“We want our league to conform to International football calendar” — Elegbeleye explains why IMC is pushing for an abridged season for the NPFL

Interim Management Company (IMC) chairman, Gbenga Elegbeleye, has lifted the lid on the outcomes of the meeting between the IMC and Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Club Owners Association.

The two bodies met on Wednesday to, among other things, choose a kick-off date for the 2022-23 NPFL season.

Following the meeting, the IMC informed all 20 NPFL clubs that “the draws for the 2022/23 abridged season” would hold on Wednesday, 28 December, in Abuja.

However, the club owners, on Sunday, refuted IMC’s claims that there was an agreement to hold an abridged campaign — instead of a 38-matchday campaign — next season.

In a letter addressed to all NPFL clubs, the leadership of the NPFL Club Owners Association denied that an agreement had been reached to have an abridged league in the 2022-23 season.

The letter, signed by the group’s chairman, Isaac Danladi, read: “This is to bring to your notice that we are in receipt of the above circular inviting clubs for the 2023 NPFL draws on abridged league format.

“Consequently, I wish to further inform members and state categorically that this is not in consonance with the joint decision of clubs and IMC at the last meeting of Wednesday 21st Dec 2022 whereby it was agreed inter-alia that the abridged league proposed by IMC and the straight league which was overwhelmingly proposed by the clubs would be communicated to NFF by the IMC for further necessary action.

“We are therefore perplexed and amazed that just few hours after the meeting, IMC came up with a circular fixing 28th December as date for draws based on abridge league format.”

“We wish to categorically dissociate ourselves with the circular and state firmly that clubs would not be part of the draws on 28th December 2022, neither would we participate in an abridged league.”

The group’s leadership went on to propose a meeting on 28 December — interestingly, the date fixed by the IMC for the 2022-23 draws.

“The clubs remain resolute in our quest to have a better league that will endure, hence we cannot be part of an arrangement that will not be beneficial to football development in Nigeria.

“In view of the above, a meeting of the club Owners is being proposed for 28th December 2022 in Asaba Delta state to review matters arising among other things.”

It remains to be seen if the IMC will go ahead with the draws on Wednesday in the face of the threat of boycott by the Club Owners Association.

The IMC met with the Nigeria Television Authority to discuss NPFL match broadcast

It’s also unclear if the IMC will back down on the decision to have an abridged season, but IMC boss Elegbeleye, speaking to Kennis 104.1 FM on Monday, revealed why the IMC opted for an abridged campaign during their meeting with the Club Owners Association.

He said: “We met with the club chairmen twice. We told them that we’ve a mandate to finish the league in May, so as to conform with international football calendar; so that Nigeria will not be left behind in the comity of nation’s in terms of football activities.

“We told them to pick a format, but [added that they should] let the campaign end in May. They said they’d come back to us. They came back to us to say they want the league to end in July, and they gave us two options. The first option is that the league will end in July and when CAF ask us for the list of football clubs to represent Nigeria in CAF competitions, we should give them the top four as of the time they asked for the names. We told them, ‘How can we nominate teams to represent us in CAF competitions without finishing the league?’ — and that ‘at the end of the day, those four teams you pick may not even be among the top four by the time we conclude the league.’ That means we give slots to clubs who actually do not merit it.

“The second option given to us is that, we should give automatic tickets to the clubs that represented us last season to represent us again. We said, ‘Then, why are we competing?’ That means Rivers United, Plateau United, Remo Stars and Kwara United will be given automatic qualification to represent Nigeria in CAF competitions because they’re the ones that won the slots last season. We, in the IMC, feel that is not competitive. I’m surprised some club chairmen agreed to this because every club would want to compete for these particular slots.

“We said we want competition, we want a league that will finish and the top teams would represent us. We told them we have to finish the league. They said we should go back to the NFF and tell them their position. We went to the NFF. The NFF said we’ve to finish the season by May, and they gave us the mandate to finish the league in May — which means we use an abridged league. The use of abridged league is for two reasons. Firstly, by the calculation of the NFF, we will finish the season by May if we go full-blown. Secondly, election year is 2023. We will not want to risk the lives of our footballers.”

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