Towards ensuring a hitch-free finish to the largely successful Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) 2021/22 season, the League Management Company (LMC) on Friday, June 3, 2022 initiated some policy direction considered imperative for safety at match venues and protecting the integrity of matches.
Two of such policies were communicated to the 20 participating clubs and to the General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and copied to the Match Commissioners Appointment Committee and the Referees Committee.
In the policy direction memo to the clubs, the LMC noted the absolute imperative of ensuring the safety of all persons before, during and after matches.
Signed by the Chief Operating Officer (COO), Salihu Abubakar, the LMC wrote, “We wish to inform the participating clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League of the need to prioritise their obligation to ensure the provision of adequate and effective security at match venues, and to guarantee the safety of players, match officials, fans, and other stakeholders before, during, and after scheduled league fixtures”.
The League body said it had to take the proactive steps to prevent a repeat of some recent incidents at some match venues which resulted in sanctions imposed on erring clubs but which caused embarrassment to the League, and brought the game to disrepute.
The Clubs have therefore been directed to review and fine-tune their security framework to conform with “the objectives of the LMC and stipulation of the Rule Book”.
It further warned that “future disruptions or incidents bothering on the breakdown of security will lead to appropriate sanctions against the errant officials and clubs involved which may include but not limited to closing of match venues to fans, moving clubs to alternate venues outside their zones, expelling of the erring officials from the NPFL and automatic points deduction”.
In the memo to the NFF General Secretary and two Committees of the Federation,the LMC observed that it is crucial to also take proactive measures that will ensure a rancor free conclusion of the season that is in the final stages.
The League body admitted that “it is currently challenged by the quality of some of the match officials appointed recently, some of who appear to be unlettered and therefore incapable of writing proper reports or superintending over matches which has led to complications at match venues and hinder the ability of the LMC to take necessary and prompt corrective measures and or sanctions”
It therefore appealed to the Chairmen of the appointment committees for Referees and Match Commissioners to partner the LMC in achieving the set objectives by taking extra considerations to ensure the appointment of only seasoned and thorough officials with uncompromising integrity for the remaining fixtures of the season.
In related matters, the LMC also announced a number of sanctions against some of the clubs involved in the incidents under review and they include Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) and Remo Stars
After reviewing of the match reports for MatchDay 31 between Shooting Stars and Remo Stars at Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan, the LMC found 3SC to be in breach of Rule B13.52 whereby it failed to provide and ensure effective security leading to breakdown of order after the match, Rule B8.21 in that the club failed to provide adequate security for match officials before, during and after the match resulting in the harassment and intimidation of the Referee.
Shooting Stars was also charged with breach of Rule C1.1 for failure to contain and control their fans after the match resulting in disturbances including the attacking of a Media Personnel, Adepoju Tobi, an act capable of bringing the game to disrepute. The club is also charged for breach of the peace agreement brokered by the LMC between the two clubs with regards to guaranteeing peace, order and fair play during matches between the two.
The Club has been fined a total of N3m plus a N500,000 compensation to Mr. Adepoju for lost valuables and medical bills and their stadium has been closed to fans for the remaining fixtures of the season while a further breach will lead to their being directed to play outside the Southwest. 3SC also stands the risk of two points deduction to last for a probational period ending with the season while the Media Officer, Tosin Omojola and Kits Manager, Mr. Majolagbe Kolawale have been expelled from all NPFL related activities for a minimum period of 12 months in the first instance.
In another summary jurisdiction exercise, the LMC fined Remo Stars N2m for breaches of Rule 13.18, B8.21 in the course of their MatchDay 30 fixture in Ikenne against Kano Pillars. The League body said it found that some unidentified persons encroached on to the restricted area and harassed Match Officials in breach of Rule 13.18 and failure to provide adequate security for Match Officials before, during and after the match resulting in the harassment and intimidation of the Match Officials
Remo Stars was fined N1m for each of the breaches, stadium closure to fans for their next two home matches and a suspended two points deduction for a probationary period lasting for the remainder of the season.
In another development, the LMC said it is reviewing the circumstances leading to the abandoning of the MatchDay 31 fixture in Kaduna between hosts, Niger Tornadoes and Lobi Stars and ruled that a date will be fixed for the clubs to play the remaining period of the match.
In its communication to the Chairman of Niger Tornadoes, the LMC directed that the club take urgent steps to upgrade MatchDay security at the stadium and to play their next home match at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium without admitting fans.
Still on the Tornadoes vs Lobi Stars match, the LMC warned the Chairman of Lobi Stars to restrain some of the club officials from further unguarded statements which negates a circular issued to clubs on February 24, 2022 frowning at such statements that are capable of bringing the game to disrepute.
The two clubs and match officials have been invited for an investigative hearing at the LMC office in Abuja on Monday, June 6.