Saving Nigeria Premier League

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It has become increasingly worrisome that the 2010/2011 Nigeria Premier League season, originally scheduled to run from October 2, 2010 to August 2011 has been suspended without any idea as to when it would continue, or when it would be concluded.

Before its commencement on November 6, last year, the season’s kick-off had suffered several postponements that literally threw most clubsides off balance.

Now, the season, long expected to have ended, is on suspension, owing to the Federation Cup competition, otherwise called the National Challenge Cup, and the involvement of some clubsides in the   Confederation of African Football (CAF) competitions.

Even the Federation Cup competition, which has reached the final match stage cannot be decided because Enyimba International FC, one of the finalists is involved in the crucial stages of CAF Champions League.

At the moment, officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), organizers of the Federation Cup and officers of the Nigeria Premier League Board, (NPL), in charge of the Premier League are at a loss over when the respective competitions would be concluded.

The Tide is concerned because of the negative impact the unending season is having on the image of the Nigeria Premier League. Impression being given is that Nigeria football managers cannot handle the simple task of organizing competitions, drawing out a schedule/fixtures and sticking to them.

A lot of efforts had been put into making the Nigeria Premier League season run alongside the English Premiership module, which Nigeria is trying to copy. Now, all that has been gained in previous years are at risk of being thrown away.

We are particularly worried, because football is a big business that must be founded on sound management and organization.

It is only when it is efficiently run and effectively sustained that it could attract the corporate attention and sponsorship the brand requires to survive.

We, therefore, urge the officials at the NFF and NPL to wake up and put the game on the right pedestal it deserves in the country. This is because  club sponsors, players and the Premier League brand, are being negatively affected by the current situation.

Sadly, managers of the game though aware of the damage being done, appear helpless on how to deal decisively with the development.

One of the top officials of NPL, Mr. Arthur Kwame reportedly said, “we are not ignorant of what is happening. We know exactly how the clubs are feeling about the long season…, we thought we would be able to manage the crisis and finish in time. Unfortunately, we have been battling with so many challenges and it has not been easy to run the season according to plan.”

“In addition, as we have not been able to harmonise our programmes with those of the NFF, some of their programmes like the Federation Cup, have continued to shift our matches.”

These explanations are certainly not good enough, and the NFF and NPL do not have to look far in search of how to go about their businesses efficiently.

The FA in England and the English Premier League are involved in, at least, five grade A competitions, the Premier League, FA Cup, Carling Cup, UEFA Champions League and Europa Cup.

Their programmes are so organised that no competition disrupts the other. The 2011/2012 Premier League season commenced as scheduled on August 12, 2011 and will certainly end by its May 2012 date with other domestic competitions, FA Cup and Carling Cup concluding likewise.

No club’s involvement in a different competition is an excuse to affect their commitment to another. Arsenal FC, which was recently defeated 8-2 by Manchester United had to honour the league fixtures at Old Trafford barely three days after their UEFA Champions League qualifier campaign.

Consequently, we call on the NFF and NPL to muster the will and professionalism needed to be firm in executing their programmes. Competitions’ rules and timetables must be adhered to without tendency for sentiments.

Moreso, it is time for the league, currently without a core sponsor to have one, and the leadership crisis rocking the NPL, especially, the legal and election battles over the position of the NPL chairman to be settled once and for all.

Indeed, the league boasts of talents and improved facilities but same cannot be said about its organization.

Football managers in Nigeria must ensure that the Premier League is effectively managed and turned into the lucrative brand it ought to be.

Enough of the so much motion without movement in the NPL.