Mr. Irabor said the LMC was interested in protecting players’ interest.
The Chairman of the League Management Company, Nduka Irabor, has revealed that one of LMC’s main objectives is to protect the players and ensure adequate funding for clubs.
Mr. Irabor, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES in an exclusive interview in Abuja on Wednesday, said the league will have a new rule book to guide it, starting from the next league season which will commence 7 March. He also disclosed that the league administration will take a new turn in the next season with increased clubs earnings, adequate infrastructure and restructuring.
Read the full details of the interview below:
PT: Why is the LMC setting new requirements for Premier League clubs?
NI: The delineating and structuring of the provisions of the performance guarantee is consistent with our objective to protect the players and ensure that only clubs with financial and organisational means are admitted in the league. This doesn’t in anyway subtract from the value of the performance guarantee and as has been set. The requirement is part of the reform process to improve the operations of the clubs.
PT: What is your reaction to clubs owners/managers that have complained about the mandatory minimum wage of N150,000 for the league players?
NI: The rules anticipated that and there is a clause in the communiqué that addresses that. We will give enough time for the clubs to adjust but there’s a penalty for retraction. If for instance, you are unable to pay N150,000 then you should have stated this at the point of registration. You may or may not get a waiver. No club has (officially) made such a complaint yet and they have up to Tuesday for registration. If they come up with their excuse, saying that they don’t have up to N100 million (bank guarantee) then we ask for other guarantees. However, it is mandatory; nobody is going to get away from it. There is a six points-six goals punishment for people who fail to meet these conditions.
PT: Is the N100 million “bank guarantee” for clubs still in place?
NI: The N100 million is being maintained. We need to know if (the clubs) have the means. It is not meant to boost egos. The only groups and organisation that the players can complain to is the LMC.
PT: What happens to the clubs that fail to pay the N150,000 minimum wage?
NI: Clubs are supposed to earn revenues. We may also decide to hold on to these revenues. But those clubs will not get away with not paying minimum wage to the league players.
PT: Why did you stop clubs from paying registration fees?
NI: We decided to do away with registration fees; it is almost anachronistic. The most important thing is that they are qualified to be in the league. At the time registration fees were being paid, the league wasn’t earning any money. The league is earning money now; why take that away from them.
PT: What’s the wisdom behind the N250, 000 TV broadcast royalties given to each club?
NI: It is an instrument for distributing income. All clubs are given the opportunity to partake in live broadcast. It is not as if you are doing it for fun or not getting anything out of it; so you build your stadium and make it friendly enough for TV coverage.
PT: Tell us more about the rules that will guide the new league season.
NI: The old rule is gone and a new rule book will be unveiled to the public next week. And if there is a process that the rule book has to take, we will take it. The registration procedure permits us to look and evaluate the resume of administrators and give our own take.
PT: What are the new things to be expected in the new league season?
NI: The indemnity of match officials and Commissioners were reviewed upwards by 25 per cent starting from the 2013/14 league season. There will be a 50 per cent increase in the Merit Award from N50 million of the 2012/13 season to N75 million for the 2013/14 season. Merit Award is a performance bonus paid to clubs at the end of the season based on their final standing on the log and is aimed at increasing the intensity of the competition and the entertainment value thereof.
PT: Is there a pension scheme for league players?
NI: The Bridging Pension Scheme has been set up to secure the future of all our players in the elite league as they will be eligible to draw some portion of the fund on retirement, terminal injury or perhaps voluntarily quitting the game.
PT: What is the outcome of the LMC’s inspection of the stadiums where the league matches will hold?
NI: Right now, there is no reason why we cannot play in all places we inspected but they need to make their stadium friendlier and better. They need to do some touch ups. They need to refurbish and curb securities measures. We have made observations in terms of maintenance of the turf, state of their toilets, and safety hazards around the stadium. The observation has been communicated to the clubs. One of the finest stadiums didn’t have water in their toilets. When families come there, they can’t use them. The ones that are bad, if they are not fixed by the end of the 1st quarter matches would no longer be played there.
PT: What about the TV coverage of league matches, especially in the north and also at venues where broadcasters do not feel secure to work?
NI: In covering matches, if the broadcaster decides they can’t cover matches in a particular place then we will find another venue.
PT: How would you improve fan attendance at match venues?
NI: The media has a lot of roles to play. We are starting this season by introducing league matches to free to air local TV. Anybody who has a TV can watch the games. Show more of the games on TV and people will find their way back to the stadiums. We will have more security at the stadium. We have emphasised that utilities needs special attention. We need to make it more friendly. We also consider throwing in some elements of entertainment during matches. It will be announced soon.
PT: How do you rate the league’s performance so far?
NI: We seriously believe that last year (2013) was a great year for football lovers. The intensity and keenness of competition with improved incentives will help the league. Merit awards will also be part of the incentive.
PT: What’s the LMC’s reaction to the sacking of the board and management of Kano Pillars football club?
NI: The LMC will not react to the sacking of the entire board of Kano Pillars. Our obligation and concern is the kind of person you have given to us. Each time you appoint somebody, we evaluate whether the person is fit and proper. We don’t take such power/responsibility from the employer. There are several reasons for which you can remove somebody.