Tag: football issues

Poor Treatment of Away Teams in CAF Inter-Club Competitions

After having their first experience of continental competition, Nigeria Federation Cup Champions, FC Ifeanyiubah have been left with a bitter taste in the mouth. In the video above (courtesy @SupportTheNPFL), the proprietor of the club, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah, narrates part of their bitter experience when they travelled to Egypt to play against Al Masry in the second leg of their CAF Confederation Cup (CAFCC) preliminary round fixture. The club had won the first leg 1-0 in Nigeria the week before, taking the slender advantage to Egypt for the return match on 19th February, 2017.

As narrated by Dr. Ubah in addition to reports from other members of the team’s contingent to Egypt, FC Ifeanyiubah endured ill-treatment, including being deliberately delayed on the team bus for over an hour before the match, limited access to training, hostility from home fans (including the use of green laser beams shone of players’ faces) and even poor sportsmanship from officials of the home team. Al Masry went on to win 1-0 and draw the tie level on aggregate, before knocking the Nigerian team out of the competition via a 3-0 victory in the penalty shoot-out.

It is bad enough that travel within the African continent is still a complex challenge for clubs to deal with; one certainly feels that professional football clubs should at least show each other some level of professional courtesy and hospitality. Football has huge tourism and economic potential, which is still largely untapped in Africa, so it would be wise to cease the opportunity of a continental competition to promote African tourism and hospitality.

One of the sour points during the Al Masry v. FC Ifeanyiubah match was in the penalty shoot-out. After FC Ifeanyiubah had missed their first penalty kick, as their goalkeeper, Ikehukwu Ezenwa was preparing to defend the first penalty kick from Al Masry, an official of the Egyptian club encroached onto the field and into the goal post to remove the catholic rosary that the goal-keeper had placed in goal. Despite the goalkeeper’s efforts to retrieve it, the Al Masry club official made away with the rosary and lifted it triumphantly towards the home crowd. FC Ifeanyiubah then went on to miss their other two penalty kicks while Al Masry converted all three of theirs.

It did not end there as several media outlets reported that the Manager of the Egyptian club, African football legend Hossam Hassan, accused the Nigerian club of using sorcery (juju), in apparent reference to the rosary incident. Whereas expressions of religion have no place in professional football, such statements would indeed be insensitive to say the least.

It is high time CAF stepped up to ensure that hostile treatment of away teams becomes a thing of the past. The role of General Coordinators in CAF inter-club matches could be helpful in this regard. Their primary tasks include ensuring compliance with the rules of the reception and the residence of the teams and the officials; but these appointments are currently limited to the group stage of the competition only, as provided for in the CAFCC Regulations.

The ideals of fair play and sportsmanship must be observed and promoted both on and off the field. This will not only serve to improve teams’ experiences on the continent and ensure improved competitiveness, but will also boost the commercial allure of the CAF inter-club competitions.

 

 

Case Update: ‘Giwa v. Pinnick’ NFF Leadership Tussle

Having keenly followed the controversial ‘Giwa v. Pinnick’ case since 2014, yours truly was on hand at the Supreme Court today (20th February, 2017) to keep up with proceedings.

The current matter may not necessarily add significantly to the sports law jurisprudence in Nigeria, primarily because it simply entails whether or not the case earlier filed by the Giwa-faction, which was struck out, should be relisted. So, one does not believe the Justices of the Supreme Court – the apex court in Nigeria – have been presented with an opportunity to deliver a landmark decision in the Nigerian sports law context.

However, given the intrigues that this Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) leadership tussle has delivered both in and out of court, the case is worth following.

Brief History

Two factional elections into the Executive Board of the NFF were held in 2014, on 26th August and 30th September, which produced Chris Giwa and Amaju Pinnick respectively, each of whom claimed to have been elected President of the NFF. The Pinnick-led board was given recognition by the football authorities, including FIFA, which prompted the Giwa-led board (suing through its members led by Yahaya Adama) to go to court seeking to validate their election.

The case travelled back-and-forth through the Federal High Court, where the Giwa faction (following the intervention of former President Goodluck Jonathan, as reported) withdrew their case, which was then struck out on 30th October, 2014. Over a year later, with the end of the Jonathan Presidency and no end to the dispute, the Giwa-faction returned to court. On 8th April, 2016 the Federal High Court made an order relisting the case that was earlier struck out.

Upon Pinnick’s appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the Federal High Court and in effect dismissed the application to relist the case. Mr. Giwa has now approached the Supreme Court to further pursue his application to relist his case.

The Supreme Court Proceedings

On the last court date – 16th January, 2017 – the Supreme Court had adjourned the case to 9th May, 2017 to determine, amongst other pending motions, a motion filed by the Pinnick-group lawyer, Festus Keyamo, requesting that the appeal be struck out. Mr. Keyamo is contending that the lawyer who signed the Notice of Appeal at the Supreme Court was not competent to do so in the circumstances that he had previously been barred by the Court of Appeal from appearing in the matter.

Presently, the Giwa faction requested the Court for an accelerated hearing of their own motions seeking for extension of time within which to file their appeal as well as for accelerated hearing of their appeal (i.e. before the return date of 9th May 2017).

The Supreme Court panel however delivered a quick ruling, stating that all circumstances were taken into consideration before the case was adjourned to 9th May and that no special circumstances had been shown as to why the adjourned date should be brought forward. The application was therefore refused, with the effect that the case will continue on 9th May, 2017.

Conclusion: The Road Ahead

There is indeed an incredibly long road ahead if the Giwa v. Pinnick dispute is to be resolved by litigation. Incredible because one struggles to see how a judicial solution can be reached ‘timeously’ in the present circumstances.

If the Supreme Court agrees to the relisting of the case, that would seem to take the substantive matter all the way back to the Federal High Court (i.e. for the Federal High Court to proceed to determine which is the valid election between Giwa and Pinnick), not to mention possible appeals therefrom.

On the other hand however, it could be the end of the road for the Giwa-faction if the Supreme Court decides on 9th May 2017, or thereafter, that there is no basis to relist the case that was earlier struck out.

Also, looking ahead to the possible implication if the judgment goes in favour of the Giwa faction, one wonders what effect such judgment would have on the ban imposed on Giwa and others. Earlier this month, FIFA announced a worldwide extension of the five-year ban imposed on Chris Giwa and four others (including Yahaya Adama and other members of his Board).

On 12th May 2016, the NFF Disciplinary Committee banned Christopher Giwa, Muazu Suleyman, Yahaya Adama, Sani Fema and Johnson Effiong from taking part in any football activity, owing to their breaches of NFF statutes and FIFA Code of Ethics (the charges included taking football matters to court).

Apparently, that would take us back to the cycle of imminent FIFA sanction on NFF for judicial interference.

Poll Result Encourages Public-Private Ownership of Football Clubs in Nigeria

In a Twitter poll conducted by @FootbalIssuesNG on ‘Government Ownership of Football Clubs in Nigeria’, majority of participants were in favour of a system of Public-Private Partnership for ownership of football clubs in the country.

56% of the 144 participants voted in favour of Public-Private Partnership, 39% voted for government to hands off ownership of football clubs completely, while 6% voted for government of limit itself to ownership of amateur clubs only.

The current trend in Nigeria is one where most professional football clubs are owned by various state governments, with some owning more than one. In the elite football league – the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), 16 of the 20 participating clubs (representing 80%) are owned by state governments.

One thing we can take away from the poll is that given government’s stated aim of using football for the objectives of youth development; if perhaps government is unwilling to completely hands off football, in terms of ownership and control, government could still achieve its socio-political objectives by retaining part-ownership while leaving control/management of the club to the private sector.

Public-Private Partnership has, in Nigeria and indeed Africa, recorded some level of success in the areas such as infrastructure, tourism and transport. Perhaps it is worth considering for football, particularly given the crucial role government currently plays in football funding and infrastructure.

See some of the opinions below:

Delta State to Fund 6 Football Clubs: The Way Government sees Things

 

For the second consecutive season, 20% of the clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) will be privately-owned. Last season’s quartet comprised of Giwa, Ifeanyi Ubah, Ikorodu United and MFM; but with Giwa’s expulsion and Ikorodu United’s relegation, two other privately-owned clubs, ABS and Remo Stars, have gained promotion to the top-flight. In this era of calls for government to leave the running of professional football clubs to the private sector, the fact that up to four of the 20 teams in the NPFL are privately-owned represents an improvement from the recent past.

The government of Delta State made headlines recently with reports it had increased its number of clubs to six ahead of the new season. Unsurprisingly, the decision was made even more controversial by the fact that its flagship club, Warri Wolves had just been relegated amid complaints of poor funding and indebtedness to players. How then can a government that seemed unable to adequately fund one club suddenly decide to fund six? One would have expected Delta State to learn from the Rivers State example – where the government merged two hitherto struggling clubs (Dolphins and Sharks) to form Rivers United, which finished the season as runner-up and qualified for the CAF Champions League.

However, it is interesting to note the reaction of the Chairman of Delta State Sports Commission, Tony Okowa to the controversy. He was quoted by The Guardian as saying that: “The way government sees things is quite different from the ordinary man on the street”, and that government “took so many things into consideration before arriving at the decision to get two new slots for Ika Rangers and Isoko United in the Nationwide League”. He expressed the view that the clubs will serve as avenue for youths in the different parts of the state to showcase their football talents.

At the beginning of the 2015/2016 season, the government acquired two new clubs – Delta Stars and Delta Force – in addition to Warri Wolves and the female team Delta Queens. Thus, the latest addition of Ika Rangers and Isoko United takes the number to six. With the six clubs spread across the three senatorial districts of the state, it is apparent that the aim is to give wide-spread football opportunity to the youths of the state.

Even though one would be reluctant to fault this socio-political objective, there are reservations about its sustainability. For instance, the same Delta Force that was revived by the current administration had been disbanded by the former. Thus, it is not improbable that a subsequent administration could see the funding of six football clubs as more of a liability. In fact, the short-term thinking in the decision to fund six clubs is evident in Mr Okowa’s further statements that: “Both Warri Wolves and Delta Force, who are in the Nigeria National League (NNL), will continue their battle for promotion to the elite division, and we expect the three clubs in the Nationwide League, Delta Stars, Ika Rangers and Isoko United to battle for promotion to the NNL. If that happens, then, government will decide on what to do with them, either to sell them or retain them. But for now, the clubs will serve as avenue for youths in Delta North, Delta Central and Delta South to showcase their football talent.”

Another interesting fact is that the financial burden may not be as heavy as first thought. According to Mr. Okowa, the budget for Warri Wolves alone last season (before the club was relegated from the NPFL) was N300 million; whereas the budget for all six clubs, including Warri Wolves, is about N277 million.

With the number of stadia that are currently underutilized across Delta State, creating a platform for youth to develop and showcase their football talent is not a bad idea, particularly if the ambition of the clubs does not go beyond that of developmental teams. Nonetheless, questions abound as to the sustainability of the initiative, particularly where teams gain promotion towards the elite league. There are also sporting integrity questions to be answered under the club licensing system if teams owned by the same entity are presented to participate in the same competition. In addition, there is no forgetting the issue of outstanding debts owed by Warri Wolves. These are some of the issues the Delta State government must resolve.

 

 

South-West Derby: May the True Stars Shine Today

 

The star match of match-day 29 in the NPFL is undoubtedly the oriental derby between Enyimba (Aba) and Rangers (Enugu), which is live on Supersport at 4pm today. Both are the most successful teams in the history of the Nigerian league, with 7 and 6 trophies respectively. Although Rangers have endured a 32-year trophy drought, this season, they are well in the hunt for the league title to equal Enyimba’s record.

Izu Joseph - 3SC
Izu Joseph (3SC)

Just below these teams in terms of trophy count is Shooting Stars (Ibadan), with 5 titles. Their South-West derby with Sunshine Stars (Akure) also comes up today and the main talking point is neither Shooting Stars’ relegation battle nor Sunshine Stars’ outside chance for the league title. Rather, it is the enmity that has been a feature of recent encounters between both teams. Football derbies are often the opposite of good neighborliness, so one would hardly expect this derby of Stars to be much different.

Recent encounters between both teams have witnessed it all – the good, the bad and the dirty. Late winners, red cards, pushing of the ball boy, volatile home crowd, heavy fines etc. and the first leg this season was no exception. Certainly, increased security and logistics efforts have been made to ensure a successful prosecution of the match.

Okiki Afolabi - Sunshine Stars
Okiki Afolabi (Sunshine Stars)

 

One hopes that this derby will serve less of off-field controversy and allow the true stars come out to shine. There is a lot of on-field action and stories to look forward to. While Coach Gbenga Ogunbote will look to continue the resurgence Shooting Stars have witnessed under him, the likes of Okiki Afolabi (currently second on the League goal scorers chart with 13 goals) will look to lift his side again as he scored a late winner in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.

How the Court of Appeal Dismissed Giwa’s Case

I have just spent the past hour reading through the 53-page decision of the Court of Appeal in the infamous ‘Giwa case’ and thought to pen these thoughts.

On 25th July, 2016 the Court of Appeal, sitting in Jos, overruled the decision of the Federal High Court, which had earlier relisted the case, leading to controversy as to the effect of that decision, with the Giwa group claiming that the decision recognized Chris Giwa as the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

Perhaps it is worth stating here that although the original case was actually filed by Yahaya Adama and another (on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Giwa faction) against the members of the defunct Executive Committee of the NFF (led by Aminu Maigari) and others, one will refer to both parties as “the Giwa group” and “the NFF” respectively.

The Court of Appeal Decision

The Federal High Court, Jos struck out the original case on 30th October, 2014. This was after the Giwa group had formally informed the court of their decision to withdraw their case – their reason being “to give greater consideration to national interest”. However, earlier this year, they returned to the Federal High Court, requesting that the case be relisted. On 8th April, 2016 the Court granted their request. The NFF then appealed to the Court of Appeal.

In its appeal, the NFF argued, amongst other things, that the case should not have been relisted after almost two years, since there was no cogent reason to do so.

In arriving at its decision, the Court of Appeal noted the following:

  • that it is not permissible for parties to jump in and out of court whenever they like;
  • that even though the case technically remained alive due to the fact that it was merely ‘struck out’ and not ‘dismissed’; what was the reason for it to be relisted after almost two years? More so, given the fact that the reason it was struck out in the first place was national interest.
  • was it suddenly in the interest of the nation to have the case relisted?
  • that the Giwa group did not at any time give any reason why it would now be in the national interest to relist the case.

Upon the above considerations, the Court of Appeal was of the opinion that it was justifiable to set aside the decision of the Federal High Court. It therefore dismissed the application of the Giwa group seeking to relist the case.

The Effect of the Decision

The implication of this decision is that the case remains struck out. This simply means that the Court – and the law – does not recognize any legal challenge to the NFF Presidency of Amaju Pinnick. Presently, this certainly should bring an end to any claim to the NFF Presidency by Chris Giwa.

In his many incursions against the NFF led by Amaju Pinnick, Chris Giwa had often hinged his audacity on the phrase “he who the law of the land recognizes”. One now wonders what his stance will be, given this decision of the Court of Appeal, the interpretation of which is devoid of controversy.

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Note: The decision in respect of the suit, Appeal No.: CA/J/119/2016 was delivered by Joseph Tine Tur, JCA on Monday, 25th July, 2016.

Case Review: State FA is not a Juristic Person (Osiwa Igbuya v. Delta State Football Association)

The State Football Association (State FA) is a common feature in the football administration system in Nigeria. They are basically sub-units of the Nigeria Football Association (nowadays referred to as “Nigeria Football Federation”), present in each of the 36 States of the country as well as the Federal Capital Territory. Article 10(1)(a) of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Statutes 2010 recognizes each State FA as a member of the NFF.

In the case under review, the National Industrial Court (in Suit No: NIC/EN/32/2011) determines the juristic personality of the State FA in Nigeria i.e. whether they can sue or be sued. Generally, the National industrial Court has exclusive jurisdiction in civil matters relating to labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and their governing enactments (section 254C of the Constitution).

Brief Summary of the Facts

In 2009, the government of Delta State dissolved some of its state-owned football clubs, one of which was Okpe United FC. The Chairman of the club, Mr. Osiwa Igbuya however continued on his own to fund the club, which even made it to the final of the Delta State FA Cup in 2011.

Mr. Igbuya however sued the Delta State FA, claiming that the State FA had a statutory duty to continue funding the club. He claimed a refund of the sum of N96,219,000, which he had spent in funding the club since 2009 (which included payment of salaries and allowances of players and officials of the club).

The Delta State FA then filed a preliminary objection, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction. One of the grounds on which the argument was based was that the Delta State FA was not a juristic person and thus could not be sued.

Arguments

In raising the preliminary objection, the Delta State FA argued that it was not a juristic person; hence, could not be sued. It was further argued that a person who is made a party to an action either as Plaintiff or a Defendant must be a legal person or, if not, a body vested by law with power to sue or be sued. The State FA therefore asked that the suit be struck out, since lacking juristic personality, it was the only defendant.

Mr. Igbuya, on the other hand, argued that a State FA is a juristic person because it is recognized as a state branch of Nigeria Football Association by the Nigeria Football Association Act, section 7(2)(b) of which makes the Chairman of each State FA a member of the National Football Association Council.

Decision of the Court

Upon examining the Nigerian Football Association Act, the court found that there was nowhere the Act stated expressly that a State FA was a branch of the Nigerian Football Association. While section 7 established the National Football Association Council, subsection (2)(b) thereof – in making each State FA Chairman a member of the Council – merely contemplated the existence of state football associations, which would then become members of the Council.

The court also found that there was nowhere in the said Act where the specific mention of the State FA was made as a body created under the Act or to have such powers or functions of the NFA under the said Act.

The court further noted that the argument of Mr. Igbuya that in cases such as Irabor & 2 Ors vs National Executive Council of Academic Staff Union of Universities (2011) NLLR (Pt 68) p. 287, ratios 2, 3, and 4, it was held that unincorporated bodies could sue and be sued. However, the court held that the distinguishing factor was that in that case, the NEC was a creation of the Constitution of ASUU and therefore its organ was actionable as a body that had clear responsibility to carry out the functions of ASUU; whereas the State FA is not an organ or body responsible for the carrying out of the functions of the NFA but rather only one of the numerous members of the National Football Association Council.

The court thus decided that the Delta State FA was not a juristic person and therefore could not be sued.

Comments/Conclusion

Perhaps one could argue that given the important roles they play in the administration of football in Nigeria (including organizing state leagues, State FA Cup, coordination and security arrangements during league matches, membership of the NFA Executive Committee and NFA Council, nomination of candidates for NFF presidency, etc.), there is the need for more in-depth provisions on the status and functions of state football associations in Nigeria.

Ultimately however, the fact that Mr. Igbuya picked to sue the Delta State FA, whereas the origin of his claim was that the Delta State Government had dissolved Okpe United, indicates the blurry and indistinct relationship that exists among government, sports ministry and the football association, both at the Federal and State levels in Nigeria.

After Goal-Line Technology, What Next?

When on the 5th of July, 2012 the International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved the use of goal-line technology (GLT), it was victory for advocates of GLT. Being the body responsible for the Laws of the Game, any changes or modifications must be sanctioned by the IFAB and the traditional provisions relation to issues such as the qualities of the ball, when the ball is in or out of play, when a goal is scored and the referee/assistant referees, do not envisage the use of technology. Despite initially being opposed to the use of GLT especially given earlier unsuccessful tests, Sepp Blatter announced shortly after the 2010 World Cup that FIFA would re-open discussions into the matter. This followed high-profile refereeing errors, with the final straw being Frank Lampard’s unawarded goal in England’s 4-1 loss to Germany and consequent elimination from the World Cup.

The clamour for GLT has travelled a long road. In the 2000 African Nations’ Cup, Nigeria was eliminated by Cameroon following a penalty shoot-out in which Victor Ikpeba’s effort crossed the line after coming off the cross bar – a goal which was never awarded. There have been numerous high-profile incidents since then, including an English Premier League game in 2005 where the Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll – in attempting to save a shot by Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes – dropped the ball behind the goal line, unspotted by the officials. Apart from unawarded goals, there have been reverse incidents such as when Chelsea beat Tottenham 2-1 in 2011 with one of their goals being a Frank Lampard shot which crept through Huerelho Gomes’ legs only to be clawed back just before it crossed the line, but a goal was awarded.

Proponents of GLT argue basically that it would significantly reduce refereeing errors and promote fair and just outcomes, which is a key tenet of sporting competition. This is buoyed by studies such as one which suggested that nearly 30% of refereeing errors in the 2010/2011 EPL season could have been prevented by video replay. Antagonists on the other hand present a range of arguments. There is the argument that if a referee has to get confirmation from GLT it would slow the game down and interrupt the flow; however, tests reportedly show that the notification would be received within less than a second of the ball crossing the line. There is another argument that the precision occasioned by technology would impact on the human element of the game and remove the enjoyment of debating mistakes; an argument which should be weighed against, for instance, Bolton being relegated on account of a wrongly disallowed goal in 2007. One argument which cannot easily be countered is that GLT would be too expensive to implement at all levels of the game, thus leading to non-uniform rules.

The arguments have now taken a back seat following FIFA’s decision to approve the use of GLT. In a process that began in 2011, nine GLT systems were initially tested and subsequently two were approved. Currently, GoalRef and Hawk-Eye are the first two technology providers to have signed licence agreements with FIFA. By virtue of these licence agreements, both companies now have authorisation to install their respective GLT systems worldwide. While the English Premier League appears receptive to the technology, Michel Platini’s UEFA is opposed to it, preferring the option of the ‘fifth official’ (an extra assistant referee for each goal post). However, this system proved ineffective in a Euro 2012 incident where the fifth official failed to spot that the shot by Ukraine’s Marko Dević had crossed the line before it was cleared by John Terry. Ukraine lost that final group game 1-0 to England and was eliminated from the competition.

Now that technology has found its way into football, the question is – what next? One fears that with the implementation of GLT, it would only be a matter of time before there are calls for ‘offside technology’. After all, the arguments for offside technology and the consequences of such refereeing errors are in many cases the same with those of GLT. Goals have been wrongly disallowed upon offside calls just as some have been wrongly awarded despite offside positional play. The implementation of GLT is a precedent, the crux of which is the use of technology to promote efficiency in refereeing decisions. This is a step towards the constant review feature that some say plagues American football and baseball. Football might just have opened a floodgate.