Friday, August 14, 2009

Dodgy Contracts Ruining The Nigerian League

When Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro’s move from Manchester United to free-spending Spanish club, Real Madrid, was confirmed, the whole world knew that the sum of £80 million was paid to the English Premier League (EPL) champion for the full ownership of the Portuguese winger. Apart from the record fee paid for his transfer, it was also revealed that he would earn €13 million per season while his deal with Real Madrid has a €1 billion buy-out clause. While information about the deals signed by players in other parts of the world as typified by the Ronaldo example are readily made available to the media, the case is different in the Premier League and the National Division I League in Nigeria. It is even worse to the extent that club officials cannot even confirm if a particular player is set to switch teams or not until a new campaign gets underway.
Last week, I tried to confirm two stories about the impending moves of an ex-international to become a coach of a newly-promoted side to the Premier League and one of the consistent goal-scorers in the same league on their destination. Well, I met a brick wall. The first try was with the boss of the newly-promoted club, who simply said: “We will probably name our coach this week.” That was the best he could tell me after trying to prod further. The second encounter was with one of the spokesman of a former champion of the Premier League. The so-called media known for being combative and loquacious could only say that “at the moment, I am in my village and I cannot tell you anything. But when I get back to my base I will definitely call you to give you the proper information (on the transfer of a player from another club to his club).”
Opening the national newspapers and even the sports dailies across the country would testify that information on the transfer of players and coaches from one club to another in Nigeria is often lacking in the off-season compared to that of Europe, which is awash with transfer news. Admittedly, those of us covering the leagues are often held responsible for refusing to report or celebrate moves of players from one local club to another. At the same time, the clubs should receive some sticks for the role they have played in refusing to divulge contract details of players and officials. No one can confirm which player or coach is the top earner in the Premier League, which is a sad development for a championship struggling to get recognition in its own domain. This is one of the major reasons that the EPL’s fan base in the country has dwarfed that of the NPL. A number of clubs such as Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC), Kwara United, Warri Wolves and Niger Tornadoes are culprits in encouraging the refusal of disclosing deals of their coaches recently hired. As at the time of writing this piece, I can only recall that Kano Pillars is the only side to have revealed the details of its deal with Slovenian coach, Ivan Sajh, hired in April though the information came in June.
It has also been uncovered that the refusal to disclose contract details may not be unconnected to the fact that the clubs since they are tied to the aprons of the state governments and would not want to reveal the true amounts involved in such deals as way to use clubs as conduit pipes for making millions of naira notes.
The situation is even worse because it has been uncovered that some of these deals do not even have paper work to back them up, which makes them really dodgy. Last season, a player from relegated Nasarawa United called to say that he did not sign a deal on paper with the club but does not want his story to go on our newspaper for fear of being thrown out since he wants to use the club to move to another lucrative side in the Premier League.
On the other hand, the coaches and players have been short-changed in the process of payment in terms of salaries, match bonuses or signing-on fees after being placed on one-year deals that smack off suspicion. The coaches and players are also responsible for their predicament by agreeing mutually to keep sealed lips over the financial aspects of their contracts with their employers, only to run to the same media they shunned for help by disclosing that they are being owed millions of naira.
In Argentina, its league has been stopped from kicking off due to backlog of debts owed players and officials by clubs in that country. At the moment, the Clausura as the Argentina is called would not start until the debts are paid. In Nigeria, the Premier League would start next month while no starting date has been fixed for the Division I League yet. But a number of the clubs are still owing its players and officials and it is likely that this trend would continue until drastic actions are taken to correct these anomalies in contracts of players and officials.

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