This is not ‘our’ league; it’s ‘Their’ league…

NPFL Violence

A couple of years ago, we published a piece about how the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is blighted by personal interests. Two years down the line, the league (as impossible as this may sound) has seen improvements and regression at the same time. In the midst of this yo-yo movement, one thing has been constant: the under-current of violence that is present at almost all the venues. As much as the League Management Company (LMC), the administrators, have tried to curb it – this ugly trend keeps rearing its head. And on Monday June 10, it again bubbled to the fore at an event organized by the LMC itself.

The Agege Stadium incident may have underlined the fact that the Nigerian League, which is supposed to be owned by paying fans as it obtains in every other part of the world, is owned by certain groups:

Whether they know it or not, those who sell merchandise and food around the stadium on match-days are one of the ‘owners’ and are huge beneficiaries of our troubled league. They make good profits from those who attend games, whether by selling illicit or legal items. These ‘shareholders’ have absolutely nothing to lose no matter what is going on during a game, as long as their wares are sold.

The first set of ‘majority owners’ of the league are the thugs and miscreants who more or less (largely) determine the outcome of games. They are aided abetted and (sometimes) funded by some unscrupulous team officials, who depend on their services to intimidate and harass match officials. Their job is to ensure that he home team gets a win, no matter the cost. All the referees in the league know them; many have been their victims. They are shareholders because they are well known – no matter the venue – to both the club officials and LMC officials, and no matter how much mayhem they cause, they are either allowed to go on unchallenged, or get a quick release if arrested, to continue their atrocities.

The next set of owners are the team administrators who profit from the largesse doled out by (the part-owners,) the state governments. They get paid as long as the league continues to run, dysfunctional or not. That’s why these officials either take ridiculous decisions, or agree to one. Be it fixture congestion (which damages the players), ridiculous promotion, relegation and player ownership rules (which affects the integrity of the league); it matters little to them. They know that as long as the league is in play, no matter how long the payment (from the state governments and the league managers) is delayed, they will get paid. Then, there are those at the tip of the chain:

NPFL officials who get paid for doing almost nothing. They make laws that they (can’t or) don’t (or won’t) enforce, unless the law being enforced puts money in the coffers of the company (through fines). If in doubt, just take your time to read through the Framework and Rules document on their website. But as comprehensive and workable as this document is, many of the laws contained in it are openly flouted every match-day with no repercussions. And until we get an LMC that will be totally free of its present shackles, what obtains now is what we will always have.

The sad part however, is that until the fans can truly claim to own the league, and can therefore get the satisfaction of attending games without stress and get untainted results, this league of theirs will not develop. The fans should own the league, and that is the only way it can be profitable.



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