NPFL: Subterfuge, Blackmail And Fresh Opportunities

NPFL: Subterfuge, Blackmail And Fresh Opportunities


By Ehi Braimah When Nigerias premier league season did not kick off as scheduled, I took more than a passing interest in the organisation of the league. After two postponements, I contacted my friends and colleagues who are sportswriters, asking them hard questions on the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL). Meanwhile, the second leg match between Bendel Insurance, Nigerias representatives in the CAF Confederation Cup and the Moroccan club, RS Berkane, was played last Friday. The Moroccans won 1 0 and advanced to the group stages on 3 2 aggregate. The first leg at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium ended 2 2 two weeks ago. Bendel Insurance the Edo Arsenal has been eliminated from the competition. According to a report by Nurudeen Obablola in Naija Times, Nigerias premier league champion, Enyimba and runners-up Remo Stars, had earlier been eliminated from the CAF Champions League in the first qualifying round. The only Nigerian club left in the continental competition this season also in the Confederation Cup is Rivers United. Hopefully, the Port Harcourt-based club will progress to the group stages by beating Burkina Fasos Etoile Filante at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in the second leg their final qualifying tie. The first leg played at the Municipal Stadium in Yamoussoukro, Cote dIvoire, ended 0 0. Also Read: Ex-Super Eagles Stars Inspire Fitness Lifestyle At 2nd Complete Sports Celebrity Workout These results provided additional context to interrogate the status and quality of our domestic football which is completely broken that was not surprising and characterised by greed, bad faith, dishonesty, intrigues, thuggery, blackmail, back-stabbing and subterfuge. How can it be explained that referees and players are being owed for more than three years? What kind of league is that? It has been widely reported that referees and club administrators fix matches a criminal act that reinforces our culture of dishonesty. The NPFL models its league after what we have in mainland Europe with regular football seasons and fixtures. On the face of it, it is not a bad idea. Football fans in Nigeria and other places feast their eyes on these leagues and other competitions every week. La Liga in Spain; Serie A in Italy; Bundesliga in Germany and the English Premier League (EPL) are some of the elite leagues in the world. Rangers Intl. 2 1 Doma United, on NPFL 2023/24 Matchday 1 Most Nigerian fans run commentaries of their own on these leagues, especially the EPL, where they are able to memorise the names of teams, players and managers. If you wake these fans up in their sleep, they will reel out these names without breaking any sweat. These leagues are well-structured, efficient, productive and commercially viable. Ask the experts, they will tell you that football is big business but because personal ambitions have been prioritised over a sense of higher purpose, our local league has refused to grow. The leagues in mainland Europe run from August to May whereas in the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland), their leagues run from March to November because of the cold weather; these countries are practically snowed under during the other months of the year. Also Read: Meet Super Eagles New Boy, Fisayo Dele-Bashiru Every effort in as many seasons as we can remember to elevate and brand the league through a marketing programme that would attract sponsorship is often resisted by a tiny cabal for their selfish interests. They are not interested in the progress and development of the game, and this is precisely why the league is unable to attract sustainable sponsorship. The League Management Company (LMC) that used to manage the professional football league was scrapped last year on the orders of the federal government because a court of competent jurisdiction declared LMC an illegal body. To avert further chaos in our domestic football, Ismaila Abubakar, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, wrote in a press statement in September 2022, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is hereby advised to withdraw the licence given to LMC, and in the meantime, set up an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to include the current Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer of the LMC to oversee the affairs of the league until a professional league board is constituted in accordance with the statues of the NFF. LMCs office in Maitama, Abuja, was sealed off. But LMC tried to fight back, claiming in a response to the press statement that it was a legal body that was fit and proper to manage the league. The LMC was a successor-in-title to the Nigeria Premier League Limited and it was alleged at the time that NFF set up LMC to avoid and evade existing debts and other obligations owed by the organisation it succeeded. Prior to the scrapping of the LMC which was first headed by Nduka Irabor and subsequently by Shehu Dikko, the organisation secured a N5.1 billion ($34 million) deal with the South African broadcast company, DSTV, through its sports channel, SuperSports, to beam match-of-the-week live. The deal was for an initial period of four years (2015 2019). After one season, DSTV pulled out of the contract due to irreconcilable differences. I would say no more on what actually transpired based on credible information from insiders, but it was the league, football fans and the clubs that were the biggest losers. Also Read: Peseiro Unveils 25-Man Super Eagles Squad For Friendlies Against Saudi Arabia, Mozambique Another issue was that the league could not keep to a proper schedule of matches while the seasons calendar of fixtures was scrappy and unreliable. I am aware that live coverage of the league by DSTV requires a production plan that cannot be aborted at anyones whim. Usually, the crew would have arrived at match venues well ahead of the game. Sporting Lagos 2 0 Gombe United At short notices, league matches were either postponed or the teams never showed up. For example, in the game between Akwa United and Warri Wolves in Warri, Delta State, in the 2015-2016 season that was being beamed live by SuperSports, Warri Wolves did not turn up for the second half, alleging intimidation from the visiting side during the interval. The IMC eventually berthed the NPFL Board which is headed by Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye as Chairman. But what has changed between then and now? From the time that Bolaji Abdullahi was sports minister to Sunday Dares tenure, there have been attempts to raise the level of the game, but each outcome has been more of motion without movement. When I spoke to Hon Elegbeleye, he said most stakeholders in the football system do not cooperate with the league management for selfish reasons. In spite of our best efforts, we are blackmailed regularly by bad characters who do not want the progress of Nigerian football, he told me in frustrating voice. A lot of people want to cut corners, and they will fight you if you are doing the right thing by blackmailing and maligning your name. As chairman of the professional football league board, my name is at stake and I will do everything to protect it. I am happy to serve and I do not have any regrets. My colleagues and I will never succumb to blackmail. But we also have good people around us. When the former sports minister, Sunday Dare, asked me to chair the professional league board, I declined the offer but he insisted. Also Read: Sporting Lagos Defender Annor Relishes Maiden NPFL Victory Eventually, I accepted the offer and once I take up any assignment, I serve to the best of my ability in a transparent manner. We have challenges, including finding sponsors for the league, but they are not irredeemable. However, in what appeared to be a new lease of life with fresh opportunities for the league, there was a pre-season tournament boost from Dozy Mmobosi Foundation last December to showcase the top four teams. The Foundation paid N140m to NPFL. Enyimba, 3SC, Rangers and Bendel Insurance received N10m each to participate in the pre-season matches while the winner, 3SC, was paid N100m. Elegbeleye praised Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau, the President of NFF. Without Gusaus total support, the league would have been a tough nut to crack. The NPFL Board appreciates his commitment and dedication. The new season (2022-2023) began in January this year but due to the missed period from August to December, an abridged…


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