WADOO!!NEWS: Re-Club Licensing, Dolphins and Professionalism in Club Administration
THE Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) attracted the attention of two respected opinion leaders in sports. One is my senior ‘Malabite’ and seasoned Sports Journalist turned football administrator, Paul Bassey. The other is Lawyer whose passion for Journalism is such that one can also take the liberty to address him as a Sports Journalist, Godwin Dudu-Orumen aka Football Aficionado.
Bassey wrote in his weekly column in the Vanguard newspaper on March 23 while Dudu wrote in his blog on March 27 and both focused on some aspects of the game with Bassey interrogating the Club Licensing Regulation and Dudu expressing angst at league club coaches. My comments therefrom is not to join issues with the gentlemen but to amplify facts that they may not have acquainted themselves with and taken note of the extensive work done to develop the Club Licensing document in Nigeria.
Bassey was reacting to the unfortunate sacking of Dolphins FC from the CAF Confederation Cup as a result of their failure to arrive Tunis on time for their first leg clash with Club Africain. Incidentally, this was happening when he was in Cairo for the CAF organized seminar for Club Licensing Instructors which Bassey and four other Nigerians were recently appointed to be.
It was delightful to see such a writer with huge readership take up the matter of Club Licensing which the League Management Company (LMC) has persistently pursued to get the clubs embrace since early 2013. While his piece was evoked by the Dolphins debacle and therefore did not throw considerable light on what Club Licensing could bring on the table for football in Nigeria, Bassey also wrote in such a way that did not acknowledge the tremendous work that led into the ranking of Nigeria as one of the frontline African leagues to have adopted the policy.
It was not fair to suggest that Dolphins and perhaps other clubs have been licensed in breach of requirements simply because Dolphins didn’t get their logistics right. It is akin to a company whose driver crashed their vehicle to put the blame on the Federal Road Safety Commission which licensed the said driver. Club Licensing provides for periodic assessment and it is only at that point that any licensee that defaults can be sanctioned based on the gravity of the deficiency. Europe that has internalized club licensing going back to 2007 when FIFA first decreed it still has clubs that breach the requirements. Parma in Italy, Portsmouth in England and Glasgow Rangers in Scotland are just a few of clubs that fell on hard times and had their licenses withdrawn. Their problems cannot rightly be considered a failure of regulation.
Club licensing was adopted before the commencement of the 2013-2014 season. A public lecture and sensitization session was held for premier league club managers before the start of that season in Abuja.The implementation started then. It was on the basis of this that the LMC had refused to register Nembe and Giwa for the season.
In domesticating the CAF Club Licensing Regulation, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) required clubs to provide Financial Performance Guarantee (FPG) a unique requirement that sought to safeguard the financial health of the clubs given the prevailing nature of club ownership in the country. The problem of Dolphins last month and Heartland in 2013 arose from the lack of assured and sustainable access to fund and this will continue to be the case for most state-owned clubs except that safety net of FPG is in place.
It has to be said that the NFF ‘ranked high on the table’ because a rich document was produced for the Nigerian League by some persons who recognized that club administration in the country must be reinvented if we are to make even moderate progress. LMC chieftains where all over the media conducting an enlightenment campaign on the licensing regime and its inherent salutary benefits. The NFF licensing document has also been on http://www.lmcng.org and http://www.npfl.ng since November 2013. I was witness to several late night sessions in Abuja by the League Management Company team working to simplify the licensing code by producing pro forma templates for clubs to comply.
That Kano Pillars were not aware of new directives requiring clubs to negotiate their accommodation and feeding cannot be said to be part of the Licensing Regulation and can also not be rated a regulation failure. This is strictly a competition rule which CAF must have circulated to member Federations or published on its website. Prior to such a policy coming into force, Nigerian Clubs like Enyimba and Sunshine Stars are known to have always made advance plans for their away games and again Pillars is just one of three Nigerian clubs on continental club competition this season.
It is on record that two clubs, Nembe City and Giwa FC were initially denied license to operate as a Premier League club on grounds that they did not satisfy some mandatory requirement of infrastructure, medical and financial. The LMC has maintained strict application of the requirements for medical criteria and has even gone a step further to procure vital medical equipment for the clubs. It is not a perfect scenario yet and opinion leaders like Bassey can continue to lend their voices to the campaign to make our clubs truly professional.
A major challenge of club licensing in Nigeria is the ownership structure and funding. As part of steps to resolve this, the LMC has not only canvassed the financial guarantee by club proprietors, it has also taken steps to encourage community ownership of clubs which will have interested persons investing in such a way that will ensure a steady and enduring revenue stream for clubs. This document is on the league website (www.npfl.ng).
The introduction of the FPG earlier mentioned was part of the solution to club’s perennial indebtedness to players and coaches. The strategy was to call the bond and apply the funds to offset indebtedness of such clubs.
While most of the points raised by Dudu on Club Coaches may well be true and valid, it needs to be pointed out that the era of sign-on fees ceased from last season. Sign-on fees were abolished because of lack of faithfulness in implementation and thus unenforceable terms. The LMC has persistently advocated and encouraged players to seek agents that will represent their best interests at all times.
It also has to be pointed out that the Club Licensing Regulation has made it mandatory that all clubs must not just have a genuine youth development program as opposed to previous practice when players out of the ideal age bracket and with the “right contacts” were paraded as “youth team” players; thereby denying the club and nation potential talents for the talent pool regeneration.The LMC has gone a step further to encourage clubs to promote up to five players of their youth team players to the senior team any time in the course of the season. These youth players do not have to earn minimum wage so far they are products of the club’s academy.
It is also mandatory for all Coaches seeking to manage clubs in the Premier League to obtain CAF Grade B license.