By Paul Bassey
So much has been written about the success of the ongoing Glo Premier league, on and off the field that I have very little to add.
I do appreciate however the constant assertion by the operators that there is still much to be done before we can relax and thump our chests. Such an area is in the Club Licensing structures.
Two key events in the last week has led me to write this column today. First is the opinion of one of Nigeria’s football legend, Segun Odegbami that with the benefit of good pitches our league would have been judged perfect by him.
The next is a news item in the NFF website last Saturday entitled “ LMC grants provisional approval to suspended stadia”. The story has it that the LMC has granted approval to some clubs “…….to return to their grounds while FURTHER ( capitals mine) inspection will be carried out to ascertain appropriateness of repairs done.”
This waiver which is for four weeks will see the LMC “redeciding” whether to “reimpose” the ban on their stadiums or not! How I wish they had not taken this action, preferring instead to stick to their guns, until such repairs had been perfected and approved once and for all to the benefits of the clubs.
Courtesy the LMC I have been involved in a couple of stadium inspection visits and have always come out with very negative reports on the state of our football playing infrastructure. As a CAF Club Licensing Instructor I know that playing a football match in a stadium is more than the field of play.
The criteria set out by the LMC in their check list of demands which is a universal document is yet to be met 30 per cent by our clubs. Having an ideal stadium has to do with the presence of serviceable toilets for spectators as well as players and officials, water and electricity, functional dressing rooms for players and officials, sick bay, manned exits and entrances for security and crowd control, stadium control room etc.
Many will be surprised that most of our stadiums even lack covered substitute benches. If there is rain, has it happened at the Liberation Stadium in Port Harcourt during the match Heartland and Ifeanyi Ubah, the Technical bench is dislodged as players and coaches scamper into the terraces.
The LMC presently enjoys a lot of support even from Club owners (?) and managers who accept that a lot needs to be done to get their infrastructure up to date and have not minded the banishment from base, pending repairs to their infrastructure.
The LMC will however tell you that the same owners will turn round and put pressure on them to allow their teams return “home” due to the extra cost of running the league and “hostile” new environment that works contrary to their aspirations.
Perhaps what the LMC has not told the clubs is that there is a CAF directive that as from this Year, any club that qualifies to play in any of the CAF
Inter Club competitions will need to fulfill the minimum criteria at national level. The club License is therefore obligatory. Apart from the Infrastructure criteria which has to do with acceptable stadium conditions one in which most of our clubs are familiar with, there are also two other criteria that clubs must comply with and these are Sporting Criteria ( Youth and Grass root development) and Administrative, Legal and Financial criteria.
End of this month, CAF will arrive Nigeria ( and indeed some other African countries) to run a seminar on CAF Club Licensing System. Invited to take part are the General Secretary of the NFF, top guns of the LMC, representatives of the Premier League Clubs, NSC and state Government officials involved in the running of football, stadium managers etc.
The objective of the CAF Club Licensing seminar is to among others, promote and improve the quality and the level of all football aspects in Africa, ensure that the clubs have the appropriate infrastructure, knowledge and application in respect of management and organization, improving the economic and financial capacity of the clubs through proper corporate governance and control, allowing the parallel development and comparison amongst the clubs by ensuring the necessary compliance in terms of financial, sporting, legal, infrastructure and administrative criteria.
I know that in Nigeria, the visiting CAF instructors will find some challenges and test cases where ownership of clubs at the Premier League level is controlled by Government. Also, they will find out that club ownership of stadia is practically non existent, creating some legal impasse as to control and use of Government owned facilities.
Meanwhile the CAF instructor on Administration, Legal and Finance will have a problem coming to grasps with the unique Nigerian situation where players go on playing for months without due emoluments and allowances……….Are our clubs legally established? How well are their financials managed, how qualified are their staff?……What about their youth development policy?
This seminar is one which the LMC will appreciate, one that will help the body re-emphasise its aims and objectives and reinforce its quest for excellence and best practices.
I remember that the best images we got from the Supersports coverage of the Premier league was the two matches involving Akwa United at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, The Nest of Champions. We have other venues like that, that will help project our football in good light, yet those venues are not used.
There is nothing wrong in wanting to play at one’s base, but efforts have to be made to get those venues answer to the minimum required criteria. When T.P Mazembe wanted to play its matches at Lubumbashi, they went ahead and constructed their own standard stadium for the purpose which CAF went ahead to certify.
I only pray that when CAF comes calling, the NFF Club Licensing Officer will be able to get all the principal actors to attend and religiously too, the two day intensive seminar that give direction to our clubs and go a long way in adding value to our much improved league.
See you next week.