Nigeria’s consistently number one all-sports publication, Complete Sports, reaches a remarkable milestone today as it clocks 20 years of being in existence.
The pioneer Nigerian all-sports newspaper first hit the newsstands exactly 20 years ago to this day on 18 December 1995, filling a huge void in the market and taking sports from the back pages to the front page.
The arrival of Complete Sports was timed to coincide with the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, which was to kick off the following month in South Africa.
Although Nigeria could not attend the tournament due to political reasons as then military Head-of-State, General Sani Abacha, stopped the Super Eagles from defending the AFCON title they won in 1994 in Tunisia, there was no stopping Complete Sports’ sometimes rocky, but ultimately success-filled, journey.
And it has been quite a journey.
Starting out in uncharted territory as a standard 16-page daily sports paper was a huge risk undertaken by Complete Sports Publisher, Dr. Sunny Obazu-Ojeagbase, but it was a risk that eventually yielded massive dividends.
The paper was a 16-page publication at the beginning, relying solely on copy sales to readers as there was no advertising revenue initially. Sales were very good because Complete Sports’ crack team of top-notch editors and reporters served high-quality content on a daily basis.
In no time, Complete Sports built a solid loyal reader base and continued to thrive. But the poor showing of Nigeria’s national teams in the late 1990s, including the suspension of Super Eagles from the 1998 Nations Cup for the 1996 boycott, meant sales and revenue took a hit.
However, Dr. Ojeagbase had unshakeable belief in his vision for Complete Sports and persisted up until the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations in Nigeria and Ghana.
Complete Sports cut back to standard eight pages, the Super Eagles had a brilliant run to the AFCON final, and Complete Sports has not looked back since.
Editor of Complete Sports, Dare Esan, recounts the evolution of Nigeria’s number one sports newspaper.
“The newspaper started as a weekly, then called Complete Football Extra. The company faced so many challenges in the beginning and there was even the possibility of closing down Complete Sports completely but the MD, now GMD, Alhaji Mumini Alao, insisted we should give it one last shot.
“From the year 2000, after the Africa Cup of Nations, we started experiencing a turn-around. The paper became an eight-page newspaper, down from 16.
Esan, a seasoned journalist on Nigerian and world athletics who has covered several national and international competitions, highlights the priority Complete Sports gives to their loyal readers and the impact that makes on the editorial decisions taken by the organization on the content.
“We had an assessment of the newspaper after the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations co-hosted by Nigeria and Ghana and asked the readers if we should still continue on eight pages, and the readers said ‘Yes’ overwhelmingly, so it remained eight pages,” Esan, who has been with Complete Sports since inception, explained.
“Gradually, the newspaper occasionally increased to 16 pages because of increase in adverts – which was a sign of acceptance. We also moved into a new company building at Okota which was heartlifting.
“Complete Communications Limited has produced great sports journalists who have worked for the orgazination in the past including Taye Ige, Frank Ilaboya, Samm Audu, Tunde Sulaiman, Bode Oguntuyi, Vincent Alumona, Toyin Ibitoye, and the late Felix Okugbe amongst several others. We have won many awards as publishers of the leading sports publications in Nigeria and we have carried out many social responsibility projects including building a block of classrooms for a school in our community.
“Complete Sports has truly come a long way in 20 years, but we hope there are greater things to come going into the future.”