The dark tunnels of the Nigeria Premier League



Obviously, from recent developments, the Nigeria Premier League will not start as scheduled on December 1, 2012.

The League board was to hold a congress meeting on Saturday, November 17, 2012 to ratify its start off date amongst other things but the Nigeria Football Federation ordered that it should not hold.

Pic: NPL Chairman, Victor Baribote Rumson
The Nigeria Football Federation say they want the NPL to resolve certain issues militating against the progress of the League before rubber stamping a start off date.

League watchers insist the Federation has a sinister plan against the League body but I will just pass and dwell on the known.

Before now the Minister of Sports in Nigeria, Bolaji Abdulahi instructed that the League should not start until all outstanding issues are sorted but what could these issues be?

Those outstanding issues could be the League sponsorship rights, broadcast rights and then the Ocean Boys issue and many more Nigerians do not even know could be issues regarding the Nigerian League.

Have these issues been solved? Will they be? Will the League start in spite of these issues? Let us talk it over.

I have tried to study the rules and regulations guiding the Nigeria Premier League and see how it was used to make decisions bordering on the League.

Straight from the rule books I will just see how well the Nigeria Premier League invoked the rules written by them and adopted at their congress.

ARTICLE 1.3         RELEGATION AND CAF COMPETITIONS

1.3(1)           The last four (4) clubs in the Premier league at the end of the league season shall be relegated to the Nigeria National League.

Now this is a real serious matter. Were the last four clubs relegated or was it just three? Did the NPL relegate Ocean Boys or were they expelled like we will discuss later on in this piece. Now why did the NPL relegate three clubs when the rules say the last four clubs will be relegated? Point to ponder on? But we will get there.

ARTICLE 1.8 – FEEDER TEAMS


A}.     It is mandatory for each Premier League Club to register a Feeder Team. The ages of the players shall not be below 13 years and not above 17 years.
B}.     The list of the Feeder Team players shall be forwarded to the NPL during registration of players for documentation.
C}.      It shall be mandatory for all Premier League Clubs to allocate 2% of    their total annual grant for the funding of their Feeder Teams.
D}.     The NPL shall from time to time organize zonal competitions for the Feeder Teams as part of developmental programmes for the teams.

If this one was only laughable it would have been a good thing but it is downright annoying.
It actually seems like something that was just copied off the rules and regulations of a more serious league.
All clubs should have feeder teams registered? Really? Did anyone club register a feeder team last season? How come the 20 clubs were even registered for the league when they failed to meet this condition for registration?
As if that is not enough, the League said it will organize competitions for the Feeder teams. Hmmm, was even one competition organized? Let’s talk about this

ARTICLE 1.9 – CLUB MANAGEMENT

1.9(1)           Club management shall be properly constituted with defined functions.
1.9(2)           The management shall comprise of at least the following officers: Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Manager\Coach.
Except the Technical Crew all members of the management shall hold office for a minimum of four years, renewable by the club.
1.9(5)           The NPL shall not recognize an interim body or Sole Administrator set up by any club. Any club violating this provision shall be suspended from the league until a proper management is put in place.
In addition to the above, the club shall be fined the sum of One Million Naira only {N1, 000,000.00} payable before the club is re-admitted into the league.

I know Enyimba, Kano Pillars, Heartland, Rangers, ABS, Kwara United and a few others have this structure but at least half of the clubs in the Nigeria Premier League are run by either sole administrators or the sports commissioners of the state they are in. How come the League let them participate and they were not fined?

ARTICLE 2.0 – WITHDRAWAL


2.0(3)           If a club withdraws at any stage of the competition, it shall be expelled from the competition and will not be eligible for readmission. All its matches played shall be cancelled.

Now this one concerns Ocean Boys and whether the NPL really understand the rules they wrote down.
Ocean Boys by this article were not relegated but expelled. Another rule above said 4 clubs will be relegated so why did the NPL announce only 3 clubs are relegated? Then I am aware the name of Ocean Boys was not sent down to the Nigeria National League as one of the four going down from the Premier League so we must ask, does expulsion here mean from Nigerian football entirely or from the Premier League?
If they are expelled from the Premier League are they eligible to play in the Nigeria National League since the rules have no place for them?
The rules say, “Four clubs relegated from the Premier League will play in the Nigeria National League.” It never said, “Three clubs relegated plus one expelled.” So what then is the fate of Ocean Boys? And if their name was not sent down to the Nigeria National League, it means the NPL know they were expelled and not relegated so why did they change the rules and relegate just three clubs?
Had Victor Baribote Rumson thought this out or did Tunji Babalola ever pause to ponder?
So it won’t be out of place if Ocean Boys go to court asking for an interpretation of that rule that affects them because when the rule book was written they never knew or never imagined any side would pull out of the League or they never imagined that a crazy and controversial football writer called China Acheru would think this through.
I just remembered that Ocean Boys cannot go to court.

ARTICLE 1.5 – CONDITIONS FOR REGISTRATION

1.5(1)           All clubs that are affiliated and registered and have satisfied all the conditions for participation as outlined in Article 1.4, voluntarily put themselves under obligation to unconditionally abide by the League Rules and Regulations, and Statutes of NPL.

1.5(2)           Notwithstanding the constitutional rights of clubs, players, supporters clubs, sports bodies, etc to seek redress in Court of Law, upon affiliation to NPL and registration for the 2010/2011 league season, the above mentioned are deemed to have voluntarily renounced their rights to litigate over football matters.

1.5(3)           Any club, club officials, players, supporters club etc, violating the provisions of Articles 1.5(1&2) shall be deemed to have voluntarily withdrawn its membership of the NPL and shall not be considered for readmission until the court action is withdrawn. 

1.5(4)           The Chairman or his duly authorized representative shall sign an under taking to that effect for and on behalf of the club before the commencement of the season.

If you take the League to court it means you have voluntarily pulled out of the competition. Remember Adokiye Amiesimaka and Sharks against the Nigeria Football Association in the late 90s? The clubs sold their souls to the devil.

ARTICLE 2.4 – MINIMUM WAGE FOR PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYERS


2.4(1)           The monthly salary for a Premier League player is negotiable: but shall not be less than One Hundred Thousand Naira only {N100, 000.00} per player.
Is this a joke or something? Less than ten percent of players in the Nigeria Premier League get up to one hundred thousand naira a month as salaries (about $625)
So why have the League allowed this anomaly to continue?

ARTICLE 3.3 – VENUES

3.3(8)           The following items are banned from all match venues:
i.                Bottled/can drinks
ii.              Alcoholic drinks
iii.            All forms of narcotics
iv.             Match Commissioners in conjunction with the Heads of security shall ensure compliance before the commencement of matches.
Canned, bottled and alcoholic drinks are sold freely at our stadia and marijuana is smoked openly too. The Match Commissioners don’t know?

ARTICLE 3.4 – SECURITY

3.4(1)           A minimum of 50 law enforcement agents are required before the start of a game. However, Match Commissioner shall commence matches if satisfied with the security available on ground.

This law above has been the cause of lots of problems with violence at our league venues. How can any meaningful group of people sanction just 50 policemen at our League venues? How sensible is that?
In a game played in Port Harcourt between Dolphins and ABS that will have just 200 fans that is understandable, but how can 50 policemen control 40,000 fans in Kano or 15000 in Owerri or 8000 in Ilorin? The League needs to be flexible on this and ration policemen to the number of fans at the stadium.

ARTICLE 4.2 – FAILURE TO HONOUR OR CONTINUE TO PLAY MATCHES

4.2(1)           Any club that fails to honour its fixture obligation without any reason acceptable to the NPL shall be fined the sum of Twenty Million Naira only {N20, 000, 000.00}  payable to the NPL in addition to all expenses incurred by the home team within fourteen (14) days.
In addition to the fine the erring club shall forfeit 3 points and 3 goals arising from the match. 
4.2(3)           If a club fails to honour two consecutive matches without an acceptable reason such a club shall be expelled from the League and its matches played and unplayed shall be cancelled.

This also has to do with Ocean Boys. There’s clause that says, “Without and acceptable reason” and this means there must be a discussion were the club that fails to honour a league game states their reason then a panel or a group of people debate on whether it is acceptable or not.
Did that happen in the case of Ocean Boys? Because Ocean Boys claim they used
their budget supposed to run the League to pay referee and match commissioner’s
indemnities, and accommodation which the NPL asked clubs to do via text message in the course of the league. Ocean Boys say it was not budgeted for and their funds ran out. Is this an acceptable reason? If you ask me, yes? In a league that the clubs do not get a share of the broadcast/ TV rights money, they don’t get appearance fees or prize money; you’d expect clubs to run out of money, when the NPL still comes to borrow money from them.
So, do Ocean Boys have a case here? I think so.


ARTICLE 4.3 – ENCROACHMENT/DISRUPTION OF  MATCHES


4.3(1)       Any club guilty of disturbances during and after a match shall be banned to a neutral ground to play their matches for the rest of the season.
In addition 3 points 3 goals shall be deducted from the already accrued points of the club. The club shall also forfeit 3 points 3 goals to the opponent.  

Disturbances occurred lots of times in the League but no punitive measure as is written in the rule books was taken, why? No club was docked 3 points and 3 goals; no club was banished to a neutral ground for the rest of the season.

ARTICLE 4.7 – PUBLICATION OF LEAGUE TABLE

4.7(1)           The NPL shall release League Tables weekly showing the positions of each club in the League.
4.7(2)           Only the League Table released by the NPL shall be deem authentic.

The NPL indeed published League tables but it was something like once a month and nothing near weekly.

ARTICLE 6.4 – PLAYERS INVITED TO NATIONAL CAMPS

6.4(2)           Where a club has five (5) players in the National Camps, its matches may be postponed at the request of the club in writing: provided such application is received 72 hours before the scheduled match.

This happened a lot of times but rather than postpone games involving the clubs even when the served noticed the clubs were chided by the NPL and national team coaches for constituting  nuisance to Nigerian football since they signed thirty or more players. I remember the case of Heartland before the Federation Cup semi finals
The issues surrounding the Nigerian league cannot be exhausted in just one blog post and I will not try to set a world record and attempt to do that.

With what has been discussed here, it is obvious that there is a lot wrong with the Nigeria Premier League. Who will sort it out? I honestly don’t have the faintest idea.



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6 comments:

  1. The League needs help ... it is way off course.

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  2. Funny enough, I was just reading the NPL Rules today and laughing about many provisions which are not in effect.
    By Dec 1st, they would have resumed with the same old problems.

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