By Reliable Reliance Udoenyin

The 2019/2020 NPFL season was scheduled to commence on the 22nd of September, 2019 but we are yet to hear anything tangible, two weeks after the date proposed to the clubs.

However, how do we avoid certain incidents that occurred in the last football season regarding the conduct of fans and club officials?

A history of violence and misdemeanour

Battered referee receiving treatment. Pic:

For instance, Sam Agba, the referee of Match Day One fixture between Plateau United and FC Ifeanyi Ubah at the Jos Township Stadium was severely beaten by angry home fans who felt officiating should have been different from it really was.

The League Management Company (LMC) guided by their rule book found Plateau United guilty necessitating punishments including a three million naira fine, banishment to Ilorin for their next three home games (which was later revoked on appeal) and a suspended three points deduction in case of similar re-occurrence.

It wasn’t, however, up to ten days later, precisely Sunday, January 20 2019, when we witnessed a Similar incident at Remo Stars.

Bethel Nwanesi, the referee of the Match Day 3 fixture between Remo Stars and Bendel Insurance in Sagamu was handed the beating of his career by angry fans of the home side, who claimed the referee wrongly disallowed their team’s “winning” goal in a match that ended 1-1.

Club president of Remo Stars, Kunle Soname also made statements to the media after the game, deemed inciting and got further sanctions from the League.

In the NPFL over the seasons and up till now, there have been many reports of these embarrassing situations.

Coach of Sunshine Stars, Kayode Julius ‘knocking out’ Lobi Stars goal stopper, Ospino Egbe on Thursday, 11 April 2019 before the kick-off of a tie involving both sides was on the news.

The pitch invasion after Kano Pillars won their first-ever Federation Cup trophy on the 28th of July this year was an eyesore. Enough has been said of how such incidence is bringing the league into disrepute hence there’s a need to proffer solutions.

The talks of providing adequate security at match venues have gone on without complementary action, a disappointing deficiency.

Fifty security personnel are expected at match venues before kickoff. Unfortunately, twenty, even ten are barely available in a lot of cases. The few who are present most times concentrate on watching the match, thus neglecting their primary duty.

The responsibility to provide security at match venues should be solely handled by the management of respective football clubs so they could be duly accountable and this should be incorporated into the LMC’s rule book guiding the operation of the league every season.

Football Associations of respective states would then have to be relieved of any burden of security provision on them if any. Such provision would ensure that the rule on security provision incorporated into the LMC books will be appropriately and strictly obeyed such that any defaulting club will be sanctioned.

As funny as it may sound, security personnel assigned this duty should as a matter of necessity be sensitized on how to maintain focus on their assigned duty. Cases of negligence of security personnel at match venues have been reported over time. On the other hand, another vital move could be privatization of Security provision at match centres. This move will be realized if LMC decides to oversee security at all match venues per match week. Revenue paid for security by clubs could be channeled to the LMC for such purpose. Again, this would ensure proper and close monitoring security situations in the league.

There’s every need to sensitize club owners and management, technical crews and coaches, especially fans of these clubs on the rules of the game and the need to show sportsmanship.

This sensitization should be enforced by the League Management Company (LMC) overseen by the NFF to ensure compliance.

The win at all cost syndrome, especially the must-win-at-home thinking should be eliminated from the NPFL. There’s little or no logical explanation to fans/hoodlums penetrating the dugout to threaten officials. The dugout is out of bounds to fans and is expected to be heavily secured. How fans most times bypass security into the dugout in some match centres is a mystery but denting on the reputation of the management of a club.

Measures of punishments have been served to offending clubs recording such disgraceful act such as stadium ban, fines, suspended three points deduction etc, but with the continuous frequency of such incidence sometimes of high severity, apparently the punishments are inefficient.

The rule book guiding the LMC in operating the league each season beckons desperately for a review.

Offending clubs should suffer six to nine points deduction, ten to fifteen (N10m-N15m) million naira fine, minimum of six home matches played at the away sides’ stadiums. These affect the fans (except the fine) who are always at the forefront of this despicable act. Even intolerable acts such as attacking away teams’ buses, throwing object into the pitch should be followed with acute punishment on individual fan and club.

To wrap it up, the privilege to appeal accorded offending clubs should be completely taken off the table. Punishment is meant to be disciplinary and deterrence to forestall future occurrence. When an appeal is allowed, the aim has been defeated.

This, among other reasons, explain the re occurrence of this incidence each season as desperate situations call for desperate measures.

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