After 19 rounds of matches in the Nigeria professional football league, 2017 season, the league goes on a break to give the 20 teams in the league a much-needed rest.
However, it is important to examine the successes and the failures recorded in the first half of the season by the League Management Company. As there were positives in the league so also were the downsides. In the earlier article:, we looked at the positives, however in this article, we will dissect the negatives and later on in concluding part of the article, we will talk about the way out.
■ LOSS OF TV COVERAGE
Just when things were going pretty fine for the NPFL, a major setback occurred when the TV rights owners of the league Supersport, decided to pull out of a three-year deal which was expected to run out in the 2018 season.
The cable TV station which has been the sole broadcaster of the league over the years claimed that the blackout of the NPFL matches on supersport is as a result of “breach of contract” by the LMC.
Until a stable TV right owner is secured, the may not improve as expected as the importance of the TV can not be overstated because video evidence will go a long way in curbing crowd violence and poor officiating while improving fans interest and followership. The popularity of foreign leagues is majorly due to their accessibility on cable TV and should the NPFL be easily available on TV just like the EPL then more followers will be won over.
Imagine what would have happened to Sikiru Olatunbosun’s goal against Rangers, without a TV coverage of the match, your guess is as good as mine; it wouldn’t have been recognised by CNN.
However, reports claim that the LMC is trying re-negotiate with Supersport over a new deal, while others are touting Kwese sports to be the league’s new TV right owners.
■ HOME WINNING SYNDROME
One of the two major reasons why the NPFL lost its fans (the other being security), it’s quite predictable to pick all home teams to win and they all win, just recently in the match day nineteen games, not a single draw was recorded with all home teams winning.
This is what a typical person will point out when you persuade them to watch the NPFL, a league that only the home teams always win irrespective of the pedigree of their opponents.
It’s therefore not a surprise to see Eyinmba lose to Remo stars in Sagamu or see Pillars defeated by Kastina united in Kastina. The contributing factors to this include biased officiating which was actually was aided by LMC albeit unintentionally in 2013 when home teams were told to pay referees indemnity, of course, this led to a case of “he who pays the piper dictates the tune”.
Fatigue on the part of the away teams having to play and travel twice in a week is another reason for the home winning syndrome.
■ POOR OFFICIATING
The league has been plagued with a lot of bad officiating from referees so far this season, the opening match of the season between Kano Pillars and Ifeanyi Ubah was abandoned 50 minutes into the game after the referee, Fulosho Ajayi had disallowed a clear goal scored by Ifeanyi Ubah and later sent off the official to the stands.
That hasn’t been the only controversial officiating so far this season as Remo stars (against Sunshine stars in Akure), Rivers united (against Gombe united) and a host of other teams have had clear goals cancelled by referees.
Also teams like Ifeanyi Ubah, MFM have had late penalties giving to them, albeit some legitimately, more amusing is the fact that these controversial calls have been in favour of the home side, this could be assumed to be a result of bribery and threats against referees by officials of home teams and their fans.
All these controversies trailing the referees has further tainted the image of the NPFL as a rapid growing league and also the reputation of Nigerian referees for international tournaments.
■ CROWD TROUBLE
A terrible occurrence that has continued to plague our dear league, although bad officiating, crowd trouble happens all over the world, but the case of the NPFL is quite disturbing as it happens more frequently and always violent with officials and opposing players getting injured.
In week 18 matchday, Kano pillars lost at home to Akwa united, the result led to bloody attacks on Akwa united players and coaches by pillars fans apart from the 3 points won, Akwa united also took some bruises and injury back to Uyo.
On the same match day, Kastina united defeated Eyinmba by 2-1 after the away team had led for the most part of the game, yet violence erupted as Enyimba players were attacked by Kastina fans after the game, with reports that Enyimba’s Ghanaian goalkeeper Fatau Dauda punched a ball boy to coma.
■ CLUBS FAILURE TO PAY PLAYERS SALARIES
Although this issue has reduced compared to the recent past, some teams still owe their players backlog of salaries.
Players of Sunshine stars had earlier threatened to boycott their matchday 10 match against Rivers united in a bid to get the state government pay their salaries, with the team storming the Ondo state governor’s office in protest of their allowances.
Similarly, league champions, Enugu Rangers had their second leg of the CAF confederations cup qualifiers against Zesco united shifted by 2 hours after players refused to travel in protest of their unpaid allowances.
Until players are paid as at when due, they cannot be expected to give their 100% on the pitch of play, one of the reasons why privatisation of the clubs is needed.
■ INFRASTRUCTURAL DECAY OF STADIA IN THE LEAGUE.
One can count the number of standard stadia in the league with the tip of the fingers, many of the stadia pitches look more or less a public secondary school playground surrounded by open stands.
The few natural grass pitches are poorly maintained while the few good looking pitches are mostly artificial turfs.
Apart from the Godswill Akpabio’s stadium in Uyo, no other stadium can boast of a decent natural turf.
Playing at the Abia township stadium is a nightmare for players, the turf of the stadium can be likened to a Cassava plantation, yet it was approved by the LMC at the start of the season. The UJ Esuene stadium inCalabarr which used to host super eagles matches in the past, looked awful and painful as it were, was shown to the world on Supersport when MFM FC visited Enyimba in one of the league matches. Also recently parts of the stadium collapsed during one of the heavy rains in Calabar.
The LMC need to take actions on some other gory pitches like the Rwan pam stadium Jos, Gateway Intl stadium Sagamu, and most especially the Abia township stadium.
In the concluding part of this article, we will look at the viable solutions to this problem with statistics from the first stanza of the league.
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