Nigeria Professional Football League side, Lobi Stars of Makurdi, have vehemently rejected the cancellation of the 2019/2020 domestic season which had been on suspension since March following the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic that forced sporting and economic activities to be shut down across the world, Completesports.com reports.
Following intrigues and politicking, organisers of the Nigeria top flight, LMC, had been unable to come to a decision as to whether to restart the season as is now the case in some European countries or declare it inconclusive as was the case in 2018 as a result of Force Majeur.
LMC, Club Owners and Nigeria Football Federation, as well as the Federal Ministry of Sports and Youth Development have held several meetings on how best to resolve the knotty issue.
As a tie breaker, LMC adopted the Point Per Game, PPG, option to determine the official position of clubs on the standings.
This was necessitated by the fact that although Plateau United were top on the table before the stoppage of the season after 26 round of matches had been played, with Rivers United second and Lobi Stars third, Rangers, Akwa United and Enyimba were on fourth, fifth and sixth positions respectively.
But with Enyimba having played only 20 matches because of their involvement in CAF Confederation Cup duties up to the quarterfinals stage, the PPG ensured LMC had to adjust the league table with the teams ranking based on their positions from 20 matches each.
The reversed final league table based on the PPG saw Plateau United maintain their top spot, Enyimba moved up to second spot, displacing Rivers United who now dropped down to third, leaving Lobi Stars and Rangers out of continental reckoning for the 2020/2021 CAF inter Clubs showpiece.
With Coronavirus still on the ascendancy in the country, LMC proposed Covid19 tests for all the 20 club players, officials, coaches etc with an estimated N2.5m per club. But the clubs kicked against this, forcing the league organisers to mandate the clubs through their UNION, Club Owners Association, to vote for or against the restart of the season.
The voting was conducted on Sunday, June 21, 2020 with 17 clubs favouring the cancellation of the season.
2016 winners, Rangers, favoured a Super Six playoffs while Lobi Stars and Akwa United abstained from the exercise.
Although LMC is expected to ratify the outcome of the club owners’ decision via the voting, Lobi Stars have voiced their rejection of the exercise and outcome in very and no unclear terms.
In a strong worded statement on Monday, the 1999 and 2018 winners insisted there was no reason for the adoption of PPG to determine the final placement of teams on the table.
They reckoned that PPG had no place in the Rule Books and Framework of the organisers, LMC.
“The NPFL 2019/2020 came to a halt on the 18th March, 2020 as a result of the global natural disaster of COVID-19, a situation that pushed the league into “Force Majeur”, thereby necessitating possible options to bring the league to a fair and amicable end,” the statement signed by Austine Tyowua, Media and Communications Officer of the club read in part .
“Few weeks ago, LMC Chairman, Mallam Shehu Dikko on a Channels TV show disclosed adoption adoption of the PPG mechanism which was unsuccessfully tested in French Lique 1.
“A French court has already declared it illegal after Olympic Lyonnais and other affected clubs took the matter to court for judicial interpretation.
“Lobi Stars have continued to cry wolf since then as the LMC have been working round the clock to pacify other clubs into endorsing the illegal PPG mechanism just to favour one Club.
“The LMC among other means of trying to achieve the illegality have to play on the sensibilities of the four clubs in the drop zone by first cancelling relegation to NNL.
“Incidentally, the chairman of the Club Owners Association is a beneficiary of the ‘no relegation’ arrangement which makes it convenient for LMC to go ahead with the unpopular intention with less pressure as he is conveniently doing the hatchet job for LMC other than standing for the conventional truth.
“Plateau United that is on top of the table had nothing to lose with or without PPG, the other clubs that have nothing to gain or lose with or without PPG could easily compromise for pecuniary gains.
“The shocking revelation was that, Rivers United voted themselves out of CAF Champions League, not minding the huge funding of the Rivers State Government and efforts of the technical department to have been placed as league runners up for a consideration that only him can explain.
“Lobi Stars have been condemning and will continue to condemn the illegality of the PPG aimed at tinkering with the league table to favour Enyimba that was partly responsible for throwing away the CAF Champions League second slot which was later restored by the same Lobi Stars that the LMC conspired to cheat out of the continent.
“The whole idea of the PPG argument is premised on the singular reason that there is inequality in the number of games played by Enyimba who have accumulated five (5) outstanding games for no fault of any of the other 19 NPFL clubs in the name of playing in the continent.
“It’s quite laughable that four (4) of the games are first round games thereby violating the league standard rule that states inter alia, ‘after the first round, there shall be second round. It was expected that first round matches were not to be carried over to second round if there was no bad motive ab initio.
“More so, playing less number of games should not for any reason give any club advantage over the ones that play more games, rather playing less games should constitute a disadvantage.
“Fair play is being sumersaulted as the PPG is giving advantage to Enyimba who are magically being catapulted from 5th position to 2nd position”.
Lobi Stars faulted the idea of knocking out Super Six playoffs before the voting started on the premise that government was not yet ready to have sports back in view of the present Covid-19 Pandemic.
“The first and natural option which would have been to freeze the league table as it is, and send the three top ranking teams, Plateau United, Rivers United and Lobi Stars respectively to the continent was completely omitted.
“The leadership of the club owners left the forum with no option to chose from as the PPG mechanism was the only option left to vote for or against, an arrangement that is premeditated to perpetuate the illegality of the PPG.
“This charade has brazenly exposed us as what seemed ‘non negotiable’ has been twisted in broad day light because of an attempt to place an anointed club on the continental representation list.
“The LMC through the Federation has the prerogative to send any club to the continent without any form of competition. The LMC would have gone ahead to exercise such discretionary powers without really trying to seek legitimacy of an illegal doctrine in a disgraceful and laughable manner.
“How can one explain a situation where 18 out of the 20 NPFL clubs, wholly owned and funded by State Governments with decision making boards and a decision as crucial as voting on ending the league will be communicated to club chairmen same day on a non working day and the voting process was still expected to take place same day as if the chairmen are not accountable to other authorities.
“Another pointer that laid validity to the strong suspicion of premeditation of the entire process.
“We hereby call on the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, to disregard the charade displayed by the club owners in an attempt to perpetrate the PPG illegality, look at the merit of the matter and make sure that a fair and conventional option is arrived at”, Lobi Stars demanded, saying, ‘No to PPG and table adjustment, claiming that PPG has never been an option in case of Force Majour and can not start now’.
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By Sab Osuji