Covid-19: NPFL Clubs Vote To End 2019/2020 Season

A majority of club chairmen have voted to end the 2019-20 Nigeria Professional Football League season which has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, with the final standings to be decided on a Points Per Game (PPG) basis.

According to a statement by the Club Owners Association of Nigeria which was signed by the executive assistant to the chairman, Alloy Chukwuemeka, it was decided that the top three clubs will represent the country in CAF inter club competitions for the 2020-21 season.

No mention was made about declaring Plateau United who lead the standings NPFL champions but the statement made clear that no teams will be relegated or promoted to the top tier next season.

According to the statement, 17 clubs voted in favour of curtailing the league while Akwa United and Lobi Stars abstained and Enugu Rangers elected to continue with plans to stage a ‘Super Six” tournament to decide the title and continental places.

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.

Using the PPG metric, however, Enyimba who are currently fifth with 36 points from 20 games will move up to second on the log.

The top three becomes Plateau United (1.96 points), Enyimba (1.80 points) and Rivers United (1.80 points) in this scenario.

The PPG criteria for determining the final league standings were adopted because certain teams like Enyimba had several outstanding games at the point when play was suspended.

PPG is calculated by dividing a team’s total number of points by the number of the total number of games played by the team.

By this measure, Plateau United and Enyimba will qualify for the Champions League while Rivers United will compete in the Confederation Cup.

Nigeria’s other representative in the Confederation Cup is likely to be Niger Tornadoes who participated in the competition last season after finishing runners up to Kano Pillars (who had already qualified for the Champions League) in the Aiteo Cup.

The vote which was held on Sunday comes amid uncertainty about how to conclude the current campaign which has been in abeyance since 18 March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The League Management Company had in consultation with the clubs, the Nigeria Football Federation and the Sports Ministry, proposed four different scenarios for concluding the season.

The options included curtailing the league if it proved impossible to continue; resuming the campaign when feasible with all twenty clubs; or deciding the title and continental places in a tournament for the top six clubs with the participating clubs to be determined using the points per game or weighted points per game criteria.

The consensus among stakeholders prior to Sunday’s vote was that the campaign should be decided on the pitch rather than ended prematurely with LMC chairman Shehu Dikko touting the “Super Six” tournament option as the “most feasible”.

However, recent comments by the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 Boss Mustapha has cast serious doubt about the possibility of hosting any sort of competitive game anytime soon.

Mr Mustapha had said the Federal Government had no plans in the short to medium term to allow the staging of sporting activities.

With that reality, it appears the club chairmen have decided to prioritise next season by voting to end this one early.

The development if carried through would be the second time in three years an NPFL campaign would be abandoned mid-season after the 2018 season was also curtailed with 14 games left to play.

Nigeria joins Rwanda, Ghana, Uganda, Mauritius and Kenya as some other African countries to have called off their leagues because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In any event, the decision brings clarity to what has become an interminable problem for the LMC and clubs can now focus on planning for next season although no date has been proposed for the kickoff of the 2020-21 season.