A cross-section of football stakeholders on Friday hailed as overdue Federal Government’s directive on the withdrawal of licence of the League Management Company (LMC).
The Federal Government had on Friday advised the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to immediately withdraw LMC’s licence as operators of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
A statement by Ismaila Abubakar, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, awakened stakeholders to this development early Friday.
Abubakar said government was constrained to withdraw its recognition of the LMC as the operator of the NPFL with immediate effect.
This, he said, was in view of the several unpleasant incidents regarding the management of the football league in the country.
Several stakeholders noted it was high time the needful was done to ensure the country’s football league did not go extinct.
Alloy Chukwuemeka, Executive Secretary of the NPFL Club Owners’ Association of Nigeria, said the NFF was obligated to do the “right thing” immediately as directed by government.
He said the issue had long been on the front-burner and he was happy that, after months of speculation, the NFF had been finally directed to facilitate the transition process.
“NFF as the custodian of football in Nigeria licensed the LMC through the NFF Congress.
“It therefore behoves on it to go through the processes and act in this regard or otherwise.
“Nigeria operates Association Football in line with FIFA, CAF, WAFU and NFF Statutes.
“In every situation you have to look deep and seek ways of maximising the positives derivable from it. So, we hope for the best outcome,” he said.
Godwin Bamigboye, the Interim National Coordinator of Association of Football Administrators in Nigeria (AFAN), said the directive by the Federal Government was a good step in the right direction.
He explaind that there was a thin line between the issue of government interference and intervention, as may be argued by some stakeholders in the light of the directive.
Bamigboye added that the fact that the NFF was being funded by the Federal Government means that it has a say in football governance.
“I have always been sceptical about the issue of government intervention or interference. In as much as I don’t support interference by government in football affairs, there is a thin line between the two.
“Intervention is when government or any other external force comes into a particular situation, in this case, as it affects football, to make some corrections and support them with funds and do something that will make them to stabilise.
“Government usually support the NFF with some funds and to that extent, they are captured in the federal budget, and that is intervention.
“Unfortunately, when there is instability in the football house and government comes in, sometimes some people call it interference. But when there is money coming, the government is not interfering.
“The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development is the supervisory body of sports in the country. It is the authority as well as the regulator.
“So, I think the issue of intervention and interference needs to be clearly spelt out so that people can stop misinterpreting it,” he said.
On the issue of the withdrawal of the LMC’s operating licence, Bamigboye said he had not really studied the guidelines so much to know how the LMC was established.
He acknowledged that he did not have the details if there was a law which brought the LMC into existence.
Bamigboye added however that he believes the LMC was formed based on an existing law.
“It was probably done by incorporation with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) which is covered by the laws of the land.
“Having said that, my problem is however not really about the existence of any law, but more on the issue of how well the LMC has fared over time.
“If we were to put the LMC on a scale of one to 10, how well has it affected our football?
“If you look at our clubs now, they are not really performing very well. Our league is in some cases not well administered and not properly funded.
“Clubs will win the league and by the time they go out to play so-called lesser clubs in some countries not as big as Nigeria, our clubs get eliminated from the competitions at the early stage.
“Little wonder why the home-based Super Eagles could not even qualify for the 2022 Championship of African Nations (CHAN).
“What that tells us is that the quality of our domestic league is nothing to write home about,” he said.
Bamigboye who is also a former Chairman, FCT Football Coaches Association of Nigeria said a lot of work still needed to be done.
“If we hope to produce clubs which can compete with those from countries in North Africa and South Africa.
“I think we need to be talking about people with genuine interest in football who have the capacity and experience in football management or administration.
“We need people with pedigree and proven track records over the years to run our league.
“Such people should be given the opportunity to manage our football at all levels. That is what it should be.
“So, I think there is a need for a total shake-up in the system, management and administration of football in the country.
“The time to revolutionise our football and put square pegs in square holes is now. If not, we will still remain where we are,” he said.
Bamigboye then advised the NFF as well as all other stakeholders concerned to sit together at a round table and have meaningful discussions on the way forward.
He noted that it was not too late for the LMC, adding “this is the time I expect the NFF to interface with the Ministry to solve the problem.
“They should not stay back and draw out their daggers and say they are ready to fight the government, but rather seek ways of finding lasting solutions to the problem bedeviling our league,” he said.
Also, Chinedum Ohanusi, a sports journalist, said the issue had been long overdue, adding the introduction of the LMC had done more harm than good to the NPFL.
He noted that the Nigeria Football League (NFL) nurtured by the late Oyuki Obaseki-led board, which later became Nigeria Premier League (NPL), was thriving.
Ohanusi said the then NFF leadership was at a point jealous of the football league’s growth and achievements.
“Even until the formation of the LMC, due to litigations that made it impossible to continue running the league with the name NPL, the league under Davidson Owumi and later Victor Baribote was doing well.
“Since then the league has been on a free fall in all ramifications.
“Some statutory staff of the NPL in its glory days were outrightly sacked, while many others were asked to stay away.
“For about two years now, they have not been paid a dime as salary. These are persons with families!
“This LMC has also not paid match officials, including our late colleague Mike Oboh, their fees and indemnities for three seasons now,” he claimed.
Ohanusi also alleged that the integrity of the top-flight league was compromised.
“With our matches not on television, you can imagine the damage done to our apex league.
“Are you then surprised that only probably two of the four clubs representing Nigeria on the continent will make it into the next preliminary round of the Inter-Club Championships?
“In addition, probably just one of the two into the second round will make the group phase.
“This has been a recurring decimal in the last five years or so, and our league is gradually going extinct,” he said.