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LMC’s clumsy handling of Pillars vs Katsina Utd controversial match

Without doubt, one of the most nagging issues in Nigerian football at the moment is the row between neighbours, Kano Pillars and Katsina United resulting…

Without doubt, one of the most nagging issues in Nigerian football at the moment is the row between neighbours, Kano Pillars and Katsina United resulting from their abandoned Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) week 23 match.

The week 23 fixture played at the Sani Abacha stadium in Kano On April 16 was abandoned in the 79th minute when irate fans believed to be supporters of Kano Pillars invaded the pitch.

Katsina United had absorbed pressure that the Rabiu Ali inspired Pillars pilled on them. Therefore, when it became evident that Pillars who were playing at home for the first time in years would share the spoils with their visitors, the home fans went berserk.

Although no life was lost in the melee, the unprovoked fans completely vandalised the team bus of Katsina United. It was indeed a sad day for football because the beautiful game was again tainted by hooliganism.

Expectedly, the League Management Company (LMC) using its summary jurisdiction powers applied sanctions as Kano Pillars were fined N5m and banished to Abuja.

The LMC also decided that the remaining 11 minutes of the abandoned match in Kano should be concluded in Abuja on May 26 with Pillars bearing the cost of the rearranged match.

So, on Thursday, as ordered by the LMC, the controversial week 23 match between the two North-west giants was played at the MKO Abiola and Pillars’ Auwalu Ali scored at the death to hand his side the maximum points.

However, before Pillars could heave a sigh of relief, more controversies popped up as Katsina United immediately accused their opponents of foul play. They have since petitioned the LMC that Pillars had made use of ineligible players.

For those who have not been following the saga, Pillars introduced at least seven new players who were not on their team list when the match was played in Kano. For instance, the scorer of their goal in Abuja wasn’t on the team list in Kano.

Before kick-off in Abuja, Katsina United protested against the use of the players they rightly considered to be ineligible but the match Commissioner was said to have phoned a chieftain of the LMC, believed to be Malam Shehu Dikko, who allegedly authorised Pillars to use their new players.

Consequently, Katsina United played the match under protest and immediately the result went against them, the first thing they did was to fire a protest letter to LMC challenging the behaviour of their opponents.

The ‘Chanji Boys’ believe the LMC Chairman who is a Kano State indigene is working to save Pillars from relegation. They are, therefore, insisting that the LMC must immediately punish Pillars for using ‘two lineups’ for one match.

For now, the LMC is yet to issue an official statement on the matter. However, it is said before the day of the match, Pillars had written to the league organisers that following injuries to some of their players who featured in the first match plus other unforeseen circumstances, they would like to alter their squad for the match in Abuja.

It is said the LMC then asked Pillars to produce medical reports of the injured players which was provided to them. So even as it is doubtful if the LMC issued a formal approval, maybe Pillars felt they had done enough to use a new team against Katsina United.

Therefore, when the issue came up again on Thursday and the Match Commissioner made that call, it is said both clubs were permitted to alter their lineups. Unfortunately, it was too late for Katsina United to do so. It, therefore, appeared as if Pillars were favoured by the LMC.

The laws governing football stipulate that for continuation of an inconclusive match, it must restart at the exact time as it was abandoned, same team list of both substituted and unsubstituted players, same officiating officials and same players on the pitch as at the time it was abandoned.

Consequently, any new player that wasn’t on the original first match team list at the time the match was abandoned becomes an ineligible player and Pillars had up to seven of such players.

However, there can be an exception to the rule if the abandoned match is not concluded immediately. In this case, it took the LMC more than six weeks to rearrange the aborted match.

It is obvious that within that period, both clubs played a series of matches. Consequently, players from both sides could have sustained various degrees of injuries capable of sidelining them for many weeks.

Under such circumstances, team lists can be altered by both teams. Unfortunately, the LMC either didn’t know that this is possible in football or failed to properly communicate with the clubs to enable them to understand that the law that spells out the guidelines for conclusion of abandoned matches is flexible to some extent.

Had the league organisers acted proactively by writing to both clubs informing them that the law is not untouchable so they can make adjustments to their team lists, maybe they could have saved themselves the present trouble.

Having failed to think outside the box, the LMC is in dilemma again because if a decision is eventually taken on Katsina United’s protest and it goes against them, they may get justice at the NFF Appeals Committee.

It can be argued that whether intentionally or not, a level playing field wasn’t provided by the LMC.

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