The Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) has been tentatively scheduled to start at the end of September or start of October, pending the Nigerian government’s directives on Covid-19. The league was halted in March after 25 rounds and in July it was officially called off and Points Per Game (PPG) used to determine the final rankings, with no promotion and relegation. It wasn’t the best of endings for the season, forced by the coronavirus pandemic, and the acrimony was further extended by the death of Nasarawa United defender Chineme Martins in the Match Day 23 fixture against Katsina United on March 8.
Also, Rivers United has protested over the manner in which the league was ended, which left the team third in the standings as per the official final table released. In effect, it means Rivers will miss out on a Champions League slot and the team management has threatened to take the matter to FIFA for arbitration.
Lobi Stars also sounded their protest over the PPG resolution, saying it favored Enyimba, who had played five matches less by the time the league was suspended. Lobi were third in the standings at the time of stoppage but were displaced by Rivers United.
Related: Rivers United Letter To LMC – Appeal For Award Of 2nd Position In 2019/2020 NPFL
While Rivers and Lobi protest, Plateau United, who finished top of the standings had a top wish to be crowned champions with all the accompanying fanfare. They were favorites for the title but with 13 matches to go, their dream was canceled, much to skipper Elisha Golbe’s disappointment.
The league is also set to have new leadership, following the resignation of the League Management Company (LMC) chief executive officer Nduka Irabor in December. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has called on the LMC chairman Mallam Shehu to ‘propose and conclude the process of recruiting a suitable CEO’ ahead of the new NPFL season.
A big number of clubs in the league are sponsored by their state governments and with the coronavirus pandemic, these government were preoccupied with dealing with the disease in their areas of jurisdiction. Most clubs were therefore left cash strapped and thus the move to suspend, then cancel the league, while the PPG decision was also necessary for the league to beat CAF deadlines.
The confusion that marked the end of the 2019/20 season in NPFL extends the shaky nature of the league, placing it low among the top African leagues. As other major African leagues plan on resumption, it will be the third inconclusive season in Nigeria. In 2018, the league was suspended after 24 match days and in 2019 the league had to accommodate 24 teams and a mini league thereafter to determine the winner.
However, as the clubs prepare for the new season, they will have a financial boost in the shape of Covid-19 relief from FIFA and sponsors. This will enable the participants to bolster their squads as well as handle other logistics.
So far, Plateau United and Enyimba, who will play in the CAF Champions League, have been the busiest in the transfer market and will be among the favorites to compete for the league title again. Top odds for NPFL games will as usual be available on Bet9ja, 1xBET, Nairabet, Bet Winner and others. Click here to see the best betting sites in Nigeria which come with generous welcome bonuses and promotions, great live streaming options and competitive odds.
Plateau are reported to have signed Moses Effiong from Dakkada FC, Bashir Andulrahman from Enyimba and former U-20 defender Aliu Salawudeen. Meanwhile, Enyimba have in their books Hassan Abubakar from Wikki Tourists, Samad Kadiri from Lobi Stars and Anthony Omaka joining from Sunshine Stars.
Former Nigerian international Dele Aiyenugba is back from a stint in Israel and will join Kwara United alongside Michael Ohanu from Akwa United, Fatokun Jide from Sunshine and Afeez Nosiru from Niger Tornadoes.
Abia Warriors have also made moves in the transfer market and brought in goalkeeper Vincent Edafe from Dakkada.
Four clubs that will go to the new season the happiest will be Nasarawa United, Jigawa Golden Stars, Kwara United and Adamawa United. The four occupied the last four slots after the PPG decision but will stay in the top flight and gun for better finishes in the new season.
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