Africa needs a slice of the European pre-season pie

Staggering is about the only way to describe the numbers coming out of the International Champions Cup played across the United States last month.

Spanish giants Barcelona won the mini-tournament, but it is fair to say that all of the participating teams went home winners on different levels.

It may be only a relatively inconsequential pre-season tournament serving as tune-up games for European giants to find their sea legs, but the benefits showed why the USA and Asia remain preferred destinations for these events rather than Africa.

Launched in 2013 by former NY/NJ MetroStars GM Charlie Stilitiano, who has been involved in previous iterations of these pre-season scrimmages, the ICC appears to have now settled into a money-spinning rhythm.

And it is churning out some heady numbers…

LA Memorial Coliseum, where Real Madrid played City, tweeted that the crowd attendance of 93 098 was the largest to witness a football game at the venue in their 94-year history.

Barcelona vs. Juventus drew 82 104 at MetLife Stadium; Real Madrid vs. Barcelona was witnessed by a sell-out crowd of 66 014 at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium; 67 401 turned up in Florida for the first Manchester Derby outside of England; and 65 109 watched Manchester United edge Real Madrid on penalties at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Ticket prices for these games ranged from $85 to an eye-popping $3 500. This is outside the fans who paid an average of $25 to watch training sessions or the parking fees on both match-days and training sessions. At the FedEx Field in Maryland, those parking charges were $15-a-head.

And then there were the hotels which ring-fenced the grounds. As of three days before a game, hotels closer than a 15-minute drive from FedEx Field were all fully booked, mostly by fans coming in for the game.

One couple, proudly showing off their Manchester United kit, told KweséESPN that they came all the way from Canada to see the Red Devils play Barcelona. So chalk up air fares too.

Post game, ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft raised surge pricing to nearly 75% as traffic backed up all the way into the stadium.

There was joy for kit sponsors too. Online sales aside, long lines of eager fans lined up all game long purchasing replica shirts, scarves and other merchandise on sale at the grounds.

All of these translated to good news for the clubs’ revenue base. Each of the clubs reportedly earned between $11.7million and $25million for their troubles, with a guarantee for star players to play certain minimum minutes.

It is a win-win for all. All except Africa …

The continent boats an undeniable passion for European football and its stratospheric star power, and while there aren’t very many places on the continent where a tournament like this can mint this level of revenue for the clubs, there are still a fair few which can be developed and grown.

Not long after the ICC, the French Super Cup was played in Morocco to a sold out crowd. Top European clubs have also played pre-season games in South Africa. Everton, complete with Wayne Rooney, were involved in a game in Tanzania.

Although the joint visit of Manchester United and Portsmouth to Nigeria a few years ago was not quite a raging success, the Red Devils still made around £2million for flying in on the morning of the game, playing in the evening, and flying out again on a private jet which organizers say cost about $1milion at the time.

All these prove that there is a market on the African continent to explore – not only for the European clubs, but to give African club sides a chance to test their mettle against some of the world’s best players.

Not to mention the commercial and marketing opportunities available for exploitation. Africa needs a slice of this pie.

Top African done deals of the last seven days

Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu of Ghana Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Across Europe, the new season is already underway, but the beginning of the on-field action hasn’t seen any slowing down of the business off it.

As ever, African players have been the subjects of some of the more eye-catching moves of the window.

Here are five that have got us particularly excited this week.

Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu [Udinese – Bursaspor] loan: Badu had appeared set for a move to England, as while the Ghana international denied there was ever any chance of a move to Huddersfield Town, Birmingham City definitely wanted him in the Midlands.

Harry Redknapp even went so far as to accuse Badu of breaking his promise to play for the Blues after completing a loan move away from the Super Lig to Turkey.

While we’ll now not get the chance to see a fascinating all-African midfield duo of Cheikh Ndoye and Badu in the Championship, Birmingham’s loss should be Bursaspor’s gain…although the Black Star needs to prove that his career hasn’t stalled after a few average seasons.

Kelechi Iheanacho [Manchester City – Leicester City] £25m: One of the biggest moves in world football this weekend saw Iheanacho leave Manchester City for 2016 Premier League champions Leicester.

The Nigeria international had appeared destined for a move away from the Etihad Stadium this summer after being deemed surplus to requirements by Pep Guardiola, although a £50 million buy-back clause inserted by the Sky Blues suggests that someone at the club still believes in the wonderkid.

Despite picking up an injury on his debut, Iheanacho has all the tools to be a big hit at the King Power Stadium – his goals-to-minutes ratio in the Prem demonstrates this – and a partnership with Jamie Vardy should bear fruit.

Posted in Africa, News, Sports.

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