NFF Sides With Enyimba, Rejects Rivers United Petition Over Final 2019-20 NPFL Table

Enyimba’s position as the second best team in the curtailed 2019-20 NPFL season has been upheld after the Nigeria Football Federation dismissed Rivers United’s opposition and ratified the final league standings presented by the League Management Company.

The decision means Enyimba will play in the CAF Champions League next season.

The LMC had decided the final league table using the Points Per Game (PPG) and the Weighted Points Per Game (WPPG) methodologies after the season was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic with most teams having 13 games left.

Plateau United (49 points), Rivers United (45 points) and Lobi Stars (43 points) made up the top three before play was suspended while Enyimba who had played only 20 games were fifth on 36 points.

Using the PPG which calculates a team’s final points by dividing the number of points accrued by the number of games played, Plateau United emerged first on 1.96 points while Enyimba and Rivers United were tied on 1.80 points apiece.

The LMC employed the head-to-head criteria as a tie-breaker which put Enyimba in second place 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, petitioning the LMC and threatening to take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sports.

Rivers United insisted on a goals per game tie-breaker that would have seen them finish in second place.

Their protests have, however, been dismissed in a unanimous decision by the football committee of the NFF following a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

An NFF statement sided with the LMC, noting that the processes leading to the adoption of the final table followed due process and was backed by a majority of NPFL clubs.

In dismissing Rivers United’s objections, the NFF pointed out that all 20 clubs were notified and indeed, participated in the decision to settle for the PPG criterion for determining the final league standings and head-to-head as a tie-breaker.

The committee noted that a majority of the clubs voted (18-2) to approve the final standings.

It was pointed out that Rivers United raised no objections at the time and that the final standings were the basis for the proposed ‘Super Six’ tournament which was one of the options initially considered as a way of determining the Champions and continental representatives.

Rivers United, the committee noted, “belatedly made a complaint on the PPG table standings only after the final decision to end the league was taken and weeks after the league standings were established”.

The committee said the decision to end the league was as a result of the ‘exceptional’ situation occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic which caused a ‘force majeure’ situation.

It noted that the LMC ”duly adhered to and relied on the relevant provisions of the NPFL Rule Book in coming to a decision. Specifically, the ‘Force Majeure’ provisions and “Matters Not Provided for” under NPFL Rule Book Articles 15.24 and 15.2 which provided the LMC with “the authority and rights.. to take the necessary decisions under the prevailing circumstances (Force Majeure occasioned by the Covid-19 Pandemic), having regard to interest of fairness, good sportsmanship and overall interest of the game”.

Consequently, the committee dismissed Rivers United’s petition saying the premise of the complaint which relied on “clause 3 of the NPFL Rule Book (The Competition) does not apply under the circumstances (Force Majeure) as the clause is only relevant if the NPFL full season had been completed and/or the clubs have all played equal number of games (in which case the application of the PPG would be irrelevant)”.

The committee also pointed out that the head-to-head tie breaker was also used to decide the “hierarchy between MFM and Wikki Tourists as well as between Jigawa and Nasarawa United”.

Subsequently, the meeting resolved that the LMC followed due process in arriving at the final standings and as such, the NFF had no powers to overturn their decision.

It was unanimously recommended that the final standings of the 2019-20 NPFL season be endorsed by the Executive Committee of the NFF.

The committee, however, recommended that the LMC fashion the calendars for future seasons in a manner that reduces outstanding games for clubs involved in continental competitions.