If you want to “try out” the new book What Britain Did to Nigeria, you can do so via the video kindly produced by reader Adekunle Shotubo. He produced this excellent video that previews the book’s cover, print quality, jacket, imagery, and text. Feel free to take a look at this preview of #WBDTN.
There are three footballing matters to discuss this week: first is the suspension of non-elite football in England, second is the 2019-20 FA Sunday Cup, and the third is the challenge of how to finish the uncompleted Sunday league games.
On Monday, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the “roadmap” timetable for the UK’s route out of the Covid related lockdown restrictions. While football leagues from the National League North and South (two divisions below the professional football league) have been declared void for a second successive season, grassroots football fans will have reason to celebrate. Sunday football leagues (which had been on hiatus for the last 4 months) will be happy to hear that they may resume playing from March 29, 2021.
My opinion is that it was a mistake to void the last football season (2019-2020) when the majority of games had already been played. The FA should either have completed the season using points per game average, or allowed the outstanding season fixtures to be played between August-November 2020. That would have avoided the scenario of two consecutive null and void seasons. Two consecutive void seasons will also cause all sorts of injustice. For example, some clubs had almost unassailable leads at the top of their divisions in the 2019-20 season and were certain to be promoted. Good examples are St Panteleimon and New Salamis who were first and second of the Spartan South Midlands League and were set for promotion until the season was cancelled. They basically won all those games/did all that hard work for nothing. Two seasons later, some teams who were in promotion positions have lost players while rival teams have strengthened. This will mean that without the attraction of promotion, they may be “stuck” in their current division (which they should have been promoted out of – 2 seasons ago!).
Although England is unusual for separately grading its football based on the day of the week it is played, the suspension of the semi-professional leagues from the National League North and South downwards (who play primarily on Saturdays) and the continuation of Sunday leagues, are related. Although many Saturday semi-professional footballers look down their nose at Sunday football for being “inferior”, they may soon have to embrace the game they so disdain. Since they will not have any competitive football to play for another 6 months, joining and playing Sunday football is the most viable option for them to maintain their fitness and play football. Given that Sunday football generally has less travel than Saturday football, that could be a very attractive option for them. They can work on Saturdays and earn money to replace their lost income from not playing for their regular Saturday teams, and play on Sundays without the hassle of having to travel long distances for away games. However, joining Sunday league clubs will come with its own complications.
Firstly, if more semi-pro players start joining Sunday clubs, it could distort the balance of power and competition in Sunday leagues. Money and funding impacts football even at this amateur level. Very good Saturday players will want to play for bigger Sunday clubs who are well funded enough not to charge their players “subs” (subscription fees which Sunday clubs charge their players to cover the club’s expenses). Or the “trophy hunters” among them will want to play for the most successful Sunday clubs where they have the best chance of winning trophies. In other words, the already strong teams are likely to get even stronger.
Conversely, teams who have already been knocked out of their cup competitions or who have little chance of promotion or winning their leagues, may not be the most attractive option. In fact such clubs may lose players who do not want to play meaningless matches. In other words, the already weak teams are likely to get even weaker. Either way this could have a disruptive effect on team harmony as regular players may feel resentful if they are dropped or replaced by a semi-professional player who is joining the club temporarily.
There is also the operational challenge of how to complete the outstanding Sunday fixtures in only three months. Some clubs such as the current London Sunday champions Lambeth All Stars played only 5 league games before the Sunday league season was suspended. To complete their outstanding league and cup fixtures will require such clubs to play the dreaded “double headers” (two successive matches on the same day), and/or play midweek games. Getting players for midweek games is always a challenge as some players have work commitments during the week.
On the upside this does mean that we are likely to see a large volume of games condensed into a very short time frame.
FA SUNDAY CUP
The FA Sunday Cup is Sunday football’s answer to the FA Cup. It is a nationwide cup competition for English Sunday football clubs. Due to Covid the FA cancelled 2020-2021 edition of this competition. This was not surprising since the 2019-2020 competition has not been completed. It was suspended last year at the semi-final stage.
Of the four semi-finalists, Portland FC from south London will be flying the flag for London against St Joseph’s from Luton, Peterlee Catholic Club from Durham, and Campfield from Liverpool. Portland have been in existence for over 40 years but face a massive challenge in the semi-final. To reach the final they must beat St Joseph’s who have reached the final of this competition 5 times before. St Joseph’s can also claim to be “London slayers” as they have already eliminated two excellent clubs from London in earlier rounds. They beat London champions Lambeth All Stars (who are widely hailed as one of the best Sunday teams in the south-east of the UK) in round 3, and in round 4 they also beat the highly rated Sporting Club de Mundial from the Hackney & Leyton League.
The second semi-final will feature Campfield; who were the 2015 FA Sunday Cup winners, and two time former champions of the Liverpool Business Houses League (which is probably the strongest Sunday league in the entire UK, and in which several other FA Sunday Cup winners have played in). Campfield’s semi-final opponents Peterlee Catholic Club represent a social club in County Durham and are the reigning champions of the Peterlee & District Sunday League (which they won in the 2019-20 season after winning every single game). In fact they have won their league two times in the last three seasons. They are also currently top of their league this season, and are again undefeated with a 100% record.
The FA intends to complete the competition by June. It is great to have Sunday football back, and I am very much looking forward to see various competitions restart, and who will be crowned Sunday champions of England.
The phenomenal success of popular Sunday league “YouTube teams” who build popularity and a fan-base by filming and posting highlights of their games on YouTube and social media has been well documented. So now that the YouTube teams have everyone’s attention and lots of followers, what next? Have the YouTube teams reached the peak of their popularity or do they need to do something new or different to grow even further?
These clubs have not only shown that they can generate hundreds of thousands of views online, but they can draw live crowds too. SE Dons drew a record crowd of over 2000 people when they reached Kent FA Sunday Premier Cup final in 2019. That was a higher attendance than most Conference National Clubs drew prior to Covid. The fact that they have hours long video and content libraries means they can keep their fanbase engaged despite the Covid related lockdowns and suspension of amateur football.
However the fact that Sunday football does not have an official “pyramid” via which its teams can progress up the leagues places a ceiling on their progress. Additionally, the model of clubs such as Rising Ballers (which was created to find a pathway for talented young players to enter the professional game) potentially inverts the success of its players and the team’s success. While several Rising Ballers players have moved on and been signed by professional clubs such as Sheffield United and other clubs abroad, these individual success stories create a lack of personnel continuity that may hinder the club’s long term future. In contrast, the success of their rivals such as Baiteze Squad and SE Dons is built upon their fans seeing and engaging with the same livewire players on camera consistently week after week, season after season.
The other challenge is that the YouTube team format has become saturated. These days too many teams want to be a YouTube team. Beneath the SE Dons, Baiteze Squad, Rising Ballers etc elite of teams with hundreds of thousands of followers, are several other copycat teams – ranging from those with followers in the low teens to a few hundreds. Success in this area has become ultra-competitive.
Despite the challenges that YouTube teams face, there is still room for growth. They could go the same route as Hashtag United and enter the FA pyramid by becoming Saturday clubs. However the ground requirements required in the pyramid and the increased travel would need a lot of money to finance.
Right now the YouTube teams are scattered across different leagues such as the Barnet Sunday League, Essex Sunday Corinthian League, Hackney & Leyton League, and Orpington and Bromley District League. While each team raises the profile of its league, it also means that the YouTube teams do not play each other very often apart from the odd pre-season (less than!) friendly match. That might be a silver lining.
One option is to form their own break-away “YouTube League”. Doing this could kill many birds with one stone. Firstly, viewer interest in such a league would be huge and would also generate additional advertising revenue for the teams involved. They could even exploit explosive sub-plots to promote the games – such as the controversial split of Baiteze Squad FC to play in different teams competing in different leagues.
Since some of the teams already have sponsorship deals with large brands like Puma (SE Dons), New Balance (Baiteze), and Sport Bible (Rising Ballers), a breakaway league consisting exclusively of YouTube teams would be very interesting to their sponsors who would love the increased exposure to their brands. This has serious commercial appeal given football fans unhappiness about being charged on a pay-per-view basis to watch Premier League games, and the frustration after extended lockdowns.
They would have to be careful though. Increased brand exposure comes with increased pressure to be perceived as “family friendly”. If professional athletes can lose sponsorship deals for bad behaviour, so can amateur footballers. They would have to be far more careful about their on and off-pitch conduct, and present themselves in a more PG way to stay on the good side of their sponsors.
The other thing they need to do is make sure that on-pitch success goes hand in hand with commercial success. Recently, northern teams have been “calling out” the YouTube teams and daring them to enter the FA Sunday Cup (the FA’s nationwide Sunday football competition) and test themselves against the northern teams from areas like Liverpool and Durham who have dominated the competition. The only London team to reach the semi-final in recent seasons (Portland from south London) are not a YouTube team. The YouTube teams to enter it (Baiteze Squad and Lambeth All Stars) were eliminated in the early rounds.
The cup of success for the YouTube teams is filling nicely. Yet they still have a very high ceiling.
A great BBC podcast interview with Viv Anderson who in 1978 became the first black footballer to ever play for the England national team.
My new book “What Britain Did to Nigeria” will be published in February 2021. Please see below for information about where and when you can get the book, how much it costs, and a list of answers to all those questions you are about to ask me… ;-)
When can I order?
Where can I order the book?
If you are in NIGERIA you can get it from:
- Roving Heights bookshop: order it from Roving Heights here, or from their physical book shops in Lagos (28 Ogunlana Dr, Surulere 100001, Lagos, Nigeria) and Abuja (CVS Plaza, Block B, Suite 4.1, Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Wuse 2, Abuja, Nigeria). Their phone numbers are (+234) 09026666195 and (+234) 09092158968.
If you are in the USA you can:
- order it from Oxford University Press here
- order it from Amazon.com here
- order it from Barnes & Noble here
- order it from Walmart here
If you are in the UNITED KINGDOM you have multiple options, and you can:
- order it from the publisher here
- order it from Amazon UK here
- order it from Guardian Books here
- order it from Foyles Bookshop here
- order it from WH Smith here
If you are in CANADA you can order it from Amazon Canada here.
How much will the book cost?
UK: £20 UK pounds sterling
When will the book be delivered?
March 2021 onwards
What is this new book about?
‘A must-read for anyone interested in the story of Britain’s colonial encounter with Nigeria. Crucially, Siollun manages to tell this complex story from a Nigerian perspective while never once abandoning his objective eye, the mark of the truly-committed historian. Meticulously researched, What Britain did to Nigeria explores many hitherto unknown historical events in the colonial encounter, most especially those detailing the various wars of resistance waged by Nigerians during Britain’s long drawn-out conquest attempts. He also goes further than previous historians in unearthing the specific circumstances, actors and motivations behind the 1914 formation of Nigeria, the largest black nation on earth and one of the most diverse and complex societies in the world. Siollun’s vast knowledge and down-to-earth writing-style have combined to produce a book that is both educative and enjoyable to read. One that shows the colonial encounter in all its human complexities and contradictions. What Britain did to Nigeria is a fantastic accomplishment.” — Dr Remi Adekoya, University of York
“Max Siollun has conducted extraordinary research which places the history of one of the most important English-speaking countries on earth in a new light. This is a compelling, brilliant and brave history of Nigeria and British colonialism.” — Professor Toby Green,
Can you tell me a bit more about the book’s content?
Many Nigerians have a rose-tinted view of colonialism. Nigeria is one of the few formerly colonised nations whose people view colonialism as a golden age where things were better than the post-colonial era. Why is this so?
Accounts of Nigeria tend to jump straight to the seminal dates of 1914 (the year it was created) or 1960 (the year it gained independence), yet the core ingredients of Nigeria’s character were created long before these dates. How did Britain overpower and control formerly powerful empires such as the Sokoto Caliphate, Oyo Empire, and the Aro confederacy? How did Britain transplant Christianity into Nigeria and create the only country in the world with its population split equally between Christians and Muslims? How did Nigeria end up having more English-speaking people than Britain? The book will provide answers to all these questions and more.
The book will illustrate each topic by using the narrative to ‘visit’ as many different parts of the country as possible and use these as case studies (e.g. the Aba Women’s War, the conquest of Igboland, Yorubaland, and the Sokoto Caliphate, the work of Christian missionaries and how they were received in the animist south and Muslim north, the role of Sir George Goldie, Lord Lugard, and Flora Shaw in creating Nigeria).
Is there an audio book, Kindle or other e-book version of the book?
How can I buy your previous books?
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