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More light has now been shed on the ongoing feud between Nigerian tennis players and tournament sponsors, with reference to the tennis federation.

Recall that Nigeria Tennis Live published an article about the Rainoil Tennis Open Championship on Monday, 20 November, 2023, where Engr. Ifedayo Akindoju, the President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF) revealed that the tournament may not be held this year.

He explained that the sponsors were displeased with the attitude of players at the 2022 edition, which they said almost brought the name of their organization into disrepute.

Following up from this report, our correspondent sought to find out from the players what the issue with the sponsor was and why they took to protests as the last resort.

Sunday Essien, a representative for the players, noted that the players were not comfortable with the prize money breakdown, and wanted a dialogue on how things could be remedied, but they were ignored.

“It was all about the prize money, the way it was broken down was pure madness. That can never happen anywhere in the world. Winner: 1.5m 1st round of 32 draw: 30k,” Essien started.

Nigerian Players at a tournament

When asked if the players were not aware of the factsheet and its provisions before participating in the competition, he explained further that “The factsheet came out very late, and as a result of that, we called the parties involved so we can make adjustment, they were feeling like some gods people cannot talk to, that was when the protest started, they are now looking to put their miserable fault on the players.

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“Tennis in Nigeria needs sponsors and sponsorship but not sponsors who want to come and treat Tennis Professionals like beggars.

“We don’t need sponsors who do not care about the welfare of players, we do not need sponsors who want to sponsor tournaments without following guidelines and standard”.

With the protests carried out by the players, it may now seem difficult for prospective sponsors to see the point in funding tournaments.

NTF President

When asked about this downside, Essien was even more explicit as he noted that “it does not matter how long, if the NTF put their house in order, well-meaning & right thinking Nigerians and sponsors will come in, SIMPLE”.

“Players meeting with sponsors is up to the NTF, but it is not even necessary if the NTF can put things straight to potential sponsors by letting them know there’s a standard when it comes to prize monies, welfare and anything that needs to be straightened,” he added.

Some players, however, disagreed with the protest, because, according to them “those people who staged the protest, didn’t they see the factsheet before playing the tournament?

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“Now that the tournament has been taking away, who is at a loss? We the players will suffer and still complain about lack of tournaments when we used our own hands to pursue them.”

Another player who preferred anonymity, noted that “if this protest was carried out before the tournament started at all, it would have made sense. But if they did it during the competition, what were they expecting the sponsors to do?”

Essien would respond to the set of players after being told that every player was not on the same page with the protest.

National Tournament Abuja

He said: “Everyone has right to their opinion. Like I stated earlier, the factsheet came out very late, while players were still in Asaba for the National Sports Festival.

“As a result of that most players were not happy with the prize money break-down. Winner: 1.5m
1st round of 32 draw: 30k. No Hospitality.

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“We called for a review with the organizers, that was when the problem started. I gave reasons why we needed a review. As at then, transport from Abuja to Lagos was 18k (To and Fro 36k), the cheapest hotel you can get around the area; 8k -10k. So if one spends all of that to only get 30k, ts it worth it?

“Part of the issues we had, in our proposed review, we told them, we can understand you already had a budget & its not their fault. We as players also put the blame on the NTF for not guiding the sponsor professionally.

“We said reduce the 1.5m winner to 1m. Add that 500k to the low rounds. We told them they don’t have to inject any other money to the tournament and they bluntly refuse, so it was a matter of a broken dialog.

“Then we had to speak the language they chose to understand”.



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