Without any doubt, the most topical issue in Nigerian Football at the moment is the raging crisis over attempts by the League Management Company, LMC, organisers of the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, to end the 2019/2020 season using the highly contentious Points Per Game, PPG formula.
Points per game, often abbreviated PPG, is the average number of points scored by a team per game over the course of a series of games. It is calculated by dividing the total number of points by the number of games played.
It is also important to know that the terminology is often used in basketball and ice hockey as well as many other sports where individual players are to be seeded or rated during championships.
Although recognised as a standard and acceptable channel for resolving disputes and ensuring fairness especially in emergencies like the one brought about the coronavirus, it is also not insulated from controversies.
A good example is a recent uproar in French football following the decision of Ligue 1 organisers to abruptly end the 2020 season and also award the championship and European places on points per game basis.
Using PPG, Paris Saint-Germain are awarded a third successive Ligue 1 title, while Marseille and Rennes take the other two Champions League places.
Immediately that decision was taken, one of the leading clubs in the league, Olympique Lyon who finished seventh, outside of the European places headed to court as they argued that the league should have been resolved on the pitch rather than in the boardroom, even if it meant applying any alternative but PPG.
Almost the same scenario is presently playing out as some NPFL clubs and stakeholders are vehemently opposed to attempts by the League Management Company to end the 2019/2020 season based on the much-hated PPG.
It will be recalled that following the outbreak and eventual escalation of the deadly coronavirus in Nigeria, the Nigerian Professional Football League was suspended indefinitely on March 18. Before the break, almost all the clubs had played 25 matches.
However, two clubs that represented the country in the continent, Enyimba FC of Aba and Enugu Rangers having played 20 and 24 matches had five matches and one match outstanding respectively.
Since the country is still battling to contain the killer virus with little or no success, which invariably gives no signal as to when sporting activities would resume, the NPFL organisers had to tinker with available options to end the season.
Unfortunately, soon as the LMC chairman, Shehu Dikko reeled out the available options including the points Per Game format, there were agitations in some quarters with Lobi Stars leading the opposition as they alleged that the league organisers wanted to use PPG to favour Enyimba.
Thus, the uneasy calm was finally breached on Sunday, June 21 when 17 of the 20 clubs in the NPFL voted during a virtual meeting to end the season using the Points Per Game formula.
The club chairmen also decided that there should be neither relegation nor promotion to the NPFL in the coming season.
Based on PPG, Plateau United with an average of 1.96, Enyimba 1.80, Rivers United 1.80 were handed continental slots. While Plateau United and Enyimba were awarded the Champions League slots, Rivers United had one of the Confederation Cup tickets.
As expected, Lobi Stars were one of the two clubs that abstained from voting. The other club was Akwa United. On their part, Enugu Rangers voted for Super Six playoff and no relegation.
Immediately the Club Owners Association made public its decisions, Lobi Stars issued a statement alleging that the decisions were premeditated illegalities. They also invited the NFF and sports ministry to intervene in the matter.
“How can you explain a situation where 18 out of 20 of the NPFL Clubs, wholly owned and funded by State Governments with decision-making boards and a decision as crucial as voting on ending the league will be communicated to Club chairmen same day on a non-working day and the voting process was still expected to take place the same day as if the Chairmen are not accountable to other authorities. This is another pointer that lays validity to the strong suspicion of premeditation of the entire process.
“We hereby call on the Minister of Sports and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to disregard the charade displayed by the club owners in an attempt to perpetuate the PPG illegality, look at the merit of the matter and make sure a fair and conventional option is arrived at.
“We say No to PPG and table adjustment, as PPG has never been an option in case of force majeure and cannot start now,” the club’s Media Officer Austin Tyowua said in the statement.
In a swift response, the club owners on their part asked Lobi Stars to ‘stop vomiting rubbish’ and accept their fate in good faith.
The Executive Secretary of the club Owners, Alloy Chukwuemeka said Lobi Stars were handed the league title in 2018 under similar circumstances so they shouldn’t be bad losers.
“Lobi Stars should appreciate and reciprocate the sacrifices made by other clubs when we were faced with similar challenges and circumstances in the past which favoured them.
“They should also caution their Media Officer to mind his choice of words in public space as well as accord due respect to the positions and office of the Chairman of the Club Owners Association of Nigeria and that of the LMC.
“To our esteemed member Mr Mike Idoko, the leakage of the internal online voting to the Media apparently to discredit the Association and the process did not in any way affect the genuineness, transparency and authenticity of the voting and its unanimous adoption by the majority club chairmen,” he said.