There are growing indications that a “Super 6” mini-tournament will be the vehicle of choice in resolving the 2019-20 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season.
Discussions between the League Management Company and all 20 NPFL clubs have been ongoing for weeks about restarting the competition which has been in abeyance since 18 March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
All parties agree that the current campaign should be decided on based on “sporting merits and sporting fairness” with no appetite to see a repeat of the 2018 season where the league was curtailed with 14 games remaining.
The format the competition will assume once the government gives the green light for the resumption of sporting activities is however in contention with several options under consideration.
There is, however, a growing acceptance that a competition featuring the top six teams competing for the title in a neutral venue will be the “most feasible option” for concluding the season according to LMC chairman Shehu Dikko.
Dikko, speaking on Channels Television on Monday, said of the four options to conclude the season being considered, a play-off of the top six teams to decide the champions and continental representatives appears the most likely format to be adopted.
“Option three is the fact that based on the situation, based on the time available, based on the realities on ground, we just end the league as it is today, and then adjust the table using the points per game system,” he said.
“Then have it so that we can adjust the teams that have outstanding games, and bring all the teams at par, and then we can do a playoff of maybe the super six, to determine the champion and the people that will go to the continent, because the playoff would now be in one venue, and it would be six teams and that could be easily controlled, the health of the players can be easily controlled, and it’s a one venue event, a ten days event, so that we can decide the winners and the CAF competition representatives.”
Plateau United, Rivers United, Lobi Stars, Rangers, Enyimba and Akwa United made up the top six before play was halted.
But using points-per-game criteria, seventh-placed Kano Pillars who have 34 points from 24 games (1.41 ppg) will replace Akwa United who have 35 points having played a game more (1.4 ppg).
Other options being considered according to the LMC chairman include the “longshots” of abandoning the season or resuming the competition with all 20 teams in a particular region.
A third option will be to end the season as things stand currently and determine the final positions using points-per-game.
Dikko dismissed the first two options as “longshots” and while he admitted that the third option could happen, he said a mini-tournament remains the most likely format for resuming the season.
“So basically I think that the most feasible option is option three at the moment, that will see us going for the playoffs at least to have a fair chance of giving the top teams the chance to compete for the title and then also for the CAF competitions. So I think for now, that is what I think should be on the agenda most likely, but all the four options are on the table.
“We’ll have a conversation with the NFF and then we’ll present it to the government, and a collective decision will be taken, basically by the direction of the government. At the end of the day, it is what the government feel they can support, what the government feel can be achievable, what everybody feels the health of the players and the health of the officials and everybody involved can be guaranteed, that will go forward. But I think at the moment, based on the timing, based on the issues, I think the playoff option is the most feasible, based on the circumstances.”