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Drama as referees boycott Insurance versus Rangers NPFL game in Benin

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• Allegedly accuse Edo deputy governor of threatening their lives
• We are surprised by the development, says Ilaboya

Fans and other football stakeholders were left stranded at the Sports Centre of the University of Benin, which was supposed to host a Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) match between Bendel Insurance and Enugu Rangers, when the match officials designated for the game refused to show up.

Bendel Insurance and Enugu Rangers were at the stadium at the appointed 4.00 p.m. kick off time, but after waiting for more than one hour with no sign of the match officials, the teams decided to leave the stadium for the their hotels.An Enugu Rangers official, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that they were told the match officials boycotted the game in protest of an alleged threat to their lives by Edo State Deputy Governor, Phillip Shaibu, who is also a registered Bendel Insurance player.

“At the pre-match meeting, only the match commissioner and match assessor were present. “The fans and both teams were at the stadium for the match, but we knew something was wrong when we did not see the referees.“The explanation we got, which was not confirmed by the Nigerian Referees Association (NRA), was that the match officials decided to boycott the game because of the dangerous utterances allegedly made by the Edo State deputy governor.“We are now leaving the stadium to await the League Management Company’s (LMC) directive,” the official said.

Reacting to the development, League Management Company’s (LMC) Harry Iwuala said the body was talking to the parties involved to ascertain what actually happened at the stadium.“We want to know why the referees boycotted the match, if they actually boycotted the game.
“We will make our decisions after our investigations, but you can talk to the referees association to find out why their members acted the way they did,” he said.

Also speaking on the development, Nigerian Referees Association (NRA) PRO, Kelechi Mejuobi said the body had not been briefed on the situation, adding the NRA would not comment on the issue until it got proper briefing on it.He said, however, that the NRA would only react after getting the league body’s side of the situation.

Edo FA Chairman, Frank Ilaboya said the state, owners of the club, was surprised that the referees did not turn up, adding that they were set for the game until they learnt that the match officials did not come to Benin.“At this level, it is not right for us to react to rumours. Nobody communicated to us that his life was being threatened, so we are still trying to find out what actually happened.

“The state FA is the eyes and ears of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and if anything happens we should know so that we can brief the NFF correctly. But in this case, we cannot point at anything as responsible for the referees’ actions.”He described the University of Benin Sports Complex, where Bendel Insurance play their matches, as one of the safest venues in the league, saying there had never been any form of crisis in the place.


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