With continued outcry by most Nigerian players over non-payment of their salaries and other entitlements in the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, hope seems dim for the home soccer lads, IKENNA OKONKWO of our Sports desk writes
Clock seems to be seriously ticking for the Nigeria’s Apex league body, League Management Company, LMC following calls for change by concerned football Stakeholders over inability of the league to live up to expectation.
The agitation of most Club owners or managers whose teams ply their trade in the renamed Nigeria Premier League, NPL stems from the fact that Officials of LMC have continuously paid lip service to the fundamental development of the country’s most glamourous league two years after they were asked to manage Nigeria’s top league by Aminu Maigari-led Board of Nigeria Football Federation, NFF.
Despite applause from some Stakeholders around the Nation’s football fraternity, incidences of Players maltreatment in form of non-payment of salaries and allowances by their clubs, Referees’ rascality on the pitch and their eventual brutality by Fans as well as on-the-pitch violence have continued to soar. Many are of the view that the current league officials have failed to match words with action in the areas of carrying its resolutions at one point or the other.
Early pronouncements by LMC when they took over include dealing decisively with clubs that violated the rules of engagement which they entered with players, placing sanction or possible eviction on teams that failed to keep their pitches to average standard. And so, various degrees of injuries sustained by players while playing vis-à-vis non-smooth flow of balls could be attributed to inability of LMC led by Shehu Dikko to enforce required procedure guiding the game.
It was observed that in the course of the season, the league managers notified the public that it has mandated clubs identified not to have meet the pitch criteria to relocate to a nearest state where they could play home matches but the order didn’t take long before LMC reversed itself and allowed concerned clubs to go back to host games on bad pitches.
Recall that while teams were temporarily evicted from their traditional home grounds, LMC was accused of witch-hunting clubs whose managers or chairmen opposed their perceived hand-picked treatment.
One of the officials from the northern part of the country whose club was unfortunate to face alleged ‘selected’ sanction lamented anonymously “If punishment should be meted out it should not just be against those who are seen to have opposed the league body’s approach at one point or the other. That kind of selective punishment is not befitting of a league body that claims that they want to get things right.
We can’t continue this way.” Again, in the just concluded 2014/15 league season, players from different clubs have countless times left their business on the pitch and staged protest at the headquarters of NFF located at Zone 7 Wuse in Abuja regarding payment of salaries which was abinitio pegged at one hundred and fifty thousand naira, N150,000 as minimum pay per player but its implementation has been far from attainment.
At the moment, FC Taraba players are still occupying Taraba state Government House over their one year salaries and bonuses. Though, LMC Officials were quoted to have declared interest in paying the players from the club’s annual entitlement domicile with the league, no concrete step has been reportedly taken to march words with action.
On their part, Club Owners have again demanded immediate conduct of election into the board of NPL arguing that the constitution of LMC is not just illegal but that the league body has to be led by someone who has stake in the league. Leading the call for conduct of a fresh election into NPL was Proprietor of Giwa FC, Amb. Chris Giwa who raised alarm concerning continued non-conduct of proper election into the board of Nigeria Premier League stressing that current LMC body was illegal.
Aminu Maigari-led Nigeria Football Federation under Bolaji Abdullahi as Sports Minister had replaced Ramson Baribote-led NPL Board with LMC with a promise that they would function for just one year. But their operation was extended after the initial one year expired.
Obviously not satisfied with their activities, furious Giwa quipped “I don’t know why the LMC should be allowed to operate again after they were set up to just be in charge for one year. It’s not that I’m against LMC but the mode of their operation is what I’m against. How do you explain the fact that the league managers who are supposed to be stakeholders, I mean those who have club or manage club.
“I have a letter from FIFA in my house which stipulates how any country should run its league. How come every other league apart from the Nigeria Premier League doesn’t have duly elected board? The LMC Chairman and other directors are not just elected, but most of them don’t have any club in the premiership they manage.
“The time for LMC to operate is over with the end of this season. Election should be conducted before the new season.” Historically, professional football league commenced in Nigeria in 1990 by virtue of decrees of the then Federal Military Government.
Since the incorporation of the Nigeria Football League in 2006, club officials have been elected to spearhead the management of NPL. Past two seasons have witnessed a shift from this model, with an independent body responsible for the day-to-day management of the league and the implementation of the rules that govern it.