How lack of decent toilets may douse interest in league matches
Some of the changes brought by the League Management Company (LMC) Limited with the new rules and regulations in running the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) have suddenly given rise to interest in league matches across the nation. Fans now throng the stadium to watch their darling teams play knowing they would be exposed to fantastic games played in well-protected environments.
The rise in passion for league matches these days has also drawn comparison to what obtained in the 1970s and 80s when clubs like Rangers of Enugu, IICC Shooting Stars, Raccah Rovers, Bendel Insurance and Stationery Stores reigned supreme in the country’s club football. However, this enthusiasm is tempered by the poor conveniences in most of the stadia, which posts huge problems for fans pressed while at the stadia to watch games.
It seems that most of the stadium managers do not have matchday cleaning strategies for their toilets, hence the facilities are most of the time in messy states when fans call.
Football in other developed countries is a family game in which parents, lovers, group of friends etc. go to relax at weekends and other important match days. Football fans are made to feel at home because all the conveniences and facilities they need at all times are provided at the stadia.
Section B of the commercial framework of the framework and rules governing the 2016/2017 season as released by the LMC only addresses the facilities that will make players comfortable. No mention is made of the fans’ comfort while at the stadium. Section 4.10: says “Each club shall provide dressing rooms for players the minimum area of which (excluding showers, baths and toilets) shall be 30 square metres.”
During an NPFL Match Day Six encounter between Shooting Stars (3SC) and Rivers United at the Adamasingba Ibadan, a football enthusiast, who was at the venue for the very time, narrated the disaster that almost befell him.
“As the first half was about ending, I was pressed, and I needed to make use of the toilet. I approached one of the 3SC officials, who took me to the gents’ restroom. What I saw almost made me to vomit; it was a horrible sight, as the toilet was filled up with faeces. I asked the man if there was any alternative as I was almost messing up myself. He told me that that was the best I could get.
“I immediately took to my heels…I rushed outside the stadium before I was saved by a security man at a bank. For almost two hours of my journey back to Lagos, I imagined what could have happened if I had messed up myself as I had no extra clothe on me. The question on my mind was, who would have given me clothes to wear back to Lagos. It was a day I will never forget in my life and I told myself that the nation must know about this,” he said.
A stadium manager in-charge of one of the nation’s match venues told The Guardian that the provision of decent toilet facilities depends on the design of the arena.
Pleading anonymity, he said, “Any good facility designer, who wants to design a hall or an arena, must have a benchmark. You cannot build a hall or a house may be for 10 to 20 people with two toilets because there is a ratio per building. You have to augment the toilets available with mobile ones.
“It is one thing to have toilets and another thing for them to function well. You may have toilets and they may not be functional and you may have toilets and they may be effective. Everything depends on the usage and the management system put in place.
“However, the solution to the problem of toilet facilities in the country is to allow those who understand how the system runs to handle it. When you are talking about the standard facilities, there must be proper funding. Funding should be as at when due because one cannot do something like facility in deficit.
“You cannot tell the cleaners to clean and promise to pay them later. There must not be any bureaucracy, which involves carrying of files here and there to get things done. The latest thing in facility management is like they say a stitch in time saves nine. Most facilities being managed by private organisations do well because they have checks and balances; they have procedures and structures. But when it comes to that of the government, the level of authority is so many that deficiencies in the management of these toilets become obvious.
“Facilities management is the same in all government owned stadia. You ask for money in January and they are releasing it to you in July and because of that, what you are supposed to do in January, you are now doing it in July. In this part of the world, we do more of renovation than maintenance. Maintenance is a day to day servicing of the toilets during a match, why renovation comes days after the use of the toilets,” he said.
Looking at the rules and regulations set by the LMC before a stadium is given a go ahead to host a match, the stadium expert said: “We just need to change our approach of doing things in this country. In the case of the LMC, their concern should not only be on the field, they should also take a further step to look at other things like the toilet facilities for the spectators.
“The LMC officials only come to check the dressing room, the functionality of the flood light in case of a night match, the field turf and other facilities for the convenience of the players in order to bring out the best in them. But the toilets for the fans should also be looked into and should also be seen as a prerequisite before a venue is approved for any match. To make the toilet conducive for the fans, the standard practice of cleaning the toilet should be put into practice, which is cleaning it before, during and after a game. The whole idea of a regular cleaning is to put the toilet back to the state it was before usage. It is the duty of the stadium manager to do all of these things in conjunction with the body running the league in the country. Spectators are also part of the game and they need to be treated well and made as comfortable as the players. If decent toilet facilities are provided for the fans, it will also attract more fans to come to the stadia,” he concluded.
Reacting to fans’ complaints on the state of league venues’ toilet facilities, one of the officials of the LMC, Harry Iwuala, said part of the duties of the LMC was to ensure that all approved stadia were with adequate facilities.
“If we have to be sincere to ourselves, I will want to say here that the toilet facilities provided at match venues for the spectators are fair enough. Most times when we check some of these facilities, they are usually in order but what happens thereafter I cannot tell. If you will agree with me, some of the toilet facilities that I make use of like the one at the Agege Stadium is okay. Most times I go there to watch games with my family and I have not heard people complained about bad toilet or being denied access to one of the restrooms.
“May be some states who manage toilets should also take a cue from Lagos in order to attract more spectators and families to the stadium to watch matches. The thing here is, it is one thing for us to be shown some facilities and another to maintain the facilities when they deteriorate later on. However, one thing that I know is that there is no perfect toilet anywhere, even in your place of work. All we need to do is to keep on appealing to the managers of these stadia used for the league to encourage their fans,” he said.
Also giving his expertise, President of International Facility Management Association (IFMA), Mr. Iwudu Pius, said the need to hand over these facilities to experts is crucial in order to attract the spectators to various centres during league matches,” he said.
“In facility management we have what we call outsourcing. You outsource to some of these experts who specialise in terrestrial services. These are people, who will be on ground, as workers, as cleaners. They will be on ground to clean and manage the urinary bowls, the water system where the public makes use.
Iwudu added that, the state of the toilet facilities depends on the structure. “That is, if the structure is good, there will be good water supply, good urinary bowls, good layout and you have each gender toilet provided.
“Also it is not only about usage, what about the design? How is it designed? If it is properly designed and it is functional, then the manager will have to make sure that there are workers on ground to monitor the use, cleaning and after usage putting some disinfectant. They will have to make sure that there are air fresheners and making sure that the toiletries are in place for the footballers or fans to make use of.
“It is a very easy thing to manage. If you go to the City Mall in Lagos Island, though they are not the best around, they usually have people on ground that assist visitors in case they want to make use of the toilet,” he said.