I cannot imagine the English Premiership title being decided via a boardroom decision, but that was what happened last week after the Nigeria Premier League, NPL decided to expel Ocean Boys Football Club of Yenagoa from the league for violating one of the rules of the competition.
Victor Ramson Baribote has proved by the way he ran the NPL that he was not the messiah he said he was after he led the coup that ousted former chairman, Davidson Owumi. The so-called chairmen of clubs who supported Baribote will now be biting their fingers for the shoddy way the league was run during the just concluded 2011/2012 season.
When Owumi mounted the saddle as NPL chairman, he rolled out a programme that would have taken the league to new heights. One item on his programme was the securing of a title sponsorship from which the clubs would have benefited.
Those who had grudges against Owumi for supporting their ouster from the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF ganged up to plot his removal on a flimsy excuse that he was not qualified to run for the election. That was after he was duly cleared to contest.
Their favoured candidate, Baribote took over and the first thing he did was to scuttle the sponsorship deal Owumi had secured for the league. So again, clubs had to play with nothing to aim for, except to qualify for continental ticket because he couldn’t secure another sponsor for the league.
Clubs were even begged to bear the burden of paying the indemnities of match officials, without the assurance that they will get reimbursement when the league body’s finances improved. With this arrangement, no one could rule out the possibility of the paying clubs not influencing the results of their home games.
Rangers Football Club of Enugu, Sunshine Stars of Akure, Lobi Stars of Makurdi and Kano Pillars were in the race for the league title and Rangers in particular had the luck of beating Ocean Boys, who were managing to survive in the league over poor management and funding, home and away.The action of the NPL to deduct the six points Rangers had garnered beating troubled Ocean Boys, caused the Enugu side to lose the title they deserved.
If Ocean Boys defaulted by missing two consecutive matches and got automatically relegated, the aspect of deducting points from clubs which beat them is too extreme to say the least.
If 20 clubs started the league, the same number should have ended it. What the NPL should have done was to walk-over Ocean Boys in the remaining matches yet to be played and fine them accordingly in addition to being relegated.
In football, we are told by FIFA that even if a referee commits an error of awarding a dubious penalty for a team to win, the result of the match stays whether the referee gets suspended or banned for his action. So why deduct points a team had already won on the pitch. What happens to the resources they put into the match to earn the result? Will they get compensated?
It is unfair to deny Rangers the title they fought hard for through dubious boardroom politics of the NPL. They should not be pacified with the so-called second ticket to play in the 2012/2013 CAF Champions League for placing second.
Already, Ocean Boys are crying foul and threatening to sue the NPL claiming they couldn’t honour some of their matches because the NPL forced them to spend money on referees’ indemnities. A loop hole created by Baribote and his men on the NPL Board, you would say.
The same Baribote Board that could not account for millions of Naira which disappeared from the NPL coffers, had to make clubs foot bills of referees and turn around to punish clubs which could not honour matches owing to lack of funds.
If the Nigerian league wants to rank among the best in the world, the likes of Baribote should make way for resourceful administrators to manage the league professionally so that true champions will emerge to fly Nigeria’s flag in the continent.