The world’s most popular sport, football is no longer a form of relaxation or pleasure but a money spinning business venture where highly talented players, coaches, doctors and other personnel involved in the game eke out a living.
Consequently, the various leagues in the world have put in place structures where the players are rewarded financially for their involvement in the round leather game for their various clubs and this is not different from what is obtained in the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL).
In the NPFL, players in the 20 clubs are paid on a monthly basis just as civil servants are paid, which is in sharp contrast to what is obtained in saner climes, especially in Europe, where players are paid on a weekly basis.
18 of the 20 NPFL clubs are owned and financed by the state governments where they are located and are equally subjected to the whims and caprices of the governments.
MFM FC and FC IfeanyiUbah are the only two NPFL clubs owned by a private organisation and individual respectively.
However, they are not completely starved of financial support from the state governments where they operate.
Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were ugly tales of clubs owing their players several months of salaries, allowances and sometimes, the sign-on fees.
The state governments who are always burdened with several financial commitments pay little attention to the financial needs of their clubs, in the long run, denying the players their salaries, allowances and match bonuses.
Trust Sports can report that even before the suspension of the league which was eventually cancelled by the NFF, most clubs had difficulty in paying their players during the lockdown.
Adamawa United’s attacking midfielder and captain, Tunde Adams who spoke to Trust Sports expressed his frustration playing in the league because of the treatment meted out to the players.
“Playing in the local league is really frustrating.
“Talking about salaries, means of travelling to match venues.
“Sincerely it’s frustrating. Even during the lockdown, some NPFL players couldn’t even feed themselves not to talk of giving to others.
“Some clubs don’t even pay up to the stipulated amount League Management Company mandated.
“So it’s really frustrating, some players can’t even boast of 100k after the season because most clubs don’t even pay.
“Some clubs will owe players 5 months but will end up paying 1 month,” he said.
A prominent club in the north-central is also indebted to its players.
One of the players who spoke to Trust Sports on condition of anonymity said since the league was suspended and eventually cancelled, they have not set their eyes on the chairman of the club.
He said “Our case is quite pathetic.
“We are owed for several months. Unfortunately, our chairman is nowhere to be seen.
“Although we are talking of league resumption in October, nobody knows whether it will be possible for the league to resume.
“many clubs are indebted to their players. Although some have managed to pay salaries even in this time of Covid-19, many are not paying.
“Some of us are family men.
“I don’t know where they want us to get money to take care of our families.”
Katsina United players also continued to groan over unpaid salaries but the captain of the club, Usman Barau, said the management recently cleared their four months outstanding salaries just as he disclosed that the players were made to sign an agreement that they were paid.
It will be recalled that the players of Katsina United Fc had raised an alarm over the non-payments of their salaries thereby prompting the management to explore every means through the state government to sort out the players’ salaries and allowances.
“During the lockdown, we were not paid and it accumulated to four months. It was tough during the lockdown but thankfully we have been paid now.
“The management called us, asked us to sign that we were not being owed any money after we received our salaries.
“As I speak with you now, we are expecting our August salary,” he said.
The payment, however, has validated a Daily Trust report where the Chairman of the club, Prince Abdussamad Badamasi confirmed that the club is indebted to the players but they would be paid very soon.
As players of Sunshine Stars continue to lament non-payment of their salaries, the Chairman, Ondo State Football Agency, Tajudeen Akinyemi, confirmed that the players are being owed salaries.
“We owe the players three months salaries and it is due to the coming elections in the state.
“I don’t need to lie to you that we do not owe them.
“It is not in my character to do that.
“But I can tell you that in the coming days, we will clear the backlog,” he said.
Warri Wolves which is said to be underfunded by the Delta State government despite being an oil rich state is also indebted to its players and officials.
This forced Nigerian international Abu Azeez to call out the club on Twitter in June demanding salaries owed to him and other players.
Azeez who is the captain of the Nigeria beach soccer team, ‘The Super Sand Eagles’ tweeted at the club’s social media handle urging the club to yield to the demand of the players and pay what is due to them.
“Dear @Warri_Wolves_FC this is actually a cry for help to appeal and beg for our salaries to be released, we have families out there, we have ourselves to take care of, we have got responsibilities to settle, we have problems to sort,” he tweeted.
In a chat with Trust Sports, a player of Warri Wolves, Daniel Akwaza Jnr, said that for those of them who have running contracts with the club, they are being owed two months salaries, that is July and August.
“The club owes us two months salaries.
“We were not paid during the lockdown while those whose contracts expired were not paid at all.
“So as at today, we are yet to receive our July and August salaries,” he noted.
He also called on the management of the club to do its best to pay the outstanding salaries.
“They are trying for us but they can do more by paying us the remaining months.
“These are trying times for everyone,” he said.
The 2020/21 league season is scheduled to kick off in October 2020 and will run through to June 2021 pending the approval of the Government through the health authorities.
However, there are growing concerns that the NPFL may not resume as scheduled and the clubs that over depend on the state governments for ‘survival’ may find it difficult to pay salaries as at when due.