Rivers United set to take battle to CAS
Not satisfied by the Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) decision on the final Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) 2019/2020 table, Rivers United have dusted their books and are now taking their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
Rivers United are insisting that they ended the 2019/2020 NPFL season as the second-best team and deserve the second CAF Champions League slot behind Plateau United, which ended as a top team when the competition was abruptly called off because of the coronavirus outbreak. The NFF had earlier ruled that Plateau United and Enyimba of Aba would represent Nigeria in the CAF elite competitions going by its calculations using the Point Per Game (PPG) system.
That did not go down well with Rivers United, which insists that, from whatever system used, they remain on the second spot on the standings.
Rising from its virtual meeting on Tuesday, the NFF said, in deciding the case brought by Rivers United, it consulted the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and world football governing body, FIFA, who affirmed the NFF position.
It also said that it reviewed (1) the “process followed by the LMC from May 2020 when the NFF approved the decision to end the NPFL 2019/2020 season at Match day 25 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, to July 2020 when it approved the NPFL table based on the PPG system with the top three teams to represent Nigeria in the 2020/2021 CAF inter-clubs competitions;
“ (2) The relevant provisions of the NPFL rule book that the LMC relied upon to end the season and adopt the PPG;
“(3) The Petition from Rivers United proposing for the LMC to use the goal difference to break the tie; and,
“(4) The LMC’s response to Rivers United’s petition seeking to clarify the issues and stating the basis of its decision.”
The NFF said it agreed with the LMC’s application of rulebook in coming to its decisions, adding that the “novel COVID-19 pandemic presented an ‘exceptional’ situation and disruptions globally that presented a ‘force majeure’ which warranted the decision to end the league.”
However, in rejecting the NFF’s position yesterday, the Rivers State government, owners of Rivers United Football Club, accused the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, of bias, saying he was working in favour of Enyimba of Aba.
A statement by the Rivers State Commissioner for Sports, Boma Iyaye, listed eight grounds of objections to the report of the NFF’s Football Committee, saying, “in the circumstances, we are constrained to express our deep reservations about certain half-truths, deliberate distortion of facts and obvious misinformation.”
On the Committee’s claim that the clubs were duly carried along and voted twice in the final decision to end the league and use the PPG system, Iyaye said, “The truth is that Rivers United Football Club never objected to the PPG, and continues to support the PPG system as agreed by the majority of the Clubs. Our position has always been that, rather than use an inconclusive head-to-head to separate two teams tied on points, the rules guiding the operations of the NPFL states that ‘goal difference’ shall be the first option to be used in separating teams that are tied on the same points, followed by ‘higher goals scored’ and lastly, head-to-head. We are only against the selective application of the Rules.”
Iyaye insists that Rivers United has a genuine case based on facts “but were only being denied their rights owing to attempts by some people to deliberately shortchange the club.”
He said, “This is a clear case of injustice and undue victimisation.
“In light of this development, the Rivers State Government, sponsors of Rivers United Football Club, is compelled to seek the proper interpretation of the applicable rules, and a pronouncement on the propriety or otherwise of the actions and decisions of the LMC on the matter, from the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
“We are eager for justice and determined to protect Rivers people and its interest in line with the philosophy of our leader, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.”
Iyaye urged Youth and Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, to wade into the matter and ensure that justice is dispensed in a free and fair manner.
He alleged: “The president of NFF, Amaju Pinnick and Shehu Dikko (LMC chairman) are taking football in Nigeria fifty (50) years behind. They should be called to order or Nigerian football will continue to dwindle.”
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