When lockdown hits sports betting, viewing centres

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In this report, we write on the effect of the coronavirus lockdown on the sports betting and football viewing centres in Nigeria and how it has affected this sector

At a food canteen in the Ogba area of Lagos on April 13, anxious youths gathered around the television hung on a wall outside, awaiting a speech by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

The President was scheduled to brief the nation at 7pm on an earlier two-week lockdown placed on Lagos and Ogun states as well as the capital, Abuja, which ended that day.

Already there was anxiety amongst the youth, made up largely of bus conductors, drivers and petty traders at the food canteen and almost everyone else across Lagos.

“Would the President extend the lockdown amidst the economic hardships in the last 14 days?,” one of them thought aloud.

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To their disappointment, the President announced a fresh two-week lockdown.

Like every other sector, the suspension of sporting activities globally due to the coronavirus pandemic has left the sports industry in an epileptic state.

Buhari’s announcement of another 14-day lockdown was met with shouts, hisses and sighs as the angry small crowd, some with their mouths agape and hands on their heads, vented their frustrations.

Nigeria is perhaps one of the worst hit, with several of its unemployed population, largely made up of youths, who have turned to sports business to earn a living, left at a crossroads by the lockdown.

With almost all football leagues across the world suspended due to the pandemic, the 2021 AFCON and 2022 World Cup qualifiers postponed indefinitely, as well as the 2020 Olympic Games shifted to 2021 alongside other major sporting events cancelled, operators of sports and football viewing centres have been left to count their losses.

Before the outbreak of the pandemic, Kayode Babatuyi, a viewing centre operator in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State laughed all the way to the bank weekly to deposit proceeds from his business, fans trooped into his shop in their large numbers to watch their football clubs play week in week out.

That boom has ended, leaving him with nothing to sustain himself.

“I made N16,000 on the average weekly, after all other expenses, but if we had a star match within the week, I made up to N20,000 weekly because a star match alone could fetch one as much as N8,000”.

“We showed matches sometimes five days weekly because during the weekend, we had Premier League games on Saturdays and Sundays and then Champions League on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Europa League on Thursdays.

“Now that most leagues across the world have been suspended, business is down, everything is grounded. Before the suspension, we paid for a month’s subscription, but we were only able to use it for a week before we found ourselves in this situation, so the other three weeks of subscription just wasted away.”

Credit: The Punch

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