The Athletic Daily

Questions surrounding the restart of NPFL

NPFL LMC season restart
photo credit: busy buddies

Hello, welcome to Tuesday. As major football leagues in Europe look set to restart the 2019/20 season which was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is good to ask questions surrounding the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, plans of the League Management Company, LMC, when are we expecting the season to restart, are they even plans of resumption, how are they going to deal with the growing cases of coronavirus in the country, are players protected from this virus?

In my little capacity and from the information gathered by the LMC, directly or indirectly, I will try to answer these questions or will ask more questions when I am unable to answer them. Reports came out yesterday quoting the Minister for Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, saying NPFL clubs will pay a sum of N2.5 million to test their players and officials before every matchday when the season finally restarts. First of all, that is absurd, secondly, the LMC Chairman Shehu Dikko had denied such claims. We raised a question on the podcast last week on how much is given to the champions of the NPFL and other teams at the end of every season, or you put it this way….how profitable is the NPFL?

Our friends at the Busy Buddies had a story quoting Dikko as saying the league may be concluded in China, the story was flagged as fake news. Other section of the media says the LMC are making plans to conclude the season using points per game; others made mention of organising a Super 6 tournament with the top 6 clubs, like what happened last season in the abridge league to decide who is the champion. All of these are valid options to end the season, but the LMC is insisting on completing the season, which I am on board with. How are they going to do it, your guess is as good as mind.

When will the season restart?

I have a quick answer to the question – I don’t know. I am also in the dark, none of us knows whether the season will be concluded, but if you want to be realistic considering the state of health with regards to the coronavirus in Nigeria, I would say the season will not be restarting. You cannot start football season in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we are living in this country like nothing is happening and when you look at the level of carelessness on the part of citizens, you will know bringing football back is suicidal.

Secondly, although the lockdown has been lifted in many states, inter-states lockdown is still in place, meaning you cannot travel from Akwa Ibom to Cross River unless you want to use the Nigerian method. The number of cases is increasing, as of today, it stands at a staggering 13,464 cases as confirmed by the NCDC, which the number is not going down, but rather going up.

If the season restarts today, how safe is Lagos State which is the epicenter of the disease in Nigeria? Will teams want to travel to the commercial city just for football? I don’t think so. Football is very popular in Nigeria, but the league is not, government will gladly put in place measures to have a political rally than have the league restart, they don’t care too much about football.

Point Per Game or Super Six?

I was very much in support of organising a Super 6 tournament just to end the current campaign. Football is worthless when it comes right down to human lives, but the possibility of bringing together the top six teams in a particular city with less number of cases, after testing players and officials would be great. But that is a dream now as the LMC has indicated that no such plans are in place.

The Point Per Game will be calculated based on the performances of teams before the suspension, meaning the number of points a team gathered will be measured with the remaining matches, if that makes any sense, this will decide the final standing. Enyimba who have played five games less of others but are in 5th will move to second with Plateau United maintaining their position at the summit which automatically crowns them champions. Akwa United who are in the sixth position will drop down to 9th with teams in the bottom half of the table also suffering from it.

Look, I am not an expert in this particular issue, but if it were to be taken, relegated teams might take legal action and from where I am standing, they will have a valid case in court. Many say the PPG is not in the LMC constitution and that will be a breach of contract signed by clubs. For what it worth, I think the organisers should look for a possible solution other than this to end the season or face litigations from clubs. Unless all parties (LMC and clubs) agree to take this route.

Nullify the season or crown Plateau United champions?

In 2018, when the league season went on break, it was impossible to bring it back. By Nigeria standard, it was scandalous, to this day, no true explanation has been given as to what happened and no one is punished for doing this or that. I have been very careful writing about the league, owing to the fact that the essence of blogging is to help develop the league, but I will say at this point that corruption is deeply rooted in our football, as it is in other sectors.

As it happened, Lobi Stars were crowned champions and the rest is history. It will not be that good to nullify the season, we are trying to develop, we need sponsors, stopping the league halfway will not bring any good to the management and potential investors, so it is a no no situation for me. I know people are saying the French Ligue 1 was canceled and PSG crowned champions, yes, it happened in France which is one of the top 5 leagues in the world, but we cannot afford to have that here.

Plateau United deserves to be champions, if not the team, Coach Abdu Maikaba has demonstrated how good he is with his philosophy, keeping the ball, outplaying the opposition while entertaining the fans, he did that successfully with Akwa United, and he is doing that with Plateau, the funny thing is that he is yet to win the championship as a coach, this opportunity should not be taken away from him like it was in 2018.

NNL and promotion?

Considerations has to be made on the Nigeria National League, with over 100 games left to play. The league was suspended in November with teams playing not more than 5 matches. New boys Vandrezzer FC played only three matches, but have revolutionised the lower division and outshine established teams in the NPFL. The authorities must have a strong case for the NNL, ordinarily, this league would have been voided, I think the NNL will present a strong case to finish the season or a way to end it.

Teams are divided into groups of 10 teams, matches in each group will amount to 18, with some teams already playing up to five, remaining 15 matches, the NPFL played 24 matches remaining 14, so that could easily be played when NPFL decides to play their matches. There you have it.

There are many questions that need answers as you’ve read, I myself is looking for answers to the questions. Let’s hope the authorities will make good decisions as regards to resuming football in the country, football should start when health workers have given the go-ahead to do so, if not, let us focus on staying alive.

I would have loved to go on but I don’t have answer to these questions.

We will record a podcast tomorrow which will be out on Friday for your listening pleasure. If you have questions or topics for discussion, please send them on Twitter @TheAthleticNG with the hashtag #NPFLFootballPodcast.

Till tomorrow, take it easy.

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