New Telegraph

Football: Domestic league deserves much better

Only recently, the Supreme Court in Nigeria issued a verdict that the League Management Company (LMC) was heavily indebted to one Emmanuel Oboh and the body was declared sick. It was also clear that the LMC was taking domestic football into the gutters.

The body has battled several court cases and has not been able to own assets; rather, the Nigeria Football League Limited (football clubs) the body inherited as assets are in tatters. Winners of the domestic league are no longer rewarded while the annual season take-off grants are no longer given to clubs. We also have it on good authority that those running the league spent N2.6 billion TV rights of a direct broadcast satellite service provider within a few months and the company subsequently pulled out in frustration just as local telecommunications outfit likewise withdrew sponsorship of the domestic league.

Subsequently, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Youths and Sports advised the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to withdraw the licence of the LMC and set up an interim body to run the league. However, the chieftains of the sick body have been busy defending their position even in the face of the obvious chaotic situation we have found ourselves in.

It is a shame that the last occupant of the top LMC post, who was unable to fix the league, is now aspiring to be the president of the NFF. How? After the failure in the league, how will he fix the dwindling fortunes of football in the country? A football commentator and a lawyer, Barrister Godwin Dudu- Orumen, has said it was time to dismantle the cabal running football in the county.

He said: “The Minister should dismantle the cabal that has held Nigeria’s football hostage for so long. We do not have a viable League, developmental football is comatose, and Super Eagles is roulette wheel for a few and some group holding our football hostage by virtue of the undomesticated NFF Statutes want to continue in office? No!

The extant Law for the governance of Football in Nigeria is the NFA Act of 2005 as amended.” Only few days ago, the club owners, in a letter to the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare and signed by their Chairman, Barrister Isaac Danladi, said the domestic league was in a shambles with problems ranging from no sponsorship, ineffective implementation of rules, irregular calendar, match fixing, non-payment of match officials’ indemnities to insecurity at match venues, among other problems. Danladi and his men are asking for a total revamp and so what exactly is the LMC still waiting for? We are aware that the four Nigerian domestic league teams on the continent had rare good starts in the CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup respectively in spite of the poorly run domestic league.

In the first leg of the CAF Champions League, Plateau United secured a 2-2 draw with ASO Stade Mandji in Gabon while Rivers United defeated Watanga FC of Liberia 3-0 in Port Harcourt. In the Confederation Cup, controversial entrant, Kwara United, defeated AS Douanes of Niger Republic also 3-0 in Lagos while ASFAR Club of Morocco surprisingly played 1-1with Nigeria’s Remo Stars.

The league is currently not in session and a kick-off date is not in sight hence the good start was a surprise. After a 1-0 victory in the second leg, Plateau United will face former champions Esperance of Tunisia while Rivers United despite losing 1-0 away to Watanga FC are through to tackle Wydad Casablanca in the next round of the Champions League. In the CAF Confederation Cup, Kwara United will play against RSB Berkane after recording a 3-0 aggregate win against Niger’s Douanes. Remo Stars after the 1-1 draw recorded away in Morocco lost 1-0 in Ijebu Ode and they are out.

It is instructive to stress that the second leg ties against North African oppositions are a tough call for the three Nigerian representatives. It is sad that over the years, our teams struggle on the continent and the NFF seems adamant about this just as the country’s home-based senior team, Eagles B, are yet to make an impact in the CHAN competition for domestic national team players.

Till date, none of the 20 elite teams in the Nigeria Professional Football League meet the half of the conditions lined out for teams in that cadre. Many of them do not have club houses, good pitches, feeder teams, quoted in the Stock Exchange, an ‘ideal’ secretariat among other conditions. And somehow, the beat goes on just anyhow and that explains why we get inconsequential results on the continent since there is no good planning and nor deliberate effort to make these teams perform well. Keen followers of football are quite aware that the standard of the game in every country should be evaluated by the quality on display in the domestic front and definitely not the output of the senior national teams or the individual efforts of players abroad that are exposed to modern facilities. The administration of the game has been poor over the years especially with poor officiating, crowd violence, poor welfare of players and weak disciplinary measures meted out to erring teams. At this stage, the league is still not on television. Going forward, the domestic league deserves better than what we have now and we hope the authorities will swing into action sooner rather than later.

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