IMC: No 1 Priority Must Be A Clean NPFL
The Interim Management Committee (IMC) headed by Gbenga Elegbeleye has as expected been charged by both the NFF and the Sports Ministry to reposition the NPFL after the havoc the LMC visited on the competition in the last 10 years.
Sports Minister Sunday Dare described the country’s premier league as a “sick caricature” that is on its death bed.
Even the Clubs themselves have owned up to the deplorable state of the league, from match-fixing in various forms to breaches of contracts of both players and coaches by unprofessional Clubs.
There is most certainly a lot that needs to be done to repair the damage the LMC has inflicted on Nigeria’s domestic league.
It is therefore unacceptable that the IMC has been handed a three-month tenure to carry out wholesome changes in the NPFL.
This tenure is unrealistic because undoing the rut caused by the LMC will require far more time to achieve.
The short tenure notwithstanding, the IMC must hit the ground running so as to start putting the building blocks to get the NPFL back on track.
The Clubs have admitted that matches in the league are won by the highest bidders, that these matches are fixed and so the results are pre-determined and that poor officiating remains the bane of the competition now in its 32nd year, two years older than the Premier League in England.
The same Clubs as well as both high ranking officials of the LMC and the NFF have been known to be part of the mess as they have in various ways influenced results.
It is on good authority that a particular NFF Executive Member, who has now been elevated to an even more powerful office, was chiefly behind the promotion of Bendel Insurance, El Kanemi Warriors and Bayelsa United to the NPFL.
This same official personally ordered that Mighty Jets beat City FC of Abuja in Jos and that Sokoto United did not win their final game of the season so as to ensure that El Kanemi Warriors return to the top league at the end of last season.
Against this unfortunate background, do we now see this powerful official suddenly turning a new leaf and allowing a level playing field for all the Clubs?
When the Clubs are now saddled with the responsibility of paying the indemnities of match officials, how would you expect them to be fair in discharging their duties?
It is a case of he who pays the piper dictates the tune.
The Clubs are very much this problem as they have been known to outspend each other to bribe officials to get the results that will justify investments by the various State Governments that own them.
The players themselves have become addicted to betting on their own matches as a new way of putting food on their table especially as salaries are not paid as and when due.
We also have to revisit the issue of the circular by world football governing body FIFA who more than a year ago ordered that the very sensitive Referees’ Appointment Committee be headed by a retired FIFA referee.
NFF have yet to comply with this directive as the Appointment Committee is still headed by Kano FA Chairman Sharif Inuwa Rabiu Ahlan, who is a powerful ally of newly-elected NFF President Ibrahim Gusau.
Do we now expect Gusau to boot out his friend from a juicy post that the previous occupier used to enrich himself?
The NPFL has become a basterdised commercial property that is no longer attractive to fans, sponsors and broadcast partners principally because of all these manipulations .
The consequence is that both Clubs and players cannot benefit financially from such a hugely compromised competition.
It is therefore not a surprise that the Clubs can often not meet up their obligations to the players and officials.
The IMC must be firm and decisive in tackling bias and poor officiating, something the LMC could not do because their top officials were very much part of the racket.
The new league organisers must as a matter of priority secure a sponsor or initiate a special fund that will cover the indemnities of match officials.
Anything short of this will only mean that the NPFL will remain the “sick caricature” that the Sports Minister has aptly labeled it.