NFF crisis: Club owners insist on FIFA rules

In apparent intervention on the current leadership dispute disrupting the smooth running of Nigerian football, the Club Owners Association, representing the 20 football clubs in the elite Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), has called out for strict adherence to FIFA Statutes and Code in the administration of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

In a press statement sequel to their meeting on Friday, July 20, in Abuja, the association also decried the unguarded “meddlesomeness” from some quarters to undermine the smooth running of the League Management Company Limited which is licensed to manage the NPFL.

Describing the prevailing situation in Nigerian football as “regrettable and unsavoury”, the statement titled “A call for return to order”, explained the justification and universal applicability of FIFA rules and regulations in association football, pointing out that there would never be peace and order in world football should all member nations of FIFA disregard the standing rules, which they subscribed to in the first place, to resort to the use of regular courts in addressing football matters.

“It must be emphasised that the administration of football all over the world is strictly in accordance with well-laid down Statutes and Regulations of FIFA, the world governing body of the sport. These Statutes and Regulations, which are voluntarily adopted and abided by each member Federation or Association, govern the principles, processes, activities and programs of member Federations, including the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

“Equally important is that, a pre-requisite and mandatory condition for the participation of any individual or group in organised football activity is the written voluntary subscription to an undertaking to resolve any dispute arising from their participation only through the internal dispute resolution mechanisms established by the applicable rules. This undertaking, applicable all over the world, excludes taking football matters to the ordinary law courts for resolution. In this respect, the final forum for arbitration of football disputes, and indeed other sports as well, is the Court of Arbitration for Sports, in Lausanne, Switzerland. Indeed, as condition to participate in the NPFL, every club is obliged to subscribe to the same undertaking not to take football matters to ordinary court of law, every season, so as to be issued licence to participate.

“The good reason for this undertaking can easily be seen when it is considered that football administration, organisation and participation are of such a nature that it will be next to impossible to carry out, if football disputes are subjected to the endless processes of the ordinary law courts, particularly their powers to grant a very wide range of restraining interim orders pending the hearing or final determination of cases. Also, it can only be left to the imagination the absolute chaos that will grind organised football activities to a halt worldwide, if it were left open for aggrieved football stakeholders to file law suits and obtain all manner of restraining orders from the ordinary civil courts in their respective countries across the world.

“In addition to facilitating the orderly and consistent administration and organisation of football activities, observance of these established rules and principles also serve to guarantee the stability required to attract the much-needed investment for the growth and development of the football industry. Readily available statistics show that, apart from its undeniable role of fostering social cohesion and national unity, the football industry, which employs hundreds of thousand directly and indirectly, is a significant contributor to the GDP of many countries.

“In view of the foregoing, the Association rejects and condemns the persistent attempts by a certain group of persons to employ all manner of subterfuge to undermine these well-established Rules and regulations of football administration and organisation and, to the detriment of orderly football administration in Nigeria.”

The club owners particularly rejected and decried the frequent attempts by a party in the dispute to attack the League Management Company and disrupt the NPFL, saying it is unwarranted and ill-informed. They affirmed their satisfaction with the works of the LMC and warned the offending party to desist forthwith and return to the path of discipline and honour for the good of the game and the Nigerian public.

“The Association also vehemently rejects and deplore the misguided blatant attempts to meddle in the highly organised affairs of LMC and NPFL by the issuance of baseless, uninformed, irrational and totally unwarranted public statements, in desperate attempts to mislead the unwary.

“The Association, therefore, calls on all aggrieved football stakeholders to return to the path of order, discipline, honour and exemplary conduct by deferring to the rules, regulations and statutes governing participation in association football activities, to which all genuine football stakeholders are voluntarily subscribed, for the resolution of their grievances, in the overall interest of football.

“We need to bear in mind that football administration and organisation cannot be carried out under new rules of our own choosing in Nigeria, having voluntarily subscribed to the global rules set for all countries’ participation, as a pre-condition of our membership of FIFA, as a country.

“In this connection, the Association emphasises its acknowledgement and commitment to the orderly administration of football in Nigeria under the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), as recognised by FIFA, CAF and all levels of authority in Nigeria.

“The Association declares its continuous and steadfast support and confidence in LMC and its leadership, which comprises of independent directors and other directors representing the Clubs, appointed periodically to office, in the last four years in accordance with the registered governance structure of the League and company, seamlessly without any bitterness, rancour or public disputation.

“The Association, therefore, restates its appreciation for the stability, order and progress introduced by the approved and registered governing structure of LMC into the administration of the professional football league in Nigeria.

“The Association expresses its pride that the governing structure of LMC has become a laudable point of reference and template for international best practise in professional football league organisation and administration, and has received the recognition and recommendation of FIFA as a model for other football jurisdictions.

“The Association, wholeheartedly, salutes the leadership of LMC, for the unprecedented overall improvements recorded in the NPFL and, confirms its support for the all steps, including rescheduling of the League resumption date, taken recently by the Board of LMC to preserve the integrity of the League and safeguard the investments and interests of our sponsors.”

In a show of collective responsibility, the club owners called on the corporate community, sponsors and other investors not to lose confidence but continue to sustain their commitment to the sustenance and growth of the Nigeria football industry.

“The Association apologises to corporate Nigeria, other sponsors and potential investors for the gratuitious intrusion into the well-ordered affairs of the NPFL by the misguided actions of some stakeholders and, assures all of the unwavering commitment of the Association and robustness of the registered governance structure of the league and LMC to ward off these unwarranted interferences. We urge them not to relent in the patriotic duty of partnering with LMC by sponsoring NPFL as a veritable tool for marketing brand Nigeria and uniting the beautiful and diverse peoples of our great country.

“The Association urges our fellow country men and women to remain steadfast in supporting NPFL and its Clubs and increasing same to levels that will ensure that NPFL captures and represents the pride, aspirations, and becomes a viable and enduring commercial and economic endeavour for millions of our people in Nigeria.”