The uncertainty around the final league standings for the 2019/20 Nigeria Professional Football League has been cleared after the League Management Company released a definitive league log on Friday.
The table released by the league organisers shows Plateau United, Enyimba and Rivers United as the first three teams with the LMC using the Points Per Game (PPG) and Weighted Points Per Game (WPPG) methodology for deciding the final placements for all 20 teams.
Consequently, Plateau United and Enyimba will represent Nigeria in the CAF Champions League while Rivers United join Kano Pillars in the Confederation Cup.
Pillars were put forward as Nigeria representatives in CAF’s second-tier competition by virtue of winning last season’s AITEO Cup.
The NPFL has been in abeyance since 18 March after all sporting activities in Nigeria was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A decision was taken by seventeen club owners to end the season prematurely with no relegation or promotion following prolonged nation-wide lockdown and after the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 ruled out allowing a return of sports in the medium to long term in June.
After assessing various options for determining the final league table, the clubs, the Nigeria Football Federation and the LMC settled for the PPG criterion to make up for clubs who still had outstanding matches at the time of ending the league.
Plateau United (49 points), Rivers United (45 points) and Lobi Stars (43 points) made up the top three before play was suspended with most teams having 13 games to play. Enyimba, meanwhile, were fifth on 36 points and had played only 20 games when play was suspended.
PPG calculates a teams final points by dividing the number of points accrued by the number of games played and in the event of a tie, the LMC employed a Head to Head tiebreaker to separate the teams.
Using this method, Plateau United emerged first on 1.96 points while Enyimba and Rivers United were tied on 1.80 points apiece.
The H2H criteria, however, put Enyimba above Rivers United – but with only one leg of the encounter played before the league was called off – a victory for Enyimba at home in Aba, Rivers United rejected the decision, threatening to take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sports.
A lengthy standoff ensued as a compromise was sought but with the window for submitting Nigeria’s representatives in CAF inter-club competitions nearing a close and the start of next season in serious jeopardy owing to the impasse, the LMC intervened by introducing another criterion: the WPPG.
The WPPG factors a team’s home and away results in arriving at a final points tally.
This process involves dividing the points tally accrued at home by the number of games played at home and multiplying the result by 19 and then repeating the iteration for away points and games. The sum of both averages is the team’s WPPG. The LMC again used H2H as a tiebreaker in the event that two teams are tied on the same points.
Plateau United still come out on top with 73.32 points using this process but crucially, Enyimba on 68.49 points edge Rivers United who accrued 68.23 points by a factor of 0.26 thereby forestalling the need for H2H as a tiebreaker.
It isn’t clear if the final decision received the support of Rivers United but with the LMC being the regulating body and majority of the clubs having long accepted the structure of the final standings, it appears they had little option than to go along with the decision.
The revelation of the final league table draws the curtain on the 2019/20 season and brings an embarrassing, sordid and unedifying state of affairs that brought ridicule to the LMC and the NPFL to a long-awaited end.
With the country’s continental representatives sorted, the clubs and the LMC can now focus on preparations and modalities for next season.
No date has been announced for the kickoff of the 2020/21 season but the NFF put September/October as a tentative start date for all domestic leagues subject to government approval.
The Federal Government recently approved the resumption of non-contact sports and it appears a matter of time before professional football is allowed to resume once more.