19 February 2006

NIGERIA: Atlantic teams moot League boycott

It is still a moot point but the 2005/06 season of the inaugural Vmobile League might witness the absence of some key clubs when the much-delayed exercise tips off on March 3 across Nigeria.

This is because some of the teams in the Atlantic Conference of the Premier League might boycott the exercise, expected to be the biggest season in the history of the Nigerian game.

This is not to sound alarmist, but investigations by The Hoops during the week among the key actors of the Nigerian game revealed a deep-seated falling apart in the different strata involved in Nigerian basketball.

Although the mutual acrimony had been recumbent, activities geared towards the tip off the League have revived the latent rancour, and it is spilling to the surface with venom.

It is on authority that the Atlantic teams were not going to play the Vmobile Challenge last year until a highly placed Nigeria Basketball Federation board member intervened, making them to change their mind at the last minute. And that was after the NBBF also offered more concessions by increasing the participation fee to N100,000 from N50,000.

As The Hoops gathered, some Atlantic Conference teams are planning a no-show when the League takes off on March 3.

The managers told this column that although they were in the dark over the feeling among the Savannah Conference teams, they were “clearly unhappy over what they are being offered by the NBBF (Nigeria Basketball Federation) to play in the League.”

Essentially, the aggrieved clubs claim that it is “unfair and unjust” to be offered only 20% of the N35m sponsorship fee paid by Vmobile Nigeria, the titleholders of the property. (In this wise, the clubs will share N7m, with each of the 13 teams in the two conferences receiving N538,461.53.)

Furthermore, they claim that the share of the NBBF (20%) and the administration of the League (another 20%) are too high.

“The clubs and the players are the key actors in this game,” one of the managers told The Hoops. “They should be the major beneficiaries of the sponsorship fee. If there were no clubs and players, there wouldn’t have been sponsorship in the first place.”

Another manager said: “We are not happy over the formula proposed. We think that the NBBF should offer more. All the clubs in the Atlantic Conference are not satisfied with the present arrangement.

“But we hope the NBBF will offer more to the clubs so that the game can improve.”

Although the fee proposed for the clubs by the NBBF is the highest in the history of the League in Nigeria, the clubs say they want more to enable them cater to the welfare of their players properly as is done elsewhere.

Another point of departure between the Atlantic Conference teams and the NBBF is that the idea of the Independent League Board has been shelved by the organisers, and has been replaced by the League Advisory Committee.

While the clubs want a 10-man board to administer the League, the NBBF wants an advisory committee having one representative from each conference and other administrative officials.

It must be stated that the clubs are equally angered by the decision to suspend road trips this season.

Indeed, one of the clubs is set to make an announcement to withdraw from the League any time this week.

The club owner said: “We have not been playing the League since 2002 so one more year or so will not affect us. There is nothing left to prove. We have shown what we can do in the Nigerian game.

“Instead, we will opt to play in the Lagos City League coming up in April. It is a very competitive League and we are content to play there.”

The Punch Newspaper

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