TOP flight football in Nigeria, the Nigeria Professional Football League is contending with a dangerous dimension into the country’s most populous game, that is attack on match officials.
THE crisis needs to be nipped in the bud, else, it may portend grave dangers ahead.
RECENTLY, match officials of a football encounter between Bendel Insurance of Benin City and Remo Stars were severely beaten by irate fans at the Sagamu Stadium, Sagamu, Ogun State. A week before that encounter, ill-tempered fans also attacked match officials in Plateau State.
ACCORDING to news reports, the match officials had their heads broken by the hoodlums, with the Centre Refree’s head needing stitches over cuts sustained from objects used during the attack.
THE irate fans accused the match officials of bias for having denied the home team a penalty.
REMO Stars have been sanctioned by the League Management Committee (LMC) to a fine of N1million for failure to ensure restriction of access to unauthorized persons after the match, failure to provide adequate security for match officials, and engaging in conduct capable of bringing the league to disrepute.
REMO Stars have also been directed within seven days to ensure the apprehension and prosecution of the culprits, identified as Akintan Yinka and “2110”, who were reported to have led the assault on the match officials.
UPON failure to apprehend the culprits, Remo Stars will be fined N25, 000 per day, until the culprits are apprehended and charged to court.
THE HOPE condemns the behavior of the unruly fans in strong terms, because of their wrong perception that home teams must win during football matches.
HITHERTO, Nigerian Referees had been thought to be rampantly corrupt, fond of pandering to the whims of home teams, but the reforms instituted by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has changed the situation.
WITH the Sagamu episode, Referees will be afraid of handling matches in a professional manner leading to the situation that made CAF, ban our Referees from handling international matches.
FANS should be cautioned not to take the law into their hands as it could lead to grave consequences that bother negatively on all stakeholders in the football sector.
EVEN if the Referees have handled football matches in a less-than-satisfactory way, legal and civilised means should be employed to ventilate their grievances.
THE issue really is that for our football to grow, violence and intimidation of match officials must be punished as done in other societies.
IN other word, football should be seen as a well-organised business venture where stadia built by private individuals and match officials are protected from attacks.
IT is the absence of such measure that brought about the unfortunate incident that took place in Sagamu.
WE suggest also that all Referees invited to handle football matches should be protected by the home team and those who pander to clubs through gratifications should be sanctioned after football matches.
WE call on the Nigeria Football Federation (NFP) to take a cue from what obtains in other countries, by installing Video Assisted Referees to officiate matches.
IN addition, all Nigerian football matches should be televised and recorded, so that the mechanism for seeking redress will be put in place.
THOUGH we commend LMC’s action, it should however be noted that match officials, should ideally have nothing to do with team officials, as the NFF should take care of every logistic of match officials from accommodation to transportation.
FINALLY, the NFF should factor security of match officials into their plans, so that football in Nigeria can develop along reasonable lines.
NFF should continue to insist that Referees should be transparent in their conduct, so that we can have sanity in Nigerian football.