Rivers United have no case, says NFF

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Rivers United meeting Enyimba before a 2019/2020 NPFL game. Both teams will represent Nigeria in CAF competitions next season.

Approves final NPFL 2019/2020 table

Rivers United’s quest to play in the CAF Champions League next season may have been dashed following the Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) insistence that the Port Harcourt-based club finished third and not second on the final 2019/2020 Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) table.

Shortly after the 2019/2020 season was called off due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the League Management Company (LMC) ruled that the country’s representatives in the forthcoming continental club competitions would be determined by the Point Per Game (PPG) system, which would show each club’s standing in the cancelled competition.

At the end of the exercise, the LMC in concert with the NFF ruled that Plateau United and Enyimba ended the season on the first and second positions respectively and therefore would represent Nigeria in the CAF Champions League. The same system placed Rivers United on the third position and awarded them the less glamorous CAF Confederation Cup alongside Kano Pillars.

The decision did not go down well with Rivers United, who subsequently petitioned the federation, alleging injustice. The Port Harcourt-based club also threatened to take their case to FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

That seems to be Rivers United’s only recourse left as the NFF yesterday endorsed the final table of the NPFL for the 2019/2020 season as prepared and released by the LMC.

 
Rising from its virtual meeting yesterday, where it deliberated ‘on all the issues arising from the forced ending to the season by the COVID-19, the agreement reached by all stakeholders to use the Points-Per-Game (PPG) to determine the final table and the subsequent petition by Rivers United FC, the federation endorsed “the LMC decision and the final table for the 2019/2020 season in line with the NFF statutes.”

It also charged the “LMC to work out its calendar to ensure that very minimal number of matches are postponed for clubs taking part in continental competitions.”
 
The federation 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.

 
The NFF added that in reaching its conclusions, 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.”

According to the NFF, it established that the LMC followed all the due process of consultation with the NPFL participating clubs and the NFF in coming to the decision to end the NPFL 2019/2020 Season at Match day 25.
 
It also established that the PPG table was presented by LMC for discussions by the clubs, including Rivers United, since May 2020 and there were no objections on the standings and/or the application of the head-to-head to break the tie.
 
“Indeed, it was the same table that was presented to the government in June 2020 as part of discussions to end the league or go for a Super 6, given the nationwide lockdown order announced as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

 
“Rivers United belatedly made a complaint on the PPG table standings only after the final decision to end the league was taken and weeks after the league standings were established.
 
“The clubs were duly carried along and voted twice in the final decision to end the league and use the PPG system, first by the 20 NPFL clubs at an internal meeting and second by the same clubs at the joint meeting between NFF, LMC and the 20 NPFL Clubs. The majority of the clubs (18-2) voted to end the league and use the PPG system,” the NFF said.
 
The NFF 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.”



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