In the 2011/12 season of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), the title race among Kano Pillars, Enugu Rangers and Lobi Stars looked set to go down to the wire until it was snapped with just two rounds of matches to the end of the campaign.
Ocean Boys were expelled from the Nigerian top flight that season after three Nigerian journalists, Colin Udoh, Bode Oguntuyi and Toyin Ibitoye, threatened court action if the then league body refused to throw out the club for flouting one of the rules of the top division.
That expulsion led to all of Ocean Boys' results for that season being cancelled and thereby handing Kano Pillars the title on the eve of the last games of the 2011/12. The offence of Ocean Boys was failure to honour two consecutive matches owing to lack of fund to attend the games. Their act flouted Article 4.2(3) of the league rules.
Now the League Management Company (LMC) has asked the participating clubs in the 2013/14 season to produce a N100 million (around $625,000) bank guarantee as a way to help safeguard the competition and increase transparency and credibility of the financial operations of the clubs.
With less than seven days to the start of the 2013/14 season, the bank guarantee and other reform plans by the LMC has come under scrutiny from different quarters.
N100m bank guarantee
This week the LMC and the club representatives reached a decision at a consultative meeting in Abuja on the bank guarantee. It was agreed that the clubs "are allowed to provide the (bank) guarantee in quarterly instalments of N25 million (around $156,250)." But it does not stop the clubs from providing the guarantee in one swoop of N100 million.
Also, there is a penalty of points and goals deduction for "any defaulting club."
"The meeting once again reiterated that the provision of performance guarantee of N100 million from an approved financial institution remains an irrevocable requirement for registration to participate in the 2013/14 league season.
"However, clubs are allowed to provide the guarantee in quarterly instalments of N25 million and any defaulting club shall be liable to forfeiture of six points, six goals and a further withholding of the defaulting club's financial entitlement from the sponsorship rights," a statement from the LMC this week read.
It is clear that the LMC is applying the financial terms of the club licensing proposed by Caf and Fifa to forestall the Ocean Boys scenario from happening again and also "help deliver both short and long-term improvements for clubs."
Instances of clubs winding up
Apart from the Ocean Boys scenario, a number of privately-owned clubs in the 1980s and 1990s went under. Abiola Babes, Leventis United, New Nigeria Bank FC and Udoji United among others no longer exist.
Even Iwuanyanwu Nationale, which dominated the top flight in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was acquired from businessman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, by the Imo State government in 2006 and renamed Heartland FC.
A handful of top European clubs have also been hit by financial insolvency in recent years leading to demotion, points deduction and even having their licence to participate in their countries' leagues stripped.
Portsmouth, Glasgow Rangers, MSV Duisburg and Leeds United are examples of clubs that suffered financial implosion and struggled to even meet up their financial obligation in recent years.
Minimum wage for players
Just as the bank guarantee has come under scrutiny, the minimum wage of N150,000 (around $930) has been questioned. This week, former Nigeria international, Garba Lawal, now general manager of Kaduna United, vented his spleen saying the management company does not have the right to propose wages for players and clubs.
"They cannot fix contracts or salaries that players should get. Clubs and players can negotiate that," said Lawal to Brila FM.
Chief Operating Officer of the LMC, Salihu Abubakar, however, took time to shed more light on the "salary cap" for players when contacted by supersport.com.
"The LMC and the clubs agreed on this issue of the minimum wage for players. It was never a one-sided agreement. It was agreed that signing-on fees be done away with to allow for improved minimum wage starting from N150,000 (around $930). It is a salary cap to ensure better pay for players and not a fixed pay," explained Abubakar.
For the records, English Barclays Premier League clubs also have an agree in principle to put a cap on the amount they can increase in their wage bill for every season, which resembles that of the NPFL in an inverted manner.
With the LMC waiving off payment of registration fees and insurance premium, the NPFL clubs are now expected "to take advantage of the waivers to improve the welfare of players and officials."
"The LMC has waived the payment of registration fees and insurance premium by clubs and further to this, the LMC will subscribe to an enhanced insurance policy covering all players and match officials for the 2013/14 season. The (LMC) chairman Hon. Nduka Irabor therefore charged the clubs to take advantage of the waivers to improve the welfare of players and officials," the LMC stated.
The NPFL, also known as the Glo Premier League, will kick off on March 7.