CASE: RIVERS UNITED FC VS. JIGAWA GOLDEN STARS FC

DECISIONS OF THE DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE OF THE NIGERIA FOOTBALLFEDERATION AT ITS MEETING HELD ON 5TH AUGUST, 2021

INTRODUCTION

This case involves Jigawa Golden Stars FC vs. Rivers United FC in aMatch Day 34 fixture played on 21st July, 2021 at Ahmadu BelloStadium, Kaduna State.

Rivers United FC is protesting against the fielding of player RichardChristopher (Jersey number 8) by Jigawa Golden Stars FC in thisinstant match, on the grounds of ineligibility, having accumulatedfive (5) yellow cards during the season.

FINDINGS:

Based on the documents in evidence and the submissions of the partiesand the Decisions of the League Management Company (LMC) dated 28thJuly 2021, to wit:

“a) That upon consideration of the relevant provisions of the LeagueRules, based on the foregoing, the submission of Jigawa Golden Starsas well as the benchmarks set in previous decisions on matters of thisnature, the LMC is unable to establish that Jigawa Golden Stars“Intentionally featured” the player in question, who ought to havebeen suspended.

b) Consequently, the protest is dismissed and the result of the matchstands (i.e. Jigawa Golden Stars 2-1 Rivers United).

c) The Player is to serve the due suspension as will be directed by the LMC.”

the following findings have been made by this Committee:

1. It was established that the player, Richard Christopher of JigawaGolden Stars had accumulated 5 Yellow Cards and was suspended for theMatch Day 34 fixture: Jigawa Golden Stars FC vs. Rivers United FC, byvirtue of C2 of the NPFL Rules.

2. A notification of the suspension of the said player was sent by LMCto Jigawa Golden Stars FC via jgoldenstars@yahoo.com andsaddieq84@gmail.com (the Club Chairman) on 19th July 2021. Thatalthough jgoldenstars@yahoo.com was listed as the club’s email ontheir letterhead including up to the date of their officialcorrespondences to LMC on 22nd and 23rd July 2021 and had been theemail of the club in use previously, the club had submitted as part oftheir club licensing documents for the 2020/2021 season, that theirofficial email address is jgwgstars@gmail.com.

3. There are inconsistencies by Jigawa Golden Stars FC in therepresentation of their official email address and their channels ofcommunication.

4. The LMC alleged that it “inadvertently” sent the suspensionnotification to jgoldenstars@yahoo.com instead of jgwgstars@gmail.com.

5. The two clubs involved in the matter are in tandem that the LMC didnot live up to its responsibilities in terms of the manner in whichthe correspondence was handled.

6. C5 of the NPFL Rules is applicable to the facts of the case andstates as follows:“If it is established that a team intentionally featured a player whohad earlier received five (5) yellow cards or red card before thematch in question, the affected team will lose 3 points 3 goals to itsopponent.”

DECISIONS:

1. That a player who is suspended stands suspended whether or not anotification to that effect is sent to the player or his club. It isnoteworthy that such notifications are for the purpose of raising anyperceived discrepancy and not to validate the suspension, which isindeed clear from the wordings of the notification sent by the LMC.

2. That C5 of the NPFL Rules cannot be interpreted to make thepunishment for the act of fielding an ineligible player subject to‘intention’. It is a strict liability offence. The intention isestablished upon the confirmation that the player was ineligible forthe match. The word “intentionally” cannot be interpreted to excusethe negligence or ignorance of the club in this case.

3. Despite the “fundamental benchmarks” referred to by the LMC inparagraph (m) of their Findings, there is nothing in the Rules makingit a condition-precedent for the implementation of Rule C5 that theopposing team must have made a protest at the pre-match meeting or atany point prior to the commencement of the match. Also, it is evenimpracticable to envisage that the Rules or procedure of the NPFLwould nullify a suspension on the basis that the opponents did notprotest against the fielding of the ineligible player.

4. Each club has a duty to keep accurate records and the onus cannotbe placed on its opponent to notify the club or raise the issue thatits player is suspended.

5. Based on the foregoing, Jigawa Golden Stars FC shall forfeit 3points and 3 goals to Rivers United FC in respect of the match, forfielding an ineligible player in breach of C5 of the NPFL Rules.

6. From the totality of the facts and evidence in this matter, thisCommittee is displeased with the manner the LMC handled the subjectmatter of this case. It is noted that one of the Conclusions of theLMC after its Findings from the Decision following its investigationdated July 28, 2021 (para. 3c) “established that Jigawa Golden Starsare very untidy and cluttered in the management of their officialregistered email address and their official letter headed paper aswell the administrative management of their records.” This Committeetherefore wonders why Jigawa Golden Stars FC would seem to be absolvedof taking responsibility for their action or inaction in this case.

7. This Committee is also displeased that the LMC failed to appearbefore it, despite being invited to do so, and considering the weightynature of the allegations made against it.

8. It is recommended that going forward, notifications of suspensionshould also be sent by the LMC to the match officials, particularly tothe Match Commissioner in order to bring up and clarify issues ofsuspended players at the Pre-Match Meeting, and to more efficientlyimplement such suspensions.

9. This decision is without prejudice to the right of appeal.

In attendance: Prof. Olufemi Adegbesan (Vice Chairman), Damon N.Dashe, Esq (Member), Chike Onyeacho, Esq. (Member), Adamu Sani Osmond,Esq. (Member), Kelvin Omuojine, Esq. (Member), Queen W. Otarakpo, Esq.(Secretary).

The Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee, Musa Amadu, Esq. recusedhimself from the case due to potential conflict of interest andimpartiality.
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