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Nigerian Football

Dangers, even before NPFL kicks off

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

It is a week to the kick-off of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL). But there are danger signals.

The NPFL board has ruled that there will be a jackpot of a minimum N100m for the winner.

There will be no take-off grant  as it happened last season. The 2022/23 league season is easily adjudged as the best, even by the relegated clubs.

Great thanks to Gbenga Elegbeleye and his team in the now dissolved Interim Management Committee (IMC). They gave the Nigerian lead football league, a renewed hope.

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Elegbeleye is back, even in greater capacity. The new season should build on the success of the last one.

Every club should have a cut of the pie. That has been the essence of expanding even flagship competitions such as the FIFA World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations.

It is to ensure that the pot of money is spread, even to lower teams who would not have qualified if the prevailing size of teams were to be maintained.

In the case of the Nigerian domestic football league, the principle of proportional sharing should be activated.

By their callings, the 20 clubs in the NPFL are professionals.

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Professionalism implies making money and having good returns. What then is the business sense in embarking on a  tortuous venture that is capital and energy intensive but leaves one with ratio 1: 20 of success?

The reasoning behind a N100m jackpot is to give the league a colouration of affluence. It is mainly to prop up the sponsors – real or imagined.

It will therefore  not do the league any good. In the NPFL, teams go for three stakes – becoming the champion, falling within the top three bracket to pick continental ticket and lastly, escaping relegation.

This is where the inbuilt damage mechanism lies. ‘Trading’ steps in. Teams struggling for title and top three positions may begin to reach out to middle placed clubs who are without any realistic chance of getting anything.

Since their positions are secured in the league, they may begin to seek avenues of augmenting their expenses.

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This is where  the dangers in ‘match buying and selling’ come in.

The same applies to the teams swimming in the murky waters of relegation. There is the tendency for them to ‘reach’ out to the clubs in safety zone for assistance.

Apart from the possible financial corruption already enunciated, fans may go violent to ‘safeguard’ the interest of their clubs.

It will therefore serve the NPFL well, if prize money is shared proportionally among the 20 competing teams.

The English Premier League is a model to glean from. All 20 clubs  bank at least nine-figures for fulfilling their fixtures as richest league in the world returns with £2.2m on offer for every position.

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Let the NPFL therefore have a rethink on the issue of prize money. If other sources of money roll in, as being envisaged, it is better for such to be channelled to the other 19 clubs instead of giving all to the eventual champion.

Lack or shortage of money may sniff out life from some of these clubs if a general principle of getting proportionally from the prize money pie is not applied.

Let’s recall the sad incidents of the 1987 season when suddenly, many privately owned and corporately run football clubs scrapped owing to ‘harvest’  of debts that the prevailing system offered.

Nigerian football has not recovered from that as most clubs in the country are state-run.

The NPFL should look into the issue of prize money for the clubs as it is done in the English Premier League and most other viable leagues of the world.

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Estimated 2022/23 Premier League prize money

1 Manchester City £170m
2 Arsenal £167.8m
3  Manchester Unite £165.5m
4 Newcastle United £163.4m
5 Liverpool £161.2m
6 Brighton £159m
7 Aston Villa £156.8m
8 Tottenham Hotspur £154.6m
9 Brentford £152.4m
10 Fulham £150.2m
11 Crystal Palace £148m
12 Chelsea £145.8m
13 Wolves £143.6m
14 West Ham £141.4m
15 Bournemouth £139.2m
16  Nottingham Forest £137m
17  Everton £134.8m
18 Leicester £132.6m
19 Leeds £130.4m
20 Southampton £128.2m

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

Nigerian Football

Relief for continental ticket-seeking Enyimba

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Enyimba FC who are desperately seeking a return to the continental fixtures next season have been relieved of a little financial burden by the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation.

 The initial N10 million fine imposed on the team has been reduced almost by half.

 In the ill-tempered match with Enugu Rangers three weeks ago, the Nigeria Premier League fine Enyimba N5 million as part of the disciplinary measures taken, claiming that Enyimba disrupted the live telecast of the match.

The NFF committee disagrees with the decision and therefore set aside the fine imposed.

Enyimba will this Sunday host Plateau United in a potentially volatile match as both teams have varying chances of picking continental ticket to feature in either the CAF Champions League or the Confederation Cup.

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Nigerian Football

All eyes on Aba, Ibadan and Ikenne as battle for continental tickets goes down to the wire!

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A stroll in the park to be followed by victory parade are the anticipated spectacles in Jos when Enugu Rangers face ‘home’ sides, Gombe United this Sunday.

But elsewhere, it could be ‘thunder and blood’ battle as four eligibles fight for two obtainable continental tickets in three venues of Ikenne, Ibadan and Aba.

Remo Stars, Shooting Stars, Enyimba and Plateau United are aspirants jostling for continental tickets.

On the other side of the struggle is also the battle to evade relegation. Coincidentally, Ibadan  provides the venue for both dreams where the hosts, Shooting Stars, will be hoping to pick a ticket to any of the two CAF inter-clubs competitions while the debuting Premier League sides, Sporting Lagos are expected to play the game of their life.

Coincidentally, Shooting Stars were expected to give the Lagos sides the succour last weekend when they faced Bayelsa United.

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 Had Shooting Stars won the match, Sporting Lagos which upstaged Enyimba 2-1, would have been in comfort zone, making Sunday’s duel at the Lekan Salami a ‘merry-making’ venture for both sides.

But a twist of fortunes which saw Bayelsa fighting back to a 2-1 win means Shooting Stars will have to spare no weapon on Sunday to beat Sporting Lagos.

The visitors on the other hand have a mountain to climb to avoid the looming drop.

 Ikenne provides another battle ground, though with lesser gravity than what is expected in Ibadan and Aba. A win of any margin secures CAF Champions League ticket for Remo Stars as they host Katsina United who stay without threat in the middle of the league log.

But the battle will be fiercer in Aba where both hosts, Enyimba and visiting Plateau United have arithmetical and conjectural chances of making the top three and obtaining a continental ticket.

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While the battle at the top of the log is for two teams to join Enugu Rangers in getting continental ticket, so also it is at the bottom as both Gombe United and Heartland await the two others that will escort them to the lower league.

 Battling to avoid the drop are Sporting Lagos, Doma United, Akwa United and Bayelsa.

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Nigerian Football

Coronation day for champion-elect, Enugu Rangers

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Enugu Rangers can afford to lose 56-0 this Sunday to Gombe United and erase the record negative goal difference of the already relegated side. Such a scoreline will not change the destiny of both sides as Rangers will merely enter the pitch to fulfill the fixtures for formality sake. They will be more interested in the post match event – their coronation as the new king of Nigerian league.

 A win will only add icing to the celebration cake, taking their points to 70, just three short of 73 obtained by the defunct Dolphins in the 2010/2011 season.

 But it is taking nothing away from Enugu Rangers who will be presented with the league trophy this Sunday by the NFF president, Ibrahim Musa Gusau.

The NFF chieftain headlines a choice list of eminent guests expected at the occasion, which will see the champions, who will be crowned for the eighth time since a national football league was introduced in 1972.

Their success this season was confirmed last weekend when they beat Bendel Insurance 2-0 at home while their three rivals – Remo Stars, Shooting Stars and Enyimba lost their respective away games with identical scorelines of 2-1.

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