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  • Assessing The Beginning From The End: An Appraisal Of NPFL 2014/2015 Season

    Reporter: Alonge Akinlolu
    Published: Friday, 13 November 2015
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    By Amobi Ezeaku Esq.

    When the seasons shift, even the subtle beginning, the scent of a promised change, I feel something stir inside me. Hopefulness? Gratitude? Openness? Whatever it is, it’s welcome”– Kristin Armstrong

    The above quote from Kristin Armstronga professional road bicycle racer and two-time Olympic gold medalist, the winner of the women's individual time trial in 2008 and 2012 seems to be a true reflection of my candid feelings, notions and thoughts towards the Nigeria Professional Football League 2014/2015 League Season.

    On March 8, 2015 the beautiful Sunday the league kicked off across all parts of the country, the stakes were high because the League Management Company (LMC),the organizers of the prestigious League had introduced a lot of innovations that left critiques and onlookers anxious to see how the League will eventually unfold.A more detailed Framework and Rules were introduced for the 2014/2015 Season wherein the LMC stated its role in managing the NPFL was to provide a national membership organization structure for professional football through which the LMC can facilitate financial success, stability and development of professional football clubs, administer and regulated the professional game and promote the values and contribution of the professional game to our national life. 

    In fulfilling the above role, the League Management Company (LMC) promised to continue to – represent the interest of its members including the participating clubs; maximize the income generated collectively to support a healthy and sustainable level of professional football throughout the country; regulated and administer the game to protect the reputation, credibility and image of professional football; promote an understanding of the sporting and business needs of its members; provide leadership in delivering new initiatives and responding to external changes which affect the future direction of professional football; represent the NPFL on developments in football, sports generally and other issues which have a potential impact on the professional game; enhance and promote the place of football in our national heritage and culture, and in pursuit of sporting, economic and civic values.

    In the words of Mr. Shehu Dikko (Chairman, League Management Company Limited & Vice President, Nigeria Football Federation), ‘the LMC is absolutely committed to run the NPFL to the highest possible standards and with integrity. In achieving this, we will ensure that our participating clubs, behave with the utmost good faith and honesty to each other, do not unjustly criticize or disparage one another and maintain confidence; will comply with the Laws of the Game and follow the NPFL and NFF Rules not only to the letter but also in their spirit, and will ensure that our clubs and officials are fully aware of such rules and that we have effective procedures to implement the same; will respect the contractual obligations and responsibilities of each other’s employees and not seek to breach these or to make illegal approaches; will discharge their financial responsibilities promptly and fully and not seek to avoid them and will seek to resolve differences between each other without recourse to Law’.

    The Rules were avowed as objective, realistic and fair in their entirety and had been conceived for the good of the game. The preservation, protection and application of the rules thus were accorded an enviable sense of integrity.

    The Week One of the 2014/2015 League Season saw Lobi Stars FC, Akure grab a point from Bayelsa United FC, Yenegoa while Dolphins FC, Portharcourt v. Kwara United FC, Ilorin; Enyimba International FC, Aba v. Akwa United FC, Uyo; Giwa FC, Jos v. Abia Warriors FC, Umuahia and Sharks FC, Portharcourt v. Sunshine Stars FC, Akure respectively all played out a goalless draw. The rest of the game on Match day One was won by the home team in a close and breathtaking contest.

    Indeed, the results in the above paragraph excited a lot of sports fans and Nigeria Football League followers because it was a massive departure from the earlier trend that all home games must be won by the home team, thus the notion that the away team is always at the mercy of the home team crawled away from the consciousness of the Nigerian populace.

    To even buttress the point that the league’s transparency, fairness, impartiality and balance are on the positive side, during the Match Day Two of the Season Taraba United FC defeated Akwa United FC,Uyo in Uyo and Shooting Stars FC, Ibadan lost at home to Heartland FC, Owerri. The week two games generated a lot of comments and publications according and awarding accolades to the League organizers.

    And so it happened that unpredictability of games that’s always the case in the top Leagues in the world came upon us here in Nigeria, courtesy of the structure laid down by the League Management Company (LMC). 

    The 2014/2015 NPFL Season also saw the undefeated defending Champions Kano Pillars FC, Kano lose at home, before their ever-supportive fans to Nasarawa United FC, Lafia to bring an end over a decade of positive home runs.

    It is noteworthy to point out that the NPFL Framework and Rules 2014/2015 Season in its Section A 3 –the competition- expressed clearly that each Club shall play 2 League Matches against every other Club in the League each season; being the Home Club in respect of one such League Match and the Visiting Club in respect of the other.

    The position of Clubs in the table shall be determined by the number of points scored in that Season, the Club having scored the highest number of points being at the top of the table and the Club having scored the lowest number of points being at the bottom.

    The League Rules for the 2014/2015 Season also clearly pointed out that if any 2(two) or more Clubs have scored the same number of points their position in the table shall be determined on goal difference, that is to say, the difference between the total number of goals scored by and against a Club in League Matches in that Season, and the higher or highest placed Club shall be the Club with the higher or highest goal difference.

    Indeed, the provisions above arguably was enacted to checkmate the practice were points could be won and lost in boardrooms and through boardroom politics as could be deduced from the happenings in the administration of the league in recent past.

    It is also provided by the rules that ‘each Club and each Contract Player shall comply with any reasonable request made on behalf of the LMC to allow the player’s Image to be used to enable the League to fulfill its Commercial Contracts, Broadcasting Contracts and Title Sponsorship Contracts, provided that, where the size of the product permits, the League shall not use the images of less than 3 Contract Players, each from different Clubs, on any one product.

    Curiously, it is doubtful if the Image of any Player was used towards the advancement or fulfillment of the Commercial Contract, Broadcasting Contracts and Title Sponsorship Contracts. The hopefulness in me which I expressed in the genesis of the piece is to the effect that inasmuch as we did not see any or much of these, the 2015/2016 NPFL Season will bless us with the usage of some of the Images of the Players in the Nigeria Professional Football League in any of the three categories of Contracts outlined above.

    On the trophies and awards for the 2014/2015 NPFL Season, it is also a step in the right direction for the LMC to hold that the League Champions will take home the League Trophy for a season and same will be returned exactly at the end of the first round of next season (2015/2016). A replica trophy would however be given to the Club i.e. the League Champion permanently. (See: Section A. 9.1 of the NPFL Framework and Rules 2014/2015 Season)

    Interestingly, where a club fails to return the trophy at the appropriate time, it shall be fined in the sum of One Million Naira only in addition, to any other penalty as may be determined by the LMC. (See: Section A. 9.2 of the NPFL Framework and Rules 2014/2015 Season).

    The League Champions shall be awarded Medals for both players and team officials. Plaques shall be awarded to the most outstanding player in each competition. Additional medals may be presented with the consent of the Board.

    Now, for the records, Enyimba International Football Club of Aba are the League Champions for the 2014/2015 League Season and expectedly the aforementioned provisions apply to them.

    Going by the Rules and Framework also, the League Champions (Enyimba FC, Aba) shall enjoy the distinction of wearing for the duration of the succeeding league season the logo of the League set on a gold background or trimmed with gold. (See: Section A. 9.6 of the NPFL Framework and Rules 2014/2015 Season).

    Youth development is of paramount consideration all over the world and we argue here that this could have warranted the LMC to make provisions for Learning/Youth Development.

    Arguably, it is this consideration that prompted the LMC to boldly include in its Framework and Rules that the LMC shall have a Learning Department that shall undertake the following functions: to prepare stakeholders, for the training of players, maintenance of the standard of the game, and league and continuous training of coaches and other support staff of the clubs; to develop standard criteria for licensing and participation as a Referee, Coach or Player in conjunction with NFF; to develop and encourage continued professional education and qualification; to ensure that the Clubs maintain periodic training programs and also maintain standards by monitoring and keeping them abreast of new innovations and techniques available; to train media staff, grounds’ men, stewards and security  personnel; to monitor the training of Players by the learning Department and Youth development programs of the Club; to encourage Corporate Social responsibility programmes and enlighten stakeholders of the need to support their local communities; to ensure that each Club shall maintain a learning department and finally, the LMC shall develop awareness programs for the education of Children and the general public, as to the benefits of the game for academic and social development literacy, employment, prevention of disease and healthy lifestyles.

    Sadly, as innovative as the above may seem, Clubs and Club Managements does not consider the implementation of any of these. I stand on this mountain to say that no Club in the NPFL maintains a learning department. The training of Media Officers in the 2014/2015 League Season was applauded and indeed the training yielded much fruits and dividends as the good image of the League was projected from all around the country by mostly Club’s Media Officer. The promotion of the League through the use of Social Media like facebook, twitter, instagram etc by these Media Officers actually rekindled my hope and dream in our League and we expect to see more next Season.

    The training of Grounds’ men and Stewards are highly questionable as some of the grasses and turfs on some match venues were in bad shapes and colours on the one hand, while the recorded chaos and crisis could have been halted by the Stewards if trained on the other hand.

    It is important to state here also that the LMC in the 2014/2015 season did not implement the provision that states that ‘the Club shall provide the Player each year with copies of all the Rules which affect the Player and of the terms and conditions of any policy of insurance in respect of or in relation to the player with which the player is expected to comply’. One quickly wonders if the Clubs in the league really have insurance covers for the Players.

    I have in all honesty tried to make this piece brief, but I must quickly state that the welfare of Nigeria Professional Football League Players is still on the back seat and in a very deplorable state. We enjoin the League Management Company to also support the NFF Players’ Status/Arbitration Committee in ensuring that the decisions of the Committee passed in favour of the Players and Coaches in the past seasons and the season under review are enforced to its fullest.

    Finally, as the League ends on Sunday November 15, 2015, I join my voice with the voices of millions of Nigerians to Congratulate the LMC for the giant strides attained towards the advancement and promotion of our League and also to humbly advise that we all should be on the look out to forestall and prevent any act of match fixing on the final day of the League. We look forward to a better and more intriguing 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional League Season, bearing in mind that the end always justifies the means.


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