OPINION: The urgent need for better officiating in the NPFL

OPINION: The urgent need for better officiating in the NPFL

by Staff Reporter

Tuesday Jan 24, 2017. 12:18

The last time all 10 home teams won their matches on a match day was match day 33 of the 2013/14 season.

So, it has taken over two years before what happened last weekend.

But if Dankano A, the centre referee at the Remo/Abia Warriors game in Sagamu didn't award that controversial late penalty to Remo, that game would have been the match day's only draw and the 2014 record would have been sustained.

But going by the dwindling officiating in the NPFL since last season, it was only a matter of time before this happened.

It will be recalled that last season recorded less away victories than the previous season due to poor officiating. So, while the league organisation is being hailed with the introduction of Friday Night Football, improved crowd attendances, better facilities and television coverage, the officiating leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Now, we have to understand how these things work. Some NOVICE will argue: 'why would the league organisers get everything right except the officiating?'

The fact is that LMC, the league organisers, ensure that every logistics needed for the league to run smoothly is provided but doesn't have a final say over who officiates in matches.

So, the LMC ensures the referees' indemnities are paid and that they are properly secured at match venues, but the appointments of the refs and their regulation are done by the NFF Referees Appointment Committee (RAC) and Nigeria Referees Association (NRA). These two decide whether a ref gets punished for poor officiating or a pat on the back.

So, even if the LMC is not satisfied with a ref's performance, the best they could do is to recommend him/her for punishment but the onus of meting out those punitive measures is on the RAC and NRA. If the latter gives the ref a clean bill of health, he is off the hook.

Now, check out this scenario; LMC has secured FBT, a kit designer for the refs. So instead of the usual practice where the refs buy their own kits, they are now provided by the LMC courtesy FBT. There are on-going plans to secure a kit sponsor for the refs. The sponsors' logo will adorn the refs' kits. Then they will take the referees' bills off LMC.

This means improved remuneration for the refs and also free some cash for the LMC to put into players' welfare and facilities development. So, while the LMC goes out of its way to ensure the refs are well catered for, the league organisers have no say over who wears these kits or enjoys these largesse.

What has been captured here is the league organisers' lofty plans for the refs and by implication, their desired level of officiating for the league. But their powers are limited.

There seems to be a DISCONNECT between LMC and RAC/NRA. They all need to be on the same page.

It is laudable that LMC recommended Dankano's suspension and the NRA obliged. But while the league organisers recommended similar measures against Folusho Ajayi, the ref at the centre of FCIU's boycott of the league opener against Pillars in Kano as well as Heartland's abandonment of last season's curtain drawer against Plateau United in Jos, NRA gave her a vote of confidence.

In the Ajayi case, the NRA pointed to rules not being flouted but they also failed to take into cognizance GAME MANAGEMENT which is a core attribute of a sound referee.

Her poor GM could lead to loss of lives at match venues and further embarrassing situations in the league, developments LMC was trying to guard against. But the league organisers' plans to have Ajayi off their roster was truncated by NRA/RAC.

So, if you see Ajayi at the centre in an NPFL game, henceforth, it is at the behest of the 'almighty' RAC/NRA.

For improved officiating in the NPFL, RAC/NRA need to be on the same page with LMC.

Those who draw up the list of refs for the season as well as appoint them for matches need to have the same goal as the league organisers. They need to be firmer and reduce this 'paddy paddy' relationship with match officials. There has been ALLEGATIONS of inducements by club officials (particularly, those very rich ones) in conjunction with those saddled with the task of appointing these refs...Hmmmmm...RAC/NRA need to come clean on this.

They need to prove these allegations WRONG. And there is no better way of proving their INNOCENCE than aligning with LMC and purging the league of corrupt/incompetent refs.

If this alignment in DIRECTION between LMC and RAC/NRA doesn't happen, our quest to have a league where anyone can win anywhere might be a mirage.

We will have the best organised league ruined by the worst imaginable match officials.

By Clement Nwankpa Jr

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