LMC Strikes Back

By Segun Agbede.

Segun Agbede

Segun Agbede

As a witness to the events that took place in Uyo Township Stadium on Wednesday June 5, I would like to state my categorical 100 per cent backing for the League Management Committee’s decision to award three points and three goals to the away side in the week 17 NPFL fixture between Akwa United and Warri Wolves. The match which was going out live to the whole of Africa on SuperSport was abandoned at half-time amid disgraceful scenes brought about by an assault on the referee by thugs and touts masquerading as fans.

In acting so promptly and decisively, the Nduka Irabor-led LMC has struck a blow for both common sense and sanity in the Nigeria Professional Football League as well its eventual sanitisation. I thank the LMC for having the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing by taking a hard line stance on this issue. Must there be a loss of life before people realise that there is absolutely no place for violence in football? After all said and done, football is just a game, a form of entertainment. It is not a matter of life and death no matter what the great Bill Shankly so famously quipped.

I support in its entirety, the decision of the LMC to ban Akwa United from playing their home games in Uyo for the rest of the season and their subsequent banishment to the Rojenny Stadium in Oba, Anambra State. This is a bold and unequivocal statement by the LMC. It sends out a stern warning that global standards must be met and upheld in the NPFL or else. Furthermore, football clubs must be held accountable for their fans’ behaviour. Fines are simply not enough to deal with serial infraction of the rules. By the time clubs risk having points deducted and face the risk of relegation, maybe more civil behaviour can be exercised in our stadiums.

What possessed the so-called fans to assault FIFA badged referee, Henry Ogunyanmodi, in the sanctity of his dressing room still baffles me.The home side were leading by 2 goals to nil at half time and totally in control of the match. Warri Wolves were a veritable shambles. A shadow of the side that beat Bayelsa United the previous weekend at the Warri City Stadium. I was particularly peeved at the abandonment of the game as I was there to cover the match with SuperSport. In my pre-match analysis, I had predicted a home win. In spite of Akwa United’s 0-2 loss, away to Nembe City in their week 16 match, they are very strong at home, only dropping points to ABS FC all season.

I still cannot fathom what would have motivated the miscreants to attack the referee. If anything it should have been the Warri Wolves contingent upset, as Akwa United’s first goal scored by Ubong Ekpai was a clear handball.

The harassment and intimidation of referees and their assistants by club officials and their fans must stop now.

Mention must be made of the inadequate security at the Uyo Township Stadium. There were armed police in the stadium but they were stationed near the main gate, far removed from the dressing room area where the assault on Ogunyanmodi took place. The only police presence in the vicinity of the referee was just a few unarmed female police officers who could do nothing to prevent the attack.

Akwa United are not the only guilty party in the league. All NPFL clubs face some measure of inconvenience, deliberate or otherwise, in their travels but the clear and unambiguous message the LMC has sent out is any club that transgresses henceforth, will be severely dealt with.

I must also commend the Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, for taking a stand against match fixing. A league where the result is preordained is no league as there is the absence of fair and genuine competition. In a league where teams are ready to do anything to win their home fixtures, this must be looked at very closely. The win at all costs syndrome must be stamped out.

Abdullahi has also suggested a minimum wage of N250,000 for NPFL players. This is a laudable suggestion as I have often wondered what happens to the so-called NPFL sponsorship money. It definitely doesn’t trickle down to the players that I watch week in, week out in the league.

These are some of the factors that vitiate fans interest in our domestic game. If the result of a game is known before a ball is kicked, there is absolutely no point going to the stadium. There is also no point in going to watch talented but poorly motivated players, the entertainment levels will be very low.

I take no pleasure in highlighting the ailments that currently blight the NPFL but the truth must be told. That is the only way that our league will ever get better.

Credits: Written by Segun Agbede, The Pundit ([email protected]; Twitter: @SegunThePundit). Originally published in Saturday Punch of June 15, 2013.