
The main costs for the viewing center and the sports lounge are the subscription costs for DSTV, the generator costs and the rent. These costs differ considerably depending on the location, the availability of the public power supply and any ancillary costs that are specific to the facility. Electricity is a ubiquitous cost factor for any company operating in Nigeria and consists of both the cost of powering and maintaining a generator (either diesel or gasoline) and paying for the public electricity used (prepaid or postpaid).
All in all, the spectator center business, although cyclically dependent on the football season in Europe, is lucrative when well run and managed.
KEYSER SOZE …