By Harry Iwuala
There have been too many faulty narratives about the relationship of the League Management Company (LMC) and the defunct Nigeria Football League Limited (NFLL)/ the Nigeria Premier League (NPL).
Your recent article of Sunday, October 9, 2016 in which you tried to suggest to readers that the League Management Company is an offshoot of the defunct Nigeria Football League Limited and or the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) is one of such narratives.
It is important to correct these impressions for the benefit of students of the history of professional football league in Nigeria starting with your incorrect narrative on the formation of Nigeria Premier Football League, which you claimed has metamorphosed into different names and now LMC.
There has never been a body known in Nigerian football as Nigeria Premier Football League. Decree 11 of 1990 which was merged with Decree 10 0f 1990 to create Decree 101 of 1991 was the foundation for what has come to be known as Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
Decree 101 which presently is Nigeria Football Association (NFA) Act 2004 empowers the NFA to set up subsidiaries, license or authorize affiliates to manage aspects of football IN NIGERIA as it deems reasonable. Thus, we have the Nigeria National League (NNL) Women Football, Nationwide Amateur League and the League Management Company. These are affiliates of the NFA (read NFF).
HOW LMC CAME INTO BEING
Needless to repeat, the story of the crisis in the Professional League which was alluded to in your piece and which came to head with a judgment by Justice Donatus Okorowo of an Abuja Federal High Court in January, 2012 that declared that the then NFLL failed to meet the requirements for formation of companies as stipulated by the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 2004.
The then Minister for Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi and the Nigeria Football Federation hierarchy led by Alhaji Aminu Maigari in reaction to the court declaration and more importantly to address the deterioration in the league set up the League Management Committee. The 13 member committee had terms of reference that included reorganizing the league, organizing election, resolving all contractual issues, making the league viable and most importantly, any other step they consider necessary.
Such necessary step the Committee took then was to incorporate a new company to amongst several other reasons be in a position to resolve the contractual issues and more importantly, break away from the insolvent court dissolved NFLL.
This background is necessary to correct your erroneous assertion that first; Nigeria Football Association floated the Nigeria Premier Football League to manage professional football in the country. Secondly, that the Nigeria Premier Football League changed name severally to Nigeria Premier League and to League Management Committee and then to League Management Company. The only similarity between the defunct Nigeria Football League Limited and the LMC is that they are companies set up under the approval and participation of the NFA to manage the league at different times. The major and most important difference between the two also is that the incorporation of one, the Nigeria Football League Limited was ruled defective by the Federal High Court through Justice Okorowo while the LMC has won court cases challenging its legitimacy.
Central to the reform of the League is the governing structure of LMC, which went through several stages of approvals before registration with Corporate Affairs Commission. It began with the adoption of the English League model by all the Clubs of the League, with modifications that suited the Nigerian reality. For instance, the Clubs are represented on the Board of LMC by three directors, whereas the Clubs in the EPL are not represented by any directors on the board of Football Association Premier League Ltd, (FAPL) the company that operates the EPL.
Second stage was the approval of the governance structure by NFF. Thirdly, this was then submitted to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for vetting and final approval before filing with the CAC. This makes the document available to any member of the public. LMC has gone further to post this registered document on its official website, available for free download.
What needs to be pointed out is that the defunct NFLL was registered in 2006 only after the approval and involvement of NFF (NFA at the time).
But the arrangement under LMC has even gone further and better than the past. Now, NFF holds the golden shares in LMC, under its registered governing structure. This is designed to create stability and sustainability in the operation and management of the League. This is the exact same arrangement in EPL, where the English FA hold the golden share in FAPL. This also serves to boost the confidence of all stakeholders and investors that major or dramatic changes cannot be made to the League without the consent of the Football Federation.
The choice of this model for LMC, it must be said, was not arbitrary. The participating Clubs and other concerned authorities considered several other League models, including the Bundesliga, La Liga and others before settling on the EPL model, as collectively modified, for Nigeria. Under this model, Clubs are assured of a more equitable and transparent distribution of revenues. The continuously increasing financial power of the Clubs of EPL across board is a testimony to the commercial viability of this model. We are already witnessing this same trend in the NPFL under LMC.
It is the irony of success that it always attracts trenchant opposition from those who do not wish for things to change or improve. This is especially when the change that is for the good of all. We are witnessing this now with all manner of ill-informed and mischievous claims about the legal status of LMC.
Before the formation of LMC in 2013, nobody cared about the football league in Nigeria, which was a mockery of what modern well-run Leagues represent. Before then the entire revenue of the League was given away to third parties and middlemen in wicked and dubious agreements designed to ensure that the League will never grow and the Clubs and players are perpetually enslaved. The League, then, was mired in endless squabbles over the crumbs these interests will throw around to ensure eternal confusion.
Being a rejoinder by Harry Iwuala, a freelance journalist, to a piece written by Patrick Omorodion in the Vanguard of Sunday, October 9, 2016