Sports minister reshapes Nigerian League, creates 24 club format

Victor Baribote Rumsen

The Nigeria Premier League will for the first time in its history have 24 clubs due to a directive by the country’s sports minister, Isa Bio.

The minister while mediating in a case by the former chairman of Bayelsa United, Victor Baribote Rumson against the Premier League, contesting the relegation of his club said the rules were not followed in the last season.

“I have studied the rules and regulations of the Nigeria Premier League for last season and the case before me and I must say that if the organisers of the league had followed their own rules we would not have reached this point.

“The way it stands now, it will be difficult to take any action that would not have one party totally aggrieved so I think it will be better to act outside the rules since they were not followed in the first place,” Bio said.

Eventually, the minister ruled that no club should be relegated from the Premier League and that means Bayelsa United, Ranchers Bees, Gateway and Wikki Tourists would now be safe while previously promoted sides, Bukola Babes, Crown, Plateau United and JUTH remain in the Premier League bringing the total number of NPL clubs to a record 24.

“I want the NPL to sort it out the way they can but this is my decision and I hope with this, we can kick start the league and life goes on for all of us,” Bio said.

In the controversial case, Bayelsa United had challenged the decision of the NPL to award Walk Over points to Wikki Tourists in a game they failed to show up for, a decision that led to their relegation.

That game had been rescheduled four times.

In the first match Bayelsa did not show up and they were walked over; they provided a cogent reason for their inability to show up for the game and it was rescheduled.
In the rescheduled game, the home side, Wikki Tourist got a penalty towards the end of the game and Bayelsa United abandoned the match but were able to get another replay.

In this third replay, Bayelsa, the away side were leading with ten minutes left to play when the home fans invaded the pitch disrupting proceedings and a fourth replay was fixed which Bayelsa United ignore leading to their relegation.

Now in the rules and regulations of the league

Article 4.1(3) If a club refuses to continue with a game for a period of up to one hundred and twenty seconds (120) in a match or till the expiration of full time of any half of the game or walks off the pitch, the club shall be liable to a fine of N10, 000,000.00 (ten million naira) payable before the club’s next match. In addition, 3 points and 3 goals shall be deducted from already accrued points of the club.
4.1(4) the match shall be rescheduled and the club responsible for the abandonment shall pay all expenses in connection with the rescheduled match.

None of these was applied in the case of Wikki Tourists and Bayelsa United.
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