Rivers State Govt. Rejects NFF Committee’s Report On 2019/20 NPFL Final Table, Heads To CAS

August 27, 2020
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Rivers State Government, owners of Rivers United Football Club has rejected the outcome of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Committee’s report that endorsed the decision of League Management Company (LMC) to place Enyimba ahead of the club in the final standing of Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) table.

This is just as the government queried the recent trip of NFF’s president, Amaju Pinnick to Abia State last week Friday, only for the Football Committee to submit its position on Monday.

Rivers Commissioner for Sports, Boma Iyaye stated while receiving the newly elected executives of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Rivers chapter on a courtesy visit at his office in Port Harcourt.

Iyaye listed eight grounds of objections to the report of the NFF’s Football Committee, pointing out that “in the circumstances, we are constrained to express our deep reservations about certain half-truths, deliberate distortion of facts and obvious misinformation.”

On the Committee’s claim that the clubs were duly carried along and voted twice in the final decision to end the league and use the PPG system, he stated that “The truth is that Rivers United Football Club never objected to the PPG, and continues to support the PPG system as agreed by the majority of the Clubs. Our position has always been that, rather than use an inconclusive head-to-head to separate two teams tied on points, the rules guiding the operations of the NPFL states that ‘goal difference’ shall be the first option to be used in separating teams that are tied on the same points, followed by ‘higher goals scored’ and lastly, head-to-head. We are only against the selective application of the Rules.”

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The sports commissioner argued that Rivers United has a genuine case based on facts but were only being denied their rights owing to attempts by some people to deliberately shortchange the club.

“This is a clear case of injustice and undue victimization,” Iyaye said.

“In light of this development, the Rivers State Government; sponsors of Rivers United Football Club, is compelled to seek the proper interpretation of the applicable rules, and a pronouncement on the propriety or otherwise of the actions and decisions of the LMC on the matter, from the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

“We are eager for justice and determined to protect Rivers people and its interest in line with the philosophy of our leader, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.”

He called on the Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare to wade into the matter and ensure that justice is dispensed in a free and fair manner.

“The president of NFF, Amaju Pinnick and Shehu Dikko (LMC chairman) are taking football in Nigeria fifty (50) years behind. They should be called to order or Nigerian football will continue to dwindle,” he stressed.

The commissioner had earlier assured the newly elected SWAN executive led by Udede Jim-Opiki of support and cooperation in the discharge of their duties.

Rivers State Government’s Full Statement:

OUR REACTION TO THE NFF FOOTBALL COMMITTEE’S ENDORSEMENT OF THE LMC’S POSITION ON THE 2019/2020 LEAGUE TABLE

The management of Rivers United Football Club has drawn our attention to the decision of the Football Committee of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to endorse the final table of Nigeria Professional Football League for the 2019/2020 season as prepared and released by the League Management Company (LMC).

We are also informed of the Committee’s unanimous recommendation that the NFF Executive Committee endorses the LMC decision and the Final Table for the 2019/2020 season in line with the NFF Statutes.

In the circumstances, we are constrained to express our deep reservations about certain half-truths, deliberate distortion of facts and obvious misinformation contained in the release of the NFF Football Committee as stated hereunder:

i) On the allegation that “the PPG table was presented by the LMC for discussion by the clubs, including Rivers United, since May 2020, and that there were no objections on the standings and/or the application of the head-to-head, to break the tie”, which is an unfortunate lie;

Our reaction to that is that this is very strange as the LMC could not have presented a PPG table as far back as May, when the decision to adopt the PPG was only taken on the 24th of June, 2020, following a meeting of the Management of the NFF, LMC and NPFL Clubs, wherein 18 out of 20 Clubs voted in favour of the adoption of the PPG model to rank teams on the 2019/2020 league Season Table. In fact, as at May, 2020, the decision to suspend the League had not even been discussed or approved by the NFF.

ii) On the Committee’s claim that “Indeed, it was the same table that was presented to the Government in June, 2020 as part of discussions to end the league or go for a Super 6, given the nationwide lockdown order announced as a result of the Corona Virus pandemic.”

We insist and stand by our earlier stated position that there could not have been any table at a time when no decision had been taken as to how to end the League. This claim of the Committee is a mere attempt to foist illegality, and as Lawyers would say, You cannot place something on nothing and expect it to stand.

iii) On the Committee’s claim that “Rivers United 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.”

We say this is another deliberate lie to justify the conspiracy of those who are desperate to foist their premeditated motive. Rivers United has always responded to every action of the LMC within 48 hours. We make bold to challenge the LMC to produce any evidence to the contrary. There was absolutely no league standing, and there could not have been any, because the decision to adopt the PPG was only taken on June 24th, 2020.

They cannot claim that the declaration of our position was belated, because the same day it was resolved to adopt the PPG was the very day the Rivers United General Manager released a statement, and followed up with a letter to the LMC, the very next day, informing them of our position.

iv) On the Committee’s claim that “The Clubs were duly carried along and voted twice in the final decision to end the league and use the PPG system, first, by the 20 NPFL Clubs at an internal meeting, and second by the same Clubs at the joint meeting between NFF, LMC and the 20 NPFL Clubs.”

The truth is that Rivers United Football Club never objected to the PPG, and continues to support the PPG system as agreed by the majority of the Clubs. Our position has always been that, rather than use an inconclusive head-to-head to separate two teams tied on points, the Rules guiding the operations of the NPFL states that ‘goal difference’ shall be the first option to be used in separating teams that are tied on the same points, followed by ‘higher goals scored’ and lastly, head-to-head. We are only against the selective application of the Rules.

v) On the Committee’s claim that “The novel COVID-19 pandemic presented an ‘exceptional’ situation and disruptions globally that presented a ‘force majeure’ which warranted the decision to end the league.”

It is critical to note that even the references the LMC presented and played up to buttress its position against the Rivers United Football Club, do not in any way support their claims. None of the leagues they referred to jettisoned any of its existing Rules on account of force majeure, as the LMC claims.

vi) On the claim 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 the NPFL Rule Book Articles 15.24 and 15.2”.

We agree that the novel COVID-19 pandemic brought disruption to the league system, thus occasioning the activation of force majeure as stated in the Rules guiding the league. However, we disagree with the LMC’s use of non-conclusive head-to-head to separate two teams tied on points. More importantly, the head-to-head option employed by the LMC is not novel as it is also contained in the same Rules guiding the operations of the league. Our argument is simply that since there is an established order of separating two teams tied on point, the LMC is bound to follow that order, as provided in the Rules.

vii) On the Committee’s claim that “NPFL Rule Book Article 15.24 unconditionally placed the authority and rights on the LMC to take the necessary decisions under the prevailing circumstances (Force Majeure under the COVID-19 pandemic), having regard to the interest of fairness, good sportsmanship and overall interest of the game.”

Our argument is that there is a subsisting arrangement that recognizes and envisages Force Majeure, because the parameter for determining who wins any league competition is points. So, if they, in Article 2.9, say positions will be decided by points, then goals difference, then goals for and against, before head-to-head, they cannot jump and go to head-to-head.

If they are saying that for fairness we should respect the fact that Enyimba did not play the number of matches we played, then they should also remember that we didn’t play Enyimba in Port Harcourt to justify the need for Head-to-Head. In that case, fairness will mean utilizing the ground which the PPG provides.

They should not tell us that they applied PPG that puts everybody as equal in games played and then come back to say some people have suffered disadvantage; and they will enjoy while others suffer. If we have not used PPG, Enyimba cannot leave their position to be where they are.

This is a clear case of injustice and undue victimization.

In the light of this development, the Rivers State Government; sponsors of Rivers United Football Club, is compelled to seek the proper interpretation of the applicable rules, and a pronouncement on the propriety or otherwise of the actions and decisions of the LMC on the matter, from the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

We are eager for JUSTICE and determined to protect Rivers people and its interest in line with the philosophy of our leader, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON, GSSRS, POS-Africa.

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