NFF, LMC, NRA, clubs in mid-season review of NPFL 2019/20 season
• Resolve to deploy addition security officers at match venues • To create volunteer stewards corps • Ban unruly challenge of match officials by players • Sustain review of match officials performance
A mid-season review of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) 2019/20 season was held on Tuesday February 18, 2020 at the LMC head office in Abuja with far reaching resolutions aimed at sustaining the progress that has been recorded and measures to be taken to prevent isolated cases of security breaches at match venues.
The meeting which was convened at the instance of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick had in attendance, Shehu Dikko, the Chairman of League Management Company (LMC), Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, the NFF General Secretary and Alhaji Rabiu Sharu Inuwa, the Chairman of the NFF Referees Committee.
Others present at the meeting were Alhaji Tade Azeez, the President of Nigeria Referees Association (NRA), Barrister Isaac Danladi, the Chairman of NPFL Club Owners Association and Salihu Abubakar, the Chief Operating Officer of the LMC.
NFF President in his opening remarks explained that the meeting was called to discuss the progress made so far in the NPFL and to explore possible strategies that can be adopted to sustain the progress and eliminate identified setbacks such as the unwarranted security breach that occurred in the Abia Derby and the breach of public order within katsina city after the derby match between Katsina Utd and Kano Pillars
He reiterated that “all parties must work together with their eyes firmly on the ball to ensure that such incidents do not occur again and we must keep our match venues safe at all times to provide fans a conducive environment to enjoy games”.
In his response after the NFF President opened the meeting, The LMC Chairman remarked that the on—going season can be described as the most competitive and successful given the results, performance of match officials and the overall conduct of fans.
Dikko said, “We have so far played 193 games this season with over 1,544,000 fans attending games so far. On fans behavior, there has been just one incident of breach of security on the pitch and that was the incident in Umuahia last Sunday. The other incidents in Lafia and Katsina were outside the pitch and after the successful conclusions of the game.
“Though no security breaches and threat to public order should be tolerated and associated with the beautiful game, it’s noted that all three incidents had to do with local rivalries between clubs that share geographical proximity and have had running supremacy claims by their fans.
“In Lafia, it was a North Central derby between Nasarawa United and Plateau United, Katsina was a Northwest derby between Katsina United and Kano Pillars while in Umuahia, we had the Abia derby between Abia Warriors and Enyimba International”, Dikko concluded.
He said as part of strategies to eliminate unsavory incidents during and after matches, the LMC has directed all clubs to notify Police Divisions within the match venue jurisdictions of their weekly home games and request a minimum of 100 Police officers for match security duties in addition to other security personal. This plan was adopted as one of the resolutions of the meeting and would have the clubs give timely notice to the Police Division and making a copy of such request available to the LMC.
The meeting also resolved that some of the Police officers will be specially assigned to watch over home and away fans to prevent skirmishes that may lead to clashes.
It was also resolved that the NFF and LMC will open communication channels with the Police High Command with a view to having continuous interface with the office of the Inspector General of Police with the long term objective to set up specialized police squad for football matches security management.
The meeting also endorsed a proposal by the LMC to create a volunteer stewards corps that will be made up of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members who will function to deepened orderliness in the stands. To this end, the LMC was mandated by the meeting to interface with the Director of NYSC and that of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) to enlist the support and services of the agencies in ensuring orderliness match venues through effective stewardship.
The meeting also tasked the LMC to ensure full enforcement of relevant rules of the NPFL at all times and to apply prescribed sanctions on any club and or supporters club found to breach the rules. It was also charged to ensure that continuous fans education and sensitization is sustained.
A strategy to ensure that high standards of officiating are sustained will include a continuous monitoring and review of performance of match officials to ensure that only the best are selected to officiate in NPFL matches. To this end, it was resolved that full match videos of games would be reviewed should there be any reservations expressed on calls made by any Referee during a game.
“For every match, Clubs will be encouraged to file complaints on a maximum of three decisions they think the match officials did not get right which should be in writing accompanied with unedited clips on the incidents. However such complaint should not be a matter for media publication or broadcast. The relevant bodies will review the complaints and provide details to the clubs on the decision. If the review is found to have merit, the actions will be noted in the match official performance records and when a certain threshold is reached, may lead to the removal of the official from officiating future NPFL matches and clubs would also be penalized for making frivolous complaints where it’s established the official is right.
Another highlight of the meeting was a resolution that forbids players from challenging decisions of match officials in such a manner as to incite fans or create unreasonable tension on the pitch. Any player found in breach of this directive will face sanctions as prescribed in the Framework and Rules of the NPFL. To this end, Coaches are also expected to control their players from unruly behavior towards match officials and as such would also be sanctioned for failure to ensure orderly behavior of their players.
Chairman of the NRA, Azeez expressed appreciation to the NFF President for the meeting and offered assurances that match officials would continue to improve on the already recorded high standards.
Barrister Danladi in his remarks, promised to take the resolutions reached to member clubs assured that these would be adhered to for the remaining games of the season and beyond.
Sanusi, the NFF General Secretary said in his closing remarks that the Secretariat of the football house would work with all stakeholders in the NPFL to ensure all decisions of the meeting are implemented.