Unravelling the NFF, NPFL, NNL Crisis

This NFF, NPFL, NNL imbroglio has reached a towering height. As a result, sports writer Tolu Olorunmoteni attempted to make sense of it with this writing that summarises the chain of events since the chaos began.

Q: What exactly is going on between the NNL, NPFL and the NFF?

A: It’s a funny situation, really. The NPFL didn’t conclude the regular 2017/18 season due to a number of issues pertaining to the leadership of the NFF. The tussle for who should be the President and the admissible board of the NFF meant that the NFF battled court cases since this board assumed office in 2014, but it only got out of hand immediately Nigeria was eliminated from the World Cup last summer.

When the aggrieved faction finally got a court order to take office, they dismembered the LMC – the ‘independent’ body in charge of the running of the league headed by Mallam Shehu Dikko, the 2nd Vice President of the NFF.

It took a while for the NFF to regain control from the aggrieved faction. In order to meet up with a set CAF deadline for international competitions,the NPFL – which had been on hold for three months – decided the only way to meet up was to end the season midway, declare the league leader at the point as winner and then focus on the AITEO Cup so that a representative for CAFConfederations Cup can emerge.

Q: What a story filled with a lot of crossed lines. You still haven’t mentioned how the NNL got into this.

A: It’s a continuum. Following the decision of the NPFL to end the league abruptly and award a winner, they equally decided that no team will be relegated and four teams will be promoted from the NNL to the NPFL.

Q: How can the NPFL make such a decision?

A: They didn’t act on their own, all 20 club chairmen in the NPFL met at an extraordinary meeting where 16 voted in favour of ending the league abruptly and relegating no team.

Q: And what happens to teams in the NNL, no one will be promoted?

A: The LMC and the NPFL didn’t take that away, four teams will still be promoted to the NPFL from the NNL as is the custom. The difference this time is that the NPFL will adopt an abridged format next season to ease the financial burden of overseeing a 24-team league season.

Q: The thought of a 24-team league season is weird. Is this even constitutionally acceptable?

A: The NPFL by-laws only need to be rewritten to accommodate this short-term change. Besides, this will only last a season and by the following season, everything will be back to normal.

Q: Since the NNL regular season is over, why is this new plan not in motion yet?

A: That’s where the trouble is. The NNL is insisting on cancelling the scheduled “Super 8”, a playoff between the top eight teams that should determine the four teams to be promoted. Rather than promote four teams, the NNL insists on promoting eight. Bizarre, right?

Q: Bizarre! How does this benefit anyone?

A: For one, teams are saved a lot of money for logistics but this decision will only make matters worse. Accepting it will be a continuum of a viral choice that could halt football in the country.

Q: Perhaps. One poor decision set this whole chaos in motion?

A: It is. The NPFL had other options. They could have chosen to forfeit a season of continental action, complete the league and avoid this trouble altogether. But in their quest to not deny two teams the chance of playing on the continent and making a lot of money, they chose what seemed an easy way out which has now backfired.

Q: In all of these, I don’t see how the NNL is losing

A: The relegation of four traditional teams from the NPFL to the NNL is always a bonus for the lower league. They get more mileage and interest in the league, if properly harnessed can result in commercial viability. That’s the key point the NNL board have hung on to.

Q: In that case, how does promoting eight teams justify this?

A: That’s where they have shot themselves in the foot. It’s a lot easier to defend their stance if they are not insisting on promoting eight teams.

Right now, all that argument is a bunch of balderdash and holding the league to ransom is even worse.

Q: How so?

A: By refusing to play the “Super 8” the NPFLcannot proceed as planned. The new season was scheduled to start in the opening weekend of December, this is Christmas and the NNL are yet to decide who goes and who stays.

Q: Can’t the NFF intervene?

A: The NFF may not want to impose a decision on teams who have refused to play. Besides, having battled court cases for four years, the last thing they want is to go back to court barely three months after being reelected.

Q: What then is the way forward?

A: At the moment, three teams are in Aba for the playoffs scheduled for this week, five others have refused to show up citing all manner of inadmissible excuses while some others have outrightly snubbed the playoffs altogether.

The noncompliance of the other five teams – 3SC, Bendel Insurance, Remo Stars, Kada FC and Kogi United – may be the perfect excuse for the NFF to wield their legal powers. However, both parties will rather solve this amicably than resolve to tough measures.