The Nigerian Premier League was suspended on March 18, 2020 following the outbreak of the coronavirus. This was to ensure that football does not create an avenue for the pandemic to spread with the hope of resuming league later. So far, there have been series of meetings among concerned officials and several recommendations made to ascertain the format which the league will take up when it resumes.
On May 6, 2020 CAF published a list of 17 African countries who have cancelled their leagues due to the virus. Interestingly, Nigeria was not one of them. However, one of the recommendations been considered for starting the premier league in Nigeria is playing behind closed doors without fans.
In this publication, Sports Intelligence Magazine sought the opinion of some Chairmen of the Supporters Club of the teams in the Nigeria Premier League on whether the league should start without fans. They obviously gave interesting views. We also got the opinion of the National Chairman of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club on the issue. The excerpts reads below.
Heartland FC :
“It is better for the league to be ended than continue playing without fans. They can continue with the FA Cup. But on the Premier League, they should just cancel it”. –Mr. Eze Nkemka –Chairman, Heartland FC Supporters Club
“Plateau United Should be declared winner and the league should come to an end.” “Some clubs are not serious with their matches, they give little attention to their premier league matches and concentrate on CAF tournaments. If they end this season and declare Plateau United winner, it will serve as a lesson for everyone”- Comrade Ifeanyi Okereke- Abia Warriors Supporters Club Chairman.
IFEANYI UBAH FC:
“It is not really good to start the league without the fans because the tempo of the game will change. But we will not go against what the government recommends. Most of the leagues abroad that have started have done so without fans. So we can adjust and do same here”.- Mr. Anthony Oniru-Chairman, Ifeanyi UBAH FC Supporters Club
LIST AFRICAN COUNTRIES THAT HAVE CANCELLED THEIR PREMIER LEAGUES DUE TO CORONAVIRUS
|S/N||NAME OF COUNTRY||DATE OF CANCELLATION|
|1.||Mauritius||April 6, 2020|
|2.||Kenya||April 30, 2020|
|3.||Angola||April 30, 2020|
|4.||Guinea||April 30, 2020|
|5.||Burkina Faso||May 4, 2020|
|6.||Ethiopia||May 5, 2020|
|7.||Congo||May 5, 2020|
|9.||Cameroon||May 12, 2020|
|10.||DR Congo||May 14, 2020|
|11.||Uganda||May 20, 2020|
|12.||South Sudan||May 20, 2020|
|13.||Burundi||May 21, 2020|
|14.||Tanzania||June 1, 2020|
|15.||Rwanda||May 22, 2020|
|16.||Togo||May 26, 2020|
|17.||Botswana||June 14, 2020|
“The league should start as soon as possible without fans. If possible, let it kick off in July because it has stayed off for too long. The pandemic is a distraction. Even if we keep waiting, it will not solve the problem the pandemic has caused.- Mr. Olowo Felix- Chairman, Sunshine Stars Supporters Club
“It is not good to keep the fans away from the league entirely, the beauty of the game should be sustained. LMC should regulate the number of fans in attendance and give a directive that all precautionary measures be observed during matches”.- Paul Hilary-Chairman, Akwa United Supporters Club
ENUGU RANGERS INTERNATIONAL
“Nigeria Premier League is not ripe enough to play without fans. If the range of seating capacity of most pitches are between 5000 to 20,000, why can’t LMC give fans between 500 to 1000 seats. Social distancing can be observed among fans. If LMC are thinking of keeping the fans away, then they should think of spending to make people watch the matches at home. Canceling the league is not even an option, because Rangers International are capable of winning the league. Although Plateau United are on top, we still have some outstanding matches to play”.- Hon. Ibuchukwu Nwodo- Chairman, Enugu Rangers International Supporters Club
“The supporters are the backbone of clubs in the premier league. If the LMC decide to continue without the supporters and fans, it may not help the situation. But with the coronavirus situation on ground, the LMC can continue the league without the supporters and fans. We are not in any way supporting the cancellation of the league, let the league continue and the winner emerge, it should be concluded. If the league is cancelled who should now be declared champion of the league?. The LMC should begin preparation for the next season but they should finish this one”. –Alhaji Bashiru Idris- Chairman Kano Pillars Supporters Club and Chairman of Chairmen of the Supporters Clubs in premier league in Nigeria.
“Starting the Nigeria League without the fans is like a woman cooking a pot of soup without adding salt. The fans are the third players and the beauty of Football” The pandemic may have caused lots of setback, it will be difficult to play without fans”. –Stephen Eke Ikoro Secretary, Enyimba FC Supporters Club
In his own view, the National Chairman of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club (NFSC) Rev. Samuel Ikpea has this to say: “The figures of cases been published by the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control is increasing. It is difficult to fault figures coming from a government agency, particularly as it concerns health. However, I will advise that the league continues without the fans. It is only a living person that can enjoy the fun of football”.
In a nutshell, the LMC are yet to come up with a final decision on what next happens to the Nigeria League. While we await their final decision, the big question is this, “Will Nigeria become the next African county to cancel her league or will the fans give way? This is one big question that is yet to be answered as fans await the final verdict from LMC.
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