Towards ensuring a hitch-free finish to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) 2021/22 season, the League Management Company (LMC) on Friday directed the 20 participating clubs to ensure effective security at match venues, and guarantee the safety of players, match officials, fans, and other stakeholders before, during, and after league fixtures.
The LMC also imposed various sanctions on clubs involved in recent infractions of its statutes. These included the ban of fans from the home matches of Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC), a similar action for two home matches imposed on Remo Stars and one-match ban to home fans of Niger Tornadoes at their adopted home, Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna.
These penalties and other policies were communicated to all the clubs and to the General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and copied to the Match Commissioners Appointment Committee and the Referees Committee.
In the policy direction memo to the clubs, the LMC noted the absolute imperative of ensuring the safety of all persons before, during and after matches.
Signed by its Chief Operating Officer, Salihu Abubakar, the LMC wrote: “We wish to inform the participating clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League of the need to prioritise their obligation to ensure the provision of adequate and effective security at match venues, and to guarantee the safety of players, match officials, fans, and other stakeholders before, during, and after scheduled league fixtures”.
The LMC said it had to take the proactive steps to prevent a repeat of some recent incidents at some match venues which resulted in sanctions imposed on erring clubs, but which caused embarrassment to the league, and brought the game to disrepute.
The clubs have therefore been directed to review and fine-tune their security framework to conform with “the objectives of the LMC and stipulation of the Rule Book”.
It further warned that “future disruptions or incidents bothering on the breakdown of security will lead to appropriate sanctions against the errant officials and clubs involved which may include but not limited to closing of match venues to fans, moving clubs to alternate venues outside their zones, expelling of the erring officials from the NPFL and automatic points deduction”.
In the memo to the NFF General Secretary and two committees of the Federation, the LMC observed that it was crucial to also take proactive measures that would ensure a rancour free conclusion of the season that is in the final stages.
The league body admitted that “it is currently challenged by the quality of some of the match officials appointed recently, some of whom appear to be unlettered and therefore incapable of writing proper reports or superintending over matches which has led to complications at match venues and hinder the ability of the LMC to take necessary and prompt corrective measures and or sanctions”.
It appealed to the chairmen of the appointment committees for referees and match commissioners to partner the LMC in achieving the set objectives by taking extra considerations to ensure the appointment of only seasoned and thorough officials with uncompromising integrity for the remaining fixtures of the season.
In the sanctions to some clubs, the LMC announced that 3SC failed to provide and ensure effective security leading to breakdown of order after their Matchday 31 home fixture against Remo Stars at Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan. The Ibadan club was also found to have failed to provide adequate security for match officials before, during and after the match resulting in the harassment and intimidation of the referee.
3SC were also charged with for failure to contain and control their fans after the match resulting in disturbances including the attacking of a journalist, Tobi Adepoju, which the LMC described as “an act capable of bringing the game to disrepute”. The club were also charged for breach of the peace agreement brokered by the LMC between the two clubs with regards to guaranteeing peace, order and fair play during matches between the two.
3SC were therefore fined a total of N3 million plus a N500,000 compensation to Adepoju for lost valuables and medical bills and Lekan Salami Stadium has been closed to fans for the remaining fixtures of the season, while a further breach would lead to the club being directed to play outside the southwest.
The club also stand “the risk of two points deduction to last for a probational period ending with the season, while the Media Officer, Tosin Omojola and Kits Manager, Mr Majolagbe Kolawale have been expelled from all NPFL related activities for a minimum period of 12 months in the first instance”, the statement further stated.
In another summary jurisdiction exercise, the LMC fined Remo Stars N2 million for breaches of Rule 13.18, B8.21 during their Matchday 30 in Ikenne against Kano Pillars. The league body said it found that some unidentified persons encroached on to the restricted area and harassed match officials in breach of Rule 13.18 and failure to provide adequate security for match officials before, during and after the match resulting in their harassment and intimidation.
Remo Stars were fined N1 million for each of the breaches, stadium closure to fans for their next two home matches and a suspended two-point deduction for a probationary period lasting for the remainder of the season.
The LMC also said it is reviewing the circumstances leading to the abandoning of the Matchday 31 in Kaduna between hosts, Niger Tornadoes and Lobi Stars and ruled that a date would be fixed for the clubs to play the remaining period of the match.
In its communication to the Chairman of Niger Tornadoes, the LMC directed that the club take urgent steps to upgrade Matchday security at the stadium and to play their next home match at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium without admitting fans.
The LMC equally warned the Chairman of Lobi Stars to restrain some of the club officials from further unguarded statements which negates a circular issued to clubs on 24th February 2022 frowning at such statements that are capable of bringing the game to disrepute.
The two clubs and match officials have been invited for an investigative hearing at the LMC office in Abuja next Monday.