NPFL fails to implement rule on 50% divestment of state-run clubs

SINCE 2015, the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) management has failed to implement the league rule that provides the divestment of some equity of state government-owned clubs.

According to Section A, under subsection 5.3.4 of the 2015 NPFL Framework and Rules, government-owned clubs should provide to the League Management Company (LMC) an undertaking of its owners to commence a divestment process from the 2015/2016 season of the league, making it relinquish fifty per cent of the club’s equity.

The yet-to-be-implement NPFL rule allows the divestment of state-owned clubs, making the government own fifty per cent of the equity. In contrast, other investors will own the remaining 50 per cent. This is part of efforts to allow transparency in the operations of state-owned clubs.

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But checks by The ICIR showed that this rule has yet to be implemented, leaving the state governments to manage clubs in the league fully.

Currently, there are 17 state-owned and three privately-owned clubs in the NPFL.

The clubs owned by the states include Abia Warriors, Akwa United, Enyimba International, Gombe United, Heartlands FC, Kano Pillars, Katsina United, Kwara United, Bayelsa United and Enugu Rangers.

Others are Niger Tornadoes, Plateau United, Rangers International, Rivers United, Shooting Stars SC, Sunshine Stars and Bendel Insurance.

The league, dominated by state-owned clubs, has spurred reactions from stakeholders who have been calling on the league management to implement its rules, especially the Memorandum Of Understanding (MoU) signed with NASD Plc in 2016.

The MoU offers a secondary market trading of securities of unquoted public companies in Nigeria to allow government-owned football clubs that adopt good corporate governance practices to be listed on the NASD.

However, none of the government-owned football clubs have fully utilised the window, impeding the clubs from being commercially viable.

Stakeholders react to state owned clubs practices in the country’s top-flight league

In a chat with The ICIR, a technical consultant, Sport Industry Working Group (SIWG) Femi Abioye, described the state-owned clubs as ‘glorified’ professional clubs.

“These clubs are glorified professional clubs as you would have expected in forms, purpose and management. They lack professional management as they do not keep proper records of these activities.

“Players are sometimes not remunerated as at when due, no clearly defined fan base, poor infrastructure used for clubs activities and little or no commercial activities that support the business of the club, and lastly bad leadership as most of the clubs are managed by politicians who lack the capacity needed to manage a professional football club,” he said.

He attributed the lack of implementation of the Rule 5.3.4 of the NPFL framework and rules to weak institutions.

“The truth is that for a club to be registered in a league system, the league has set of best practices governance rules and regulations which the NPFL have in place, but what is observed is that the clubs do not practice these governance rules.

“The NPFL management is also weak in the enforcement of these rules, which makes for double jeopardy. Clubs who do not observe good governance practices do not have commercial success both on and off the field, and this is very evident in our league when you compare the three privately owned clubs and their government counterparts,” he said.

However, the chief executive officer of Matchroom Consult, Ojeikere Aikihoje, said state governments could own football clubs but cautioned that the clubs have to be managed professionally.

“I think everybody has a role to play in both the state and privately owned teams, but there seems to be the rebirth of the privately owned teams.

“Some people say governments should not own teams, but in other climes, government parastatals own teams, some countries have Army teams. The Association’s Sports of Forces Armed Royal (ASFAR) is in Morocco, and Clube Desportivo 1º de Agosto is owned by the Defence Ministry in Angola.

“So they should be professional, that is just my own take whether state government or not, they all have a role to contribute to the football development,” he said.



    We will implement the divestment next season- LMC CEO

    In a chat with The ICIR, the  Chief Executive Officer, League Management Company (LMC), Davidson Owumi revealed that the provision of the league’s framework on divestment of the state-owned clubs would be implemented in the 2024/2025 season.

    He stressed that since the assumption of this tenure handling the league in 2022, the focus has been on restructuring the league.

    “This is the first stage for us to provide infrastructures and welfare of the players, and the next season is going into the bureaucratic process of implementing the divestment rule.

    “The implementation of the divestment rule is going to be a gradual process. We will have to use persuasion and legal plan to make sure it works out,” he said.

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