There was a slew of exciting games that were played in the Matchday three of the 2019 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on Sunday, January 10 but some disturbing photos have since marred the conversations around it.
On Sunday evening, a host of photos emerged which show Bethel Kwansei, a centre referee, bloodstained and soaked with an obvious injury on his head.
The story behind the gory photos is something we have heard and seen from the NPFL this season and we are just in Matchday three.
Kwansei and other match officials were beaten up by irate fans of the home side Remo Stars, mainly because of a disallowed game late in the 1-1 draw at home to Bendel Insurance FC.
Indeed, the cases of violence on match officials are a dime a dozen in the NPFL and Nigerian football in general but what has been shocking is the sort of slap in the wrist punishment the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the League Management Company (LMC) have given defaulting clubs.
Plateau United were fined N3m and given a three-match home ban as punishment after fans assaulted match officials in their goalless draw against visiting FC IfeanyiUbah in Matchday one.
Taking lessons from the past four, five seasons-if not since inception-it is clear these punishments are not enough as unfortunately, similar occurrences have continued to occur.
It’s time the NFF and the LMC come together and bring up stricter measures to deal with cases like this.
Point deduction easily comes to mind and until clubs have it in mind that fans’ misconducts and similar disorderliness would cost them points, they would not come up with ways to curb it.
Every hand is also needed on board to stop this menace.
The Nigeria Referees Association (NRA) can also do better with demanding better protection for their members. Be more vocal about incidences like this and pull their members off league games if cases like this are not well handled by the NFF and LMC.
The clubs should also play very important roles in all of these. They are the closest to fans and should seize the opportunity to carry out massive orientation for their fans.
The clubs should also be strict in how they handle such cases. Get the perpetrators and prosecute them, which will send a clear message to everyone.
Everyone has to come on board, the fans, organisers, clubs and the players.
For a start, match officials and even anybody for that matter should not be scared in football grounds. While there is a lot of work to be done in the NPFL and local football in Nigeria, let’s start with this.