By Ikenna Ikonkwo
A renowned researcher, Will Yakowicz once posited; “Ideas are cheap and plentiful in the beginning. Keeping the truly innovative ideas coming is the real challenge.”
The assertion by this famous Writer has remained the blight of many People (at least in our immediate) that once began a commendable process which all of a sudden gets missing in action.
For five years now, League Management Company (LMC) has been the body charged with the mandate of administering football activities at the apex level as long as domestic league is concerned.
This group initially made up of individuals with somewhat top credentials were birthed sometimes in 2012 by the immediate past executive board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), then led by Alhaji Aminu Maigari.
The conceptualization of the independent league body firstly known as League Management Committee was triggered by what many witnessed as a clash of interest between some former executive board members and the chairman of defunct Nigeria Premier League (NPL) board, … Baribote.
As at that time, the LMC had 13 –member committee with six terms of reference including to; organise 2012/2013 league season, review all contractual obligations of the NPL, develop strategy and facilitate the reform of the league towards achieving profitability, develop new standards for Players’ contract and welfare and any other relevant matter the committee may deem necessary.
Then, led by Nduka Irabor, the committee went to work. True to their directive, they began and affirmed themselves to the admiration of most football Stakeholders. From being a ‘mere’ team, the country’s football house went further to legalise their activities by allowing them to register LMC brand with the Corporate Affairs Commission. The registration essentially conferred the management body the full status of a company.
Despite agitations by club owners who persuaded NFF to revert to status quo and handover the league’s structure to them, LMC waxed stronger. With the seeming exploits of the ‘private’ league managers, they steadily and gradually gained their place into the hearts of many, yours sincerely equally got attracted by steps they took which were geared towards restoring the lost glory of a battered Nigerian league.
Their defined targets progressively turned on the interest of football enthusiasts. Swiftly, growing attention began to pull back fans to the stadium. The result of all-these recently lured multi-national manufacturing establishments to sign on as official Sponsor of the league.
Perhaps, what the organisers have forgotten is that retaining success is by far more difficult than achieving same. They are systematically throwing surrendering the ideals which endeared them to hearts of the People on the altar of inconsequential politicking.
If anyone who is part of the current LMC composition is claiming that all is still well with the Nigeria zenith league, then he or she need to be reminded that one of the core objective of their set-up which is to ‘develop new standards for Players’ contract and welfare’ appears to be dumped in the bottomless pit.
Last week, I x-rayed how acclaimed club owners have continuously mortgaged the lives of professional players in the name of engaging them to play football. These Club Chairmen or managers have fully become the toast of LMC officials who daily seek to curry their favour before they make any movement.
Instead of fashion out ways to really improve the welfare of Nigerian Players that ply their trade at home, the league administrators prefer to lobby club officials and ‘technically’ stay and watch things grow from bad to worse.
Instead of maintain a technocrat approach to finding lasting solution to issues, LMC ‘Musketeers’ spend greater percentage of time plotting how to arm-twist who is who into inserting 20-member club Chairmen as part of NFF congress for any political gain they foretell.
However, like some others who have passed through similar path and are either regretting or savouring the outcome of their decision while in office, the calibre of Men in charge of league proceedings at the moment need to act fast to avoid deflated posterity.
Yes, the present crop of LMC executives led by Shehu Dikko have instituted sanctions that overtly punish offenders that vehemently commit one offence or the other on-the-pitch, their cold-feet kind of reaction to off-the-pitch complains have left soar tastes in the mouth of less-privileged pool of Players.
A situation where the league management always promise to address players’ non-payment of salaries and other entitlements occasioned by unbridled style of governance at club levels leave much more than ordinary eyes can see.
The state of nuisance this has caused year after year exposes Nigerian footballers to anxiety of quickly jumping to offers from any other country including Kuwait, Oman, Ethiopia, Benin Rep among others. The best of talents in the league have been lost to these ‘non-significant’ Soccer Nations both in Africa and beyond.
Persistent conviction of more private persons to invest in Nigeria football will continually receive resistance if non-clear stands on the action of some others adjudged to be dubious are not tamed.
Several months ago, richest African Man, Aliko Dangote declared his interest to take over ownership of England-based club side, Arsenal football club. His passionate pronouncement was viewed in various ways.
The only vital question some of us asked was; which strictly business minded being will want to throw in money where he or she is not sure of return on investment? Up till now, Politicians that feed fat on clubs owned by states, do everything humanly possible to frustrate any effort designed to take away so-called food from their tables.
The time for LMC leadership to lock themselves up and fashion out ways to re-access their priorities is now. Despite the fact that transfer of players and coaches is still ongoing, the league superintendents should make haste and re-organise the timeline of matches to suit what has been obtainable in other parts of the continent and beyond.
One major reason why this is paramount is to keep Nigerian clubs that are continental-bound in top shape to face would-be opponents when CAF competitions get underway as part effort geared towards another averting woeful outing for Nigeria teams next year.